so I'm starting my pre-med requirments...

I registered yesterday for classes. I was going to go for BA in biology, but after realizing that I’d only ha ve to take 10 more credits for B.S. I’ll probably do that…
Anyway this coming semester I’m taking Cell Biology and General Chemistry 1 (+ two more non-science classes)…
I’m preety excited about that…but also worried a little bit…my advisor - very nice and helpful, told me that Cell Biology is their ‘worst class’. half student fail…
Is that so scary? ( I decided to take it first, to check if it’s really a good fit for me… what’s the poing of going through all those ‘easy’ classes and get disappointed later)…

If you’re just starting back to school, it’s probably NOT a good idea to start off with something half the students fail. Take some other science to round out your general chemistry, and ease into things. If you ramp up slowly, you’re more likely to be successful in the tough class. It’s quite possible you’ll meet someone in your gen chem class who IS taking the cell bio class, and you can find out what the pitfalls are before you’re in the middle of it.
Set yourself up for success!

I took general biology 1 last semester…and I got A…we did mainly cell biology topics though (have no idea why)…and I can’t really take any other biology this semeser…because general biology 2 is not available in the fall…and this cell biology is a prequisite for all other more advanced biologies…(this stuff doesn’t make any sense…I know)…so I hope I’ll make it somehow…:wink:

Kasia, you’re at GMU where I did my prereqs; I know that cell bio class. It is a good, hard class and the only reason I can think that people would fail is that they didn’t keep up with the material. It is definitely do-able but you need to keep up - there is a lot of material. And you’re right, that is the gateway course for GMU’s biology department so you won’t be able to go further until you take it.
I took cell bio along with gen-chem II while continuing to work 30 hrs a week. I had to work pretty hard and definitely didn’t have any free time, but it can be done.

Thanks Mary…I needed it…to hear that it’s do-able (although not easy!)…
I can do it…

If it’s not your first semester back, I hereby retract. Given what Mary said, and as it seems you have already established good study habits, go with your gut!


I have some pretty strong feelings on this subject. Frankly, having heard this from the advisor not only would I not take Cell Biology at this school - I would find another school.

When I was a naive undergraduate I would just accept statements such as “half the students fail” or “I never have awarded an A in my career” as part of the quirkiness of academia. Now, as a more savvy consumer of education I walk away. In a very real sense, a professor is your employee by proxy. His or her job is to use a variety of techniques to see you master a section of knowledge in a defined amount of time.

Would you buy a car from a company that said “Oh, half our engines explode in the first year of service?” Would you fly on an airline that said “Oh, half our aircraft crash before we get our passengers to their destination?” If not, you shouldn’t accept the idea that a professor or institution can say “Oh, half my/our students fail.”

In today’s competitive educational environment there are a hundred other universities waiting to provide you with a superior product should the one you have chosen prove incapable of doing so.

Boeing, I understand your point but I think that in this case it does not apply. I am familiar with both the school and the course - both are excellent. Furthermore, I think the reason it’s a ‘weeder’ course as described is because of the many, many people who halfheartedly consider themselves potential pre-meds or bio majors, but who get into a class like this and discover that, whoa, they’re going to have to work to get a good grade! That isn’t what they expected. It’s a large, lecture-based class - very different from high school biology, which is the last bio course many of them would have taken - and it requires a good deal of self-motivation to do well.
Now, if I heard that half the students fail out of an upper-level course I’d be much more concerned, because by then the truly dedicated people have self-selected. But when an intro course has a high attrition rate, consider the possibility that those students are self-selecting themselves out of the pre-med path.

I think it depends on what you hear if you ask the professor WHY half the students fail. If you visit the professor and he/she says, “If you keep up with the reading, study thus-and-so a way, and come see me if you have problems, I will work with you and you can succeed in this class,” then it may be fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the students who took General Chemistry with me failed the class. If you don’t do the homework, you can’t pass. And people don’t.
If, on the other hand, the professor is not receptive to your questions, can’t advise you on how to be successful, and obviously doesn’t care if you pass, then by all means take your hard-earned money and precious time and spend them elsewhere. Life is too short to waste hitting your head against a brick wall, when there’s a nice, soft, weathered wooden fence just a few yards away.

I have to agree with Mary and Denise here. At my university, it is widely known that a large number of students fail the first quarter of gen chem and first quarter of biology. I have heard many people describe them as the “weed out” classes for pre-med, pre-vet, pre-dent, pre-optometry, etc. Many students who come into these classes were very good or excellent students in high school or who got B’s and C’s with very little work. As you all know, it just doesn’t work that way in college. By the time some of them adjust, it’s too late to pull the grade up. I had the pleasure of getting to know a couple of high school students in my general chemistry class (taking college courses while still in high school). These were very smart girls. However, the preparation and studying that had to be done to do well in chemistry was not something they were used to. I don’t think either of them had ever gotten a test grade as low in their life as their first gen chem test. They adjusted, and did fine. Some of the B/C students didn’t adjust, continued to try and get by with as little work as possible, and failed.
My biology prof told us the first day that half of the class would probably get D’s or F’s. He didn’t say that to be a jerk, he was just stating a fact. And, in fact, the first quarter grade distribution was about half D’s and F’s. On the other hand, there were relatively few C’s and almost as many A’s as F’s.
Second quarter of bio, same professor: 1 F, 1 D, a few C’s and the rest A’s and B’s. The second quarter wasn’t much different than the first, but a very different grade distribution.

you know what? there are no other state schools in the area that offer biology degree…and GMU has a good opinion.
I don’t think she said that half students fails to scare me…she just wanted me to be realisitc and know what I was opting for…
it’s not me to give up before I even start…I’ll see after that semester…

She seemed to be really nice, helpful and for sure answered all my questions and concerns. And she didn’t say it’s impossible to get an A in this class…- as you said - Students just have to work to earn the grade…:slight_smile:

Hi there,
I took a Cell Biology course at GWU that had the reputation that 50% of the students fail the course. As I was listening to the lectures, I found the coursework facinating and the professor very knowledgeable. Not only did I earn an A- but I got valuable advice for future research. I really loved the material so the keeping up with the reading and study was wonderful. I kept focusing on the material as opposed to the grade and the grade came. I took this course while working full-time on the night shift so I read at night and studied in the daytime.
Upper division courses should challenge you to read and think clearly and critically. At the beginning of each course, you are given a syllabus and a schedule. Keep up and make daily study a habit. The grades will follow mastery of the material.
One of the great things about my secondary school is that my examiners were not my lecturers. I learned to separate the material from the person who was delivering the lecture. It got to the point that it didn’t matter if the Devil was lecturing, I was there for the infor and that was it.
When an instructor warns you that a class is demanding, take that at face value and be prepared to do some daily work. If you are not on the right track, go to office hours and get on the right track.
Good luck!

These are all signs that you are in good hands.
For what it’s worth, if you count those who withdrew early for reasons of F, easily half of every class I’ve taken at City College has flunked out. It really had nothing to do with the quality of the teaching. Much more a case of a) objectively difficult material (like, lord knows, cellular and molecular bio) that you can’t just sit there catatonically and absorb and b) students’ difficulties with English as a second language.
If you do the reading and the homework I have a feeling you will have already reached “C-level” with this teacher. She has already given you some really nice personal instruction and the class hasn’t even started yet-- excellent sign.
But I’m the type of nut who likes the tough professors better. I’ll take a hard grader who’s organized and thoughtful over an easy A who’s disorganized, careless, or truant-- hands down.
PS: See you down at the Reston Town Center! My parents live in Chantilly.


<< Much more a case of a) objectively difficult material (like, lord knows, cellular and molecular bio) that you can’t just sit there catatonically and absorb and b) students’ difficulties with English as a second language.
PS: See you down at the Reston Town Center! My parents live in Chantilly.

hmm - English is not my first language…but I hope I won’t join the group you mentioned above
and you know what? I live just across the street from Reston Town Center…