How to handle C grades
Perhaps you are one of the many UC transfer applicants who submitted your application last November, and are now worried about whether a C grade or lower this winter or spring will affect your chances of admission. Or perhaps you are worried about dropped courses.
There is never an easy answer to these situations. The UCs request that you notify them immediately if you are receiving any grade that is a C- or lower. I cannot stress enough the need to notify the UCs the minute you believe this is the likely outcome. Each campus wants to work with you. They may have options you aren’t aware of or they may let it slide. But it always plays out best the sooner you alert them.
As to whether a C grade or lower will impact your chances, I can only give you some common scenarios. But be aware these are all fluid — meaning what might work in one situation will NOT work in another.
Getting a C grade during your last winter or spring term
How the UC may react to a C grade will depend on several factors: Your current GPA, the selectivity of the major, whether or not the course is the required math or English being taken last term, whether the course fulfills a major requirement, or if the C grade lowers that term’s GPA below an established limit (usually, but not always, 3.0). Very often the UCs accept a C grade; in fact, I might say more often than not the odds are in your favor — but not always. And if they don’t accept the C, it usually revolves around one of the aforementioned items. Having said that, you may get a C in a required course, or your major may be selective, or any of the above things may deliver a C and you will still be accepted. But trust me, I have seen plenty of situations in which a C ruined an applicant’s chances. One situation comes to mind — a student made the mistake of taking the required quantitative math last term (never a good idea); however, he was accepted to UCLA, with the proviso that he needed at least a B in the math course. He got a C and was rescinded.
Getting a C- or lower
You must report these grades immediately to the UC so you can (hopefully) work out a remedy. Obviously, a C- is better than a D. If you get a D, especially in a major requirement you might very well get rescinded. If it is a selective major you can basically count on it.
Adding or dropping a course
It is not unusual that a planned course doesn’t materialize for various reasons — maybe it was not offered, maybe there was a waitlist, maybe it conflicted with another course. Assuming it is not affecting your minimum count of 60 semester units needed for admittance, and assuming it is not a course needed for your major or IGETC, the dropped class most likely will have no bearing. However, let the UC know immediately and explain why you dropped the course. If it is an IGETC course, you may run into trouble if the department insists IGETC must be completed by spring (e.g., Berkeley’s College of Letters and Science) or if it is a selective major, as you are no longer as competitive as other applicants. If it is a major course requirement that you dropped, it will depend on the largesse of the department, but it could put you in a bad position. The key is to let the UC know as early as possible, regardless of the course in question. The UC may not care at all, or they may let you make up a required course in summer or later at the UC.
Adding a course should not be an issue. But again, give a heads up to the UC.
Those pesky Provisional Contracts
The vagueness that accompanies the C grade becomes more apparent when a student is accepted and receives what is called the Provisional Contract. These contracts outline the rules that must be followed during the final winter and/or spring terms. Any violation can lead to a rescind of admittance. Provisional contracts vary. Here is where you might get a side hook out of nowhere telling you they don’t want a C.
Provisional contracts are sent to every admitted applicant and quite often are standard issue: if you get more than two Cs, or any grade that is C- or lower, let the UC know immediately. But sometimes they are far stricter. For instance, all remaining courses must receive a B grade or better; or [insert course name] must receive a B grade (refer to the math example above).
My advice is to always try your best to avoid a C, and if you must get one, at least aim for a non-required course. And definitely try not to get a C if you were accepted to Berkeley, as they appear to be the strictest.
Where to send changes
If you have any of these grade issues or have added or dropped a course, send an email to every UC to which you applied via its campus portal. Also send a general email to email@example.com, along with your full name and UC ID number.