CSE’s GPA benchmark ‘adds to the stress’

The college is the only school that has a GPA benchmark for upper division admission.

Rebecca Harrington

Sophomore Mark Gilbertson filled out his application to the University of Minnesota’s mechanical engineering major Tuesday. Now he must wait until the semester’s end to find out if he will be accepted.

If there’s space left in the major, Gilbertson will get in to the competitive upper division of the College of Science and Engineering.

While other majors within the University have admission criteria to be admitted into upper division — like auditions for dance majors — CSE is the only college with a GPA benchmark for admission to its majors.

If students have a technical GPA of 3.2 or higher, they are guaranteed admission to CSE upper division courses. Gilbertson’s GPA is currently just below this cutoff.

Students with a GPA below 3.2 can only be admitted if there’s space in the major. Students’ technical GPAs only include classes relevant to their intended majors such as math, physics and chemistry.

Gilbertson said he’s a “little worried” since he is currently taking one of those classes.

CSE Associate Dean Paul Strykowski said a GPA requirement is the best way to admit students to majors with space limits.

“We don’t know what else we would base it on,” he said. “We tell students it’s very important to do well in their courses, and we don’t … try to draw the line right in the middle of a bunch of people.”

Throughout the University, students are able to retake courses to improve their grades, and only the grade from the final attempt counts toward GPA. But beginning in fall 2013, every attempt will count toward CSE’s technical GPA calculation for admission to upper division.

Strykowski said this change is to encourage students to take classes seriously the first time they take them.

“We just think that you should take your first opportunity very seriously,” he said. “Do the best you can. If you don’t do so well but you pass, you should move on to the next course.”

Matt Worms, a mechanical engineering student, said he didn’t understand why the school would make this change, since students pay to retake classes. Mechanical engineering junior Todd Heider added that most people he knows who’ve failed classes want to take them again.

“They don’t want to give up,” he said.

Students can apply for upper division twice and can also appeal if they’re not admitted. Strykowski said students who appeal can be admitted on a space-available basis where evaluation is once again based on GPA.

Heider said the GPA requirement only adds to the stress of being a CSE student.

“It’s the whole culture here,” he said. “They’re trying to see if you’re committed.”

Amanda Dahl, a biomedical engineering freshman, said she thinks the application process should consider more than just GPA.

“It’d be nice if the college encouraged kids to make other connections,” she said, “because you don’t want an engineer who can’t talk to people.”

Chase Beasley, an electrical engineering senior, agreed that CSE should consider other factors but said there is no objective way to measure them.

Meanwhile, Gilbertson will have to wait for months to know if he is admitted.

“It’ll happen when it happens,” he said.