The first time a parent calls me, the conversation usually goes like this. “My son or daughter is a pre-med. S/he’s done all this great stuff, and s/he’s gotten amazing grades in college. But s/he just finished [class name here] and got a C. Will this hurt his/her chances?”
The short answer is, “Yes.” But it’s such a loaded question that any answer I give feels impossible. One bad grade won’t be that significant in the larger medical school admissions process, or dental school admissions. But from a purely objective perspective, a lower grade is a lower grade is not as good as a higher grade – so, yes, it will hurt.
Re-take a class? Consider these factors
“So should my son or daughter retake the class / take the next class / take the class over at a different college?” Difficult to say. What’s the larger picture of this student’s application? Is the student an honors student with a very high gpa? Was there a specific reason why s/he performed this way, in this class? The underlying story makes a huge difference.
I always loved math in college, but I wasn’t very good at understanding the “bigger picture” of applied Calculus, so my grades suffered. If someone told me to retake the class over again, it would be a terrible mistake, because I didn’t have a solid-enough understanding of the core concepts of Calculus to make any difference. I would have gotten a similar bad grade – again. This is not the optimal outcome you want for someone applying to programs as rigorous as medical school or dental school.
The recommendation I would give to retake a class depends on the circumstance. If there’s a temporary problem, and it’s gone away, then by all means you’ll want to retake the class, or take the next (harder) class in the series, get an A, and demonstrate mastery of the subject. But if this is a chronic issue, and it’s something that’s not going to go away, I would be a lot more careful of giving out blanket advice, or making a blanket statement, “Yes definitely register for xyz class in the summer.” I want to look at the big picture of an applicant before I suggest a path that could make things worse.
If study habits are contributing to poor grades, I recommend Save My GPA — it’s an online course that turns conventional study methods on their heads and gives you the unique “INQUARTA” way to learn material that is far more engaging and effective than the “go to class, do the reading” techniques dispensed by most educators.