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Of Transcripts and Median Grades

A significant threat to Cornell students wishing for higher GPAs -- the impending encroachment of median grade reports onto the hallowed territory of the official transcript -- seems to have been postponed, at least for now. The one I received in the mail last week is refreshingly unburdened with the achievements of the "average" Cornellian in my various classes. Instead, I'm left with the accomplishments (and failures) of me and me alone.

This is great news for students and recent grads, although employers and graduate schools would surely appreciate the extra data for benchmarking purposes. But I'm guessing that they won't shed a tear for this loss. The benefits of keeping the transcripts as they are -- in some basic calculation of overall utility -- seem to outweigh those of the alternative. That is, at least when considering students' (and alums') interests equal to those of a transcript's intended audience.

That said, the registrar's website is silent regarding any future transition to a world in which each individual transcript contains the collective effort of Cornell's middle tier. For now, I'm going to stock up on copies of my unsoiled -- if imperfect -- official record, before it may be too late.

Andy Guess | Posted on February 14, 2006 (#)


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Speaking as somebody who has recently been on the other side of the hiring process (that of interviewing and reviewing candidates), a median grade listing would be inherently beneficial to would-be employers. As of now, it is very hard to compare candidates across schools because one has no idea of the relative rigor of a course. A B in econometrics at Cornell could easily the equivalent of an A- at another school.

I've looked at transcripts from over 25 different schools in the past month and none of them have implemented this policy yet... kudos to Cornell for contuining to be on the cusp of educational rigor. (Of course this is easy for me to say now that I have earned my degree.)

I think that the move will have a net benefit for Cornell students -- for those already receiving high marks it will not matter, but those with slightly lower marks who are still performing above the class average will be looked upon with more favor from graduate schools and employers.

And Andy, don't worry about hoarding transcripts -- median grades will never appear on yours. Each entering class must have a uniform transcript for the duration of their Cornell career. I wonder if the classes of '08 or '09 have already started to see this informtion appear on their transcript.

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