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Taking no-risk classes for big rewards Why every student should consider taking a personal interest course

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Photo C/O Madeline Neumann

Following the advocacy efforts made by the McMaster Students Union, the fall 2018 term introduced McMaster University students to a new option for course enrolment: the personal interest course.  The PIC option allows students to take an elective course without affecting their cumulative grade point average by making the course assessed on a credit or no-credit grading scale.

In order to receive a final grade of credit, students must earn a final mark of at least 50 per cent. Students who do not earn 50 per cent receive a final grade of no-credit, which is not considered as a failure and is not included in GPA calculations or averages.

According to the office of the registrar, “McMaster University encourages interdisciplinary study and believes undergraduate studies provides an excellent opportunity to explore topics which are new and unfamiliar.”

Thus, by removing the risk of negatively affecting students’ GPA, the PIC option can encourage students to explore new interests through choosing electives outside of their program. The units earned from successfully completing a PIC can even be used to satisfy a students’ elective or minor requirements.

Any undergraduate student with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and who are registered in a participating program above level one may take advantage of the PIC option. Such students may take three units of PIC per term, with a maximum of twelve units per four- or five-level degrees or a maximum of nine units per three-level degrees.

Once enrolled in a course, selecting a PIC option simply requires changing the grading basis for the course on Mosaic from graded to PIC. For the 2019 winter term, students have until the end of the drop-and-add period on Jan. 15 to declare a PIC. If necessary, students can still opt to withdraw from the course as per the normal procedures and deadlines.

Surveying friends who took a PIC during the fall 2018 term, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. Whether it is the student in the natural sciences trying a music course or a humanities student gaining valuable business knowledge, the PIC option allows for students to develop new skills and realize new interests.

One of the best features of the PIC is that if students feel they are doing well in the course and would like to keep the numeric grade, they have the option to indicate the course is no longer a PIC on Mosaic by the last day for withdrawing from courses without failure by default, which is Mar. 15 for the winter 2019 term. This truly creates a no-risk scenario for students interested in taking new classes.

Before PIC was introduced, the only other way for undergraduate students to take a class without affecting their cumulative GPA was to audit the class. However, since completion of assignments and writing the final examination is not required, students cannot earn units for audited courses like they do with PIC.

I strongly encourage all students to at least consider taking a PIC. Who knows—you might discover a new passion or career interest!

 

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Author: Sabrina Macklai

Sabrina Macklai is the Opinion Editor for Volume 89. A fourth-year Integrated Science student completing her thesis in analytical chemistry, she is a wearer of many hats - so long as the hat sparkles! Since she was a child, she’s had a love for the written word and has been involved in several publications including scientific journals and creative writing magazines. She firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell and it is her ambition to help as many as possible share theirs with the world.