Could an NRO make your job hunt harder?

by Jessica Spradling | 11/4/02 6:00am

Dartmouth students nervous about increasingly competitive graduate school admissions and a tight job market often take classes under Dartmouth's Non-Recording Option to keep their grade-point average as high as possible. However, receiving a grade of NR -- not recorded -- often appears more negative than the grade they would have otherwise received.

Students can elect three times in their college career to take a class under the NRO. With this option, a student determines the lowest grade he or she is willing to receive in a class, and if the grade given by the professor is higher than the student's limit, the grade is recorded as normal.

When a student earns a grade lower than the elected limit, the transcripts will simply say "NR" for "not recorded."

Failing grades are reported on a transcript whether or not the NRO was invoked.

Students must elect to use the NRO within the first 15 days of the academic term. If however, a student is dissatisfied with his or her performance later than 15 days into the term but more than 10 days before the conclusion of the term, the student can elect to withdraw from the course and have a "W" appear on the transcript for "withdrawal."

According to College registrar Polly Griffin, nearly 2,200 courses from Summer term 2001 through Spring term 2002, or about 18 percent of enrollments at Dartmouth, were taken using the College's NRO. Of those who elect the NRO, about 40 percent receive a grade of NR. Griffin added that these numbers have remained fairly steady for the past several years.

Most students who choose the NRO are ones who have a strong academic record. "By far the majority of students choose A-minus or B-plus as their limit," Griffin said, adding that the overwhelming majority of students taking classes under the NRO are upperclassmen, especially seniors.

Since the NRO is peculiar to Dartmouth, many students fear that it will harm them in the corporate recruiting process and in graduate school admissions.

Even though most admissions officers and recruiters agreed that having withdrawn from a class or taken a class under the NRO was not fatal for an applicant, most saw an NR on a transcript as worse than the B or B-minus Dartmouth students try to hide.

Metron recruiter Shannon Nardi said that if she saw NR on a student's record, "I would think that it was probably a C or lower."

"I would always encourage people to take classes for grades," said Christine Laza, director of admission and financial aid at the Tuck School of Business.

Most admissions officers and corporate recruiters approved of students taking a few classes under the NRO or withdrawing from a few courses as long as they were unrelated to their main field of study, or if they were trying something new.

"We'd have to look at the context, but it might be a way of exploring areas that they are not particularly familiar with, and that is a good thing," said Elizabeth Rosselot, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at Boston College School of Law.

Most recruiters and admissions officers found withdrawing from a few courses to be acceptable and considered it even less of a detriment than taking a course Credit/Non-Credit or under the NRO.

"It all depends on the class. If it looks like it's a core course that Metron would be interested in -- like say math or physics -- and they withdrew, it wouldn't look very favorable. If it was something like ceramics, it wouldn't be big deal," Nardi said.

As with most admissions officers, Derrik Rowelle, a graduate admissions officer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, emphasized that applicants are seen as people and not numbers.

"I haven't given these matters any real thought. What we try to do is to look at the big picture. These issues don't really come up," Rowelle said.