Noonsong, who has been thinking about her career path, decided to find out what she could do now to prepare for the future. During her search, Noonsong came to the realization that college grades are important. However, she found that even though she might get the same grade as a student at another university, SMWU's GPA conversion system calculates her score to be lower than that of other universities. Noonsong questioned this situation and worried about future disadvantages.
The foundation of a fair comparison
Recently, discussions have been underway at SMWU on changing the method of calculating GPA conversion scores. GPA is short for Grade Point Average, which means the average of the scores of all classes. Each university can choose the method of calculating GPA from the 4.3 and 4.5 GPA system. There is also a process of converting GPA with different calculation criteria into percentiles, which is called GPA conversion score. This helps to compare the GPA by converting them into a single score even if each university uses a different system. However, in some cases, the formula for calculating the GPA conversion score is different. When the GPA is the same based on the 4.5 GPA system, the conversion score might not be the same. According to the GPA conversion formula used by Kyung Hee University (KHU) which uses the 4.3 GPA system, the GPA conversion score of students with a 4.0 is 97.67. Also, a GPA of 4.3, the same as 4.0 in the 4.3 GPA system, is converted to 98, when applying the conversion formula used in Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) which uses the 4.5 GPA system. If the same score from SMWU is calculated, the GPA conversion score is 96. Even with the same grade, there is a difference of 1.67 points compared to KHU and 2 points compared to SKKU. This means when applying the conversion formula of SMWU, the conversion score is lower than that of other universities. It implies that the deviation of the GPA conversion score could undermine fairness, because of the different conversion formulas of each university.
Due to these differences in GPA, Sookmyungians are concerned about disadvantages which could impact their future career. Currently, domestic and foreign graduate schools, such as law schools, and some companies are demanding GPA conversion scores for equity. As competition for law school has intensified recently, the issue of the GPA conversion is affecting law school prep students even more. To enter law school, students choose their school to apply for through an online simulated application. After this process, they prepare the materials customizing each graduate school. The Legal Education Eligibility Test (LEET), an accredited English score, and GPA are all comprehensively evaluated as conditions for admission to law school. According to a survey conducted by the SMT, an anonymous student preparing for law school said, "I am also applying for online simulated application, and because of my GPA, I am currently ranked lower than applicants with lower LEET and TOEIC scores than me. The problem is not that applicants from other universities got better grades than me, but that my school's GPA conversion formula is very disadvantageous compared to other universities, so I received a lower GPA, which affected my online simulated application ranking." This suggests that if SMWU's GPA conversion system is changed to be similar to other schools, students could reduce their worries about law school entrance applications. At a time when applications for admission to law schools for the 2024 school year began in September, students could face difficulties in their application because the conversion formula will not change quickly. In addition to law schools, GPA plays an important role in students' social advancement in various fields, and as a result, it seems urgent to improve the GPA conversion equation.
Demand to make their future better
SMT surveyed the perceptions of the GPA conversion system of SMWU and its improvement and multiple responses were allowed. Of the 60 students who participated in the survey, 58 (96.7%) thought that the GPA conversion method applied by SMWU should be changed.1) For the reason for their opinion, of those 58 students, 52 (89.6%) said that even if they have the same grade, the conversion scores for students at other universities are higher than theirs. 36 (60%) cited the lack of proportionality between GPA and conversion scores, and 15 (25.9%) said GPA conversion scores are an important factor in their career. Given that many of the students are concerned about the deviation of scores, it seems that students are worried that SMWU's GPA conversion method will disadvantage their careers. 2 (3.3%) who did not feel the need for a change of the conversion formula thought that the formula used up to now cannot suddenly be changed, and that the university would have chosen the appropriate one in consideration of its conditions. To investigate the impact of GPA on one's career path, SMT asked if the GPA conversion score was important for their desired career field. 36 out of 60 (60%) said "yes," and 24 (40%) said "no." GPA has an important effect on the future of more than half of the respondents. Among the 36 students who answered "yes," 25 (69.4%) said they intend to go to law school, 15 (41.7%) said they want to go to a domestic or foreign graduate school, and 2 (5.6%) wanted to get a job such as at a public company. This suggests that most Sookmyungians want to change the GPA conversion formula, and among them, students who want to go to higher educational institutions feel this need even more.
Based on this situation of Sookmyungians and their opinions, SMT asked whether they are aware of the discussion to change the GPA conversion formula. 58 (96.7%) of the 60 knew that such discussions were underway, and 56 (93.3%) knew the student council was setting up a task force (TF) team about it. Also, SMT asked students' thoughts on which of SMWU's GPA-related issues should be improved first. In response, 36 out of 60 (60%) said the "GPA conversion formula," 22 (36.7%) said "changing the 4.3 GPA system to the 4.5 GPA system," and 2 (3.3%) said "the ratio of grades section." This indicates that each student thinks differently about the cause of the deviation of GPA conversion score which means this is a complex issue. In the discussion, "KHU's conversion formula" is being considered as an alternative to improve the conversion formula. Regarding this method, 1 (1.7%) answered "very satisfied," 30 (50%) students answered "satisfied," 27 (45%) answered "dissatisfied," and 2 (3.3%) answered "very dissatisfied." The proportion of satisfied and dissatisfied students is similar, suggesting that there is a great diversity of opinion among students on one of the alternative measures. Out of 29 students who responded "dissatisfied" and "very dissatisfied," 22 (75.9%) answered that there could still be disadvantages even if this change were made, and 13 (44.8%) thought that the GPA conversion score would not be proportional to their grades. Through the survey, students think of various methods as an alternative to the GPA conversion formula and are highly interested in the discussions.
Improvement efforts lacking effectiveness
SMT asked the school and the student council of SMWU for an interview to convey the students' opinions and listen to those of the school but did not receive a response. So Instead, SMT investigated how other schools responded to these problems. Several universities have begun to change to a favorable conversion formula to help students' careers, and Yonsei University revised the GPA in 2022 amid such a series of changes in the GPA conversion formula. According to the "GPA Conversion Method Modification and Retroactive Action Project Introduction" provided by Yonsei University's student council in August 2022, the percentile conversion score for students below 4.20 was determined by adding 56 points to the average multiplied by 10. In the case of the students above 4.20, it was determined by adding 14 points and then multiplying the mean by 20. At that time, Yonsei University was applying the GPA conversion method which was disadvantageous compared to other universities, such as SMWU. According to a survey on GPA percentile conversion scores conducted by Yonsei University's student council in February 2022, more than half of seniors and graduates had been affected, and many students wanted to revise the GPA conversion method. In response, they prepared several feasible negotiations that could change the way the school converts GPA percentile scores and officially announced the revision of the GPA conversion method in October of the same year. They introduced a new conversion formula, applying it retroactively to their students and graduates. It has applied since the first semester of 2023, and the GPA of Yonsei University students with a rating of less than 4.2 increased by one point from before. As a result, when comparing to other schools in the first semester of 2023, if students receive the same grade with a rating of 4.0, their students have the highest score of 97.7 according to the changed conversion method. Like Yonsei University, there are cases in which the method has changed according to student needs.
Regarding the discussion of the GPA conversion system, the student council of SMWU is currently making efforts to improve it by forming a TF team and contacting the school. The TF team delivered the students' opinions from their survey to the school. As a result, according to the TF team's second activity report provided by the student council in July 2023, the school said it will propose an amendment, based on the KHU formula, which will apply retroactively to graduates dating back to February 2010. It also said it is preparing to apply the amendment as early as September 1, 2023, and that changing from 4.3 points to 4.5 points is not being considered currently. However, while no clear announcement has been made, one anonymous student mentioned in the survey conducted by SMT that they are anxious about this every day. Also, she said the school should announce the details of the GPA change in August so that they can focus on a desired graduate school and make appropriate preparations. SMT confirmed through the survey that the common requirement of students is that the GPA be changed before September and applied in the second semester of 2023. In addition, there is a desire for the school to create its own conversion formula so that all sections can be increased by 2 points when converting percentiles. This suggests that it is necessary to consider making and applying a self-conversion formula at SMWU as in the case of Yonsei University, along with prompt countermeasures to the problems being discussed by the school. Meanwhile, the school told SMT that the changes to the GPA-related discussions will be announced in August. It seems necessary to announce the changes to students as soon as possible to reflect their needs.
To get rid of career barriers
GPA, which is used as a basis for entering graduate school and getting a job, is a very important indicator of students' career preparation. However, SMWU is applying a disadvantageous formula for converting GPA, and many students are experiencing difficulties. As students continue to suffer while preparing for their careers, the student council has set up a TF team to constantly communicate with the school and demand efforts are made for improvement. The school has expressed its intention to make changes, but no detailed notice has been given yet. It seems necessary to quickly announce a suitable amendment that comprehensively reflects the needs of students.
1) The total number of students enrolled is 12,760, with a survey participation rate of about 0.5%.
Lee Han Jiwon / Woman Section Editor
Kim Park Yeonhoo / Reporter