As we approach the end of fall semester, college students across the nation are pushing to extend the Pass/Fail grading system they all received last spring. But, most colleges aren’t allowing it. Each college has set up their pandemic grading protocols – albeit by the seat of their pants – to deal with student issues. Some colleges allow students to choose between grades and pass/fail, but the problem is WHEN they allow students to make this decision. If the students choose this at the beginning of the term, that would be more fair than allowing students to choose just before finals. In other words, if a student is not doing well in a class, should they be able to opt for a Pass instead of a C?
When students have pass/fail marks on their transcripts instead of grades, it doesn’t work to their benefit when it comes to grad school. Admissions officers are going to prefer a transcript with real grades to one that is riddled with passes or no-pass/fails. If students are really suffering because of COVID-related issues, they can always discuss their circumstances in an essay or interview.
Even at the high school level, most students are receiving grades this term. High school students face the same dilemma as college students when it comes to competing to get into selective colleges. If their transcript shows stellar grades, the students will be more likely to impress admissions officers than students with a transcript filled with passes. So if a student is getting all A’s in their classes, a transcript with passes will make them appear to be average A-C students. Not good.
Spring 2019 and Fall 2020 have already set students back because of the chaos that ensued during the transition to online classes last fall and the fact that online classes just don’t offer the same learning experience that face-to-face classes do. Students who get grades will do much better than students who get passes.