Pass/Fail Grading and Its Future Impact
We are living in an unprecedented and stressful time for a variety of reasons. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to uproot our lives in myriad ways, many high school and college students are left wondering how virtual learning and pass/fail grading will impact their future prospects for college and graduate school. As any admissions expert can tell you, grades are one of the most critical determinants for entrance into a college or graduate school. As such, the pass/fail grading option which most schools and universities have implemented due to coronavirus is causing confusion and stress for many students. Unfortunately, due to the unprecedented nature of this time, we don’t know exactly how this will play out and how colleges and universities will choose to handle applicants’ pass/fail grades. That said, some common sense ideas, advice, and perspective may help students and parents who are understandably anxious about what this means for their and their children’s futures.
- Continue to work hard and do your best- don’t act as if grading no longer exists simply because pass/fail is now a widely available option.
- If you can still take a letter grade, you should strive to do so and should only accept a pass/fail option if you are really struggling and have few resources to help yourself. Continuing to work to the best of your abilities can yield excellent letters of recommendation from teachers and professors, as well as exemplary projects and papers that can later become part of your portfolio.
- Remember that everyone is in the same boat.
- A quarantine pass is not the same as a pre-quarantine pass. As in, all students in almost every school in the nation are facing the same situation of digital (and often subpar) instruction, and colleges and graduate programs will have to be understanding and will likely modify some of their admissions standards and requirements in regards to grades, because they have to.
- Beef up other areas of your resume.
- Now is a great time to look at any holes in your resume and extracurriculars and step up your game where possible. While the coronavirus pandemic has rendered certain activities unfeasible, others continue to meet, and new opportunities, especially for volunteerism, mentoring, and community activism have arisen. Students who were overly reliant on good grades (as well as those who were not!) have an opportunity to step up their extracurricular game, which will serve to complement grades and other achievements.
- Work on your skill sets.
- Just because classroom learning has turned into online learning for students across the country (and globe) doesn’t mean that students of all ages can’t continue to develop their skills. Whether it’s reading comprehension, research, organization, essay writing, math, or any other relevant skill, students have many opportunities to continue learning during the quarantine and now over the summer. Between online tutoring, workbooks, webinars, videos, podcasts, and many other media and delivery methods, there is so much content on the internet and off (paper books still exist and are wonderful resources!) for students to continue to develop skills which they will need for future schooling. As students return to traditional classroom settings and grading structures, these skills will serve to make their work easier and their grades better, thereby improving their chances for future admission into college or graduate school.
Other words of wisdom to keep in mind:
No one knows how this will pan out; not a single human alive, in or out of academia, has experienced a pandemic that caused a global shutdown of physical schooling and a near universal pass/fail grading option. As such, we must maintain some perspective and move forward on the assumption that programs will simply have to modify some requirements and standards, as virtually all members of their applicant pools will be in the same boat.
My best guess is that colleges and universities will rely on trends in students’ grades over time to make admissions decisions while also taking into larger account students’ letters of recommendation, extracurriculars, and test scores (especially pre-and post-pandemic). I also believe that schools may start to rely more heavily on portfolio submissions, especially in programs where they are typically not required, such as health sciences.
The last thought I’ll leave you with is this: we can only control what we can control. So, if taking a pass was your only viable option this past semester, take it and move on. Do something actionable and within your control, such as boosting your skills and/or finding relevant extracurriculars, so that when normalcy does resume (whatever that means and looks like), you will be set up for greatest success in the field or program of your choosing. Now is an ideal time to reach out to a professional tutor or coach who can help you build critical skills that will enable future success!
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