Why the Pass/Fail Grading System is The Student’s Worst Enemy

May brings with it the third month of COVID-19 lockdown and online learning for students in the United States. Most schools have severely reduced students’ workloads. Many have cancelled final exams, and some have even taken the ultimate step of moving to a pass/fail grading system. Like students since the beginning of time, many met these announcements with joy. What they should have felt, however, was dread for missed opportunities to show their mettle to future colleges.

The Trap of Pass/Fail

When on a pass/fail system, students immediately think that they don’t have to work as hard as before. This may or may not be true, but what is inherently the case is that anyone observing students’ grades can no longer distinguish between an A or A+ student and a C- student. In college, this may not matter a great deal, but in high school, a year or even a single semester of pass/fail grading could terminate a future college applicant’s chances at their dream school. Pass/fail is an elite student’s nightmare, and even those struggling to maintain a B average should want to showcase the results of that struggle to their schools. Pass/fail denies them the right to do so.

What Can You Do?

If your school is considering implementing pass/fail but has not yet done so, make your voice heard! Lodge your reservations with administration, demand that a school board meeting be held, and lobby to avoid this outcome. If the worst has already come to pass, however, there are still ways to help your grades stand out from the crowd. Pursue community college or other online supplemental courses that will be graded, or talk with your teachers about mentioning your performance unofficially in their letters of recommendation. Whatever you do, make sure that when an admissions officer reads over your college application, they can see that when coronavirus impacted education around the world, you continued to excel, unfazed.

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Tags: Higher Education, College, College Counseling, College Consultant, College Admissions, College Applications, Academics, High School, Pass/Fail Grading, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Online Learning, Online School, Remote Learning, Remote School