What Does a Pass-Fail System Mean for College Students Everywhere?

Amidst the pandemic caused by the Coronavirus, college campuses across the nation have been forced to close, and much like the rest of the world, take their programs online. According to a report from Inside Higher Ed, a large number of schools have taken up a pass-fail system in order to help students move through the remainder of the semester without negative consequences.

The Strengths and Challenges of Pass-Fail


  1. Eases the Pressure

Implementing pass-fail policies helps save GPA’s if students are going through a challenging time during this pandemic. It relieves pressure from students, which can be beneficial to mental health when anxieties are high.

  1. Evens the Playing Field

Some students may not have access to things like computers or tablets, they may have left textbooks on campus in their transition, now have children at home full time, have taken on financial strain, etc. It can be difficult for professors to fairly grade students when their resources and situations vary greatly.


  1. Perception

While a pass grade won’t harm your overall GPA, it may not look great on your college transcript, either. A “pass” grade shows you took the course and did well enough to pass, but it doesn’t exactly show the hard work that was put into the course.

  1. Applying to Advanced Programs

If a student is applying to a continuing education program, such as medical school, it can be a major red flag for these students who are making the choice to accept pass-fail or a letter grade. The choice could not only could cause additional stress, but it will be tough for admissions of those programs to properly and fairly evaluate the performance of the applicant.

The Bottom Line

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and that is exactly what is happening with universities who have decided that a pass-fail system will have to be suitable this semester. It may not be ideal, but nothing about the spring of 2020 has been ideal or easy.

Letting students sit in uncertain situations might leave them feeling worse off. What are some strengths or challenges you see happening in this grading system? Are you a supporter or are you against it?


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