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How to approach optional Pass/Fail policy

PrdMomto1PrdMomto1 483 replies7 threads Member
edited May 13 in Parents Forum
For those of you whose kids who are going to colleges who adopted an optional pass/fail policy for this semester, what approach are your kids taking to their grades? We have a friend whose kid is an engineering major at a T20 school and he is taking 6 classes. He got 4 A's and 2 not A's. He was given the advice by 2 different advisors to take the A's and then P's in the other classes. The rationale was he'd get a bump in GPA and no one was going to care about grades for this semester when this is all over since schools are all approaching things so differently and students are all dealing with such different circumstances.

I know kids who are going to med school, grad school, or working immediately after graduation might be approaching this differently. I don't know how grad admission folks will deal with this weird semester. Employers probably won't care that much.
edited May 13
49 replies
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Replies to: How to approach optional Pass/Fail policy

  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9813 replies110 threads Senior Member
    My D's chem e program told them to take the grades if they were a B or higher. There were also some major specific classes that were ineligible to be P/F because of a higher threshold needed to advance to the next class. They also were told that all students should talk to their advisor before making any class P/F so that they would be aware of all of the implications of the decision.

    My H, who hires engineers said employers really won't care. It's grad schools that are more of an unknown.



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  • gwnorthgwnorth 565 replies8 threads Member
    My son just finished his first year and his school has the same policy. For courses taken in winter semester you can accept a letter grade or choose C/NC due to the disruption of having had to pivot to online learning. His school also allows under regular circumstances for upper year students to designate 1 course per semester as personal interest (PIC) which is graded on P/F basis so the C/NC policy for the winter term basically ends up acting similarly (though there is no restriction on how many courses students can designate as C/NC). There has been similar discussion among students as to what effect that might have. The general consensus has been if the mark is not too bad and you are in 3rd or 4th year and have intentions for grad school etc to take the grade. It's a little more ambiguous for those students looking to attend medical school, but generally for first or second year students there seems to be no downside. We were discussing with DS19 as to whether he wanted to convert one of his electives to Credit. He got an A- but if he converted it it would drop out of his cGPA and he would end the year with a perfect 4.0 putting him on the Chancellor's Honour List. He seems disinclined however and to be honest it really doesn't mean much. He doesn't feel the need for a perfect GPA and he'll still be on the Dean's Honour List. He still has a couple days to decide though.
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  • PrdMomto1PrdMomto1 483 replies7 threads Member
    gwnorth wrote: »
    It's a little more ambiguous for those students looking to attend medical school, but generally for first or second year students there seems to be no downside.

    Do you mean no downside to taking classes pass/fail?

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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82721 replies738 threads Senior Member
    edited May 13
    PrdMomto1 wrote: »
    We have a friend whose kid is an engineering major at a T20 school and he is taking 6 classes. He got 4 A's and 2 not A's. He was given the advice by 2 different advisors to take the A's and then P's in the other classes.

    Considerations:

    Are the non-A grades B, C, D, or F?

    Are the non-A grades in major courses or non-major courses?

    Is he facing GPA thresholds or competition-by-GPA for things like entrance to major or progression in major, or is his GPA currently near 3.0 (a common cutoff for employers deciding which college applicants to interview)?
    edited May 13
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 2213 replies37 threads Senior Member
    edited May 13
    If GPA is all he's concerned about, it's very easy. For any course grade that's at or above his previous GPA, choose letter grade. Otherwise, choose P/F. This guarantees his new GPA will be at least as good as, if not better than, his previous GPA.

    If he's also concerned how future employers will look at his transcript for his performances in relevant key courses, then he may have to make some trade-off for courses he'd otherwise choose the P/F option.
    edited May 13
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  • gwnorthgwnorth 565 replies8 threads Member
    edited May 13
    @PrdMomto1 yes, for most 1st or 2nd year students there is no downside to taking a P/F. Graduate schools generally only look at 3rd and 4th year courses. Some considerations though could be eligibility for scholarships or progression into higher courses where there is a minimum grade requirement or if a student is thinking of applying to competitive internships. It's going to depend on what the non-A grades are and possibly whether the course is an elective or core requirement.
    edited May 13
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  • milgymfammilgymfam 1452 replies28 threads Senior Member
    My daughter’s LAC has given them the option to uncover the automatic C/NC grades for this semester until September. I’ve talked with my daughter about it and told her I think it should be all or nothing for uncovering grades, but I thought uncovering some but not others would look bad. She hasn’t made up her mind on that, but she wouldn’t uncover any A- or less either way.
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  • Happy4uHappy4u 305 replies2 threads Member
    Is there any standard on how Dean's List eligibility will be handled?
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  • milgymfammilgymfam 1452 replies28 threads Senior Member
    My daughter’s school doesn’t have a dean’s list, so at least that’s something she doesn’t have to consider at all.
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  • PrdMomto1PrdMomto1 483 replies7 threads Member
    1NJParent wrote: »
    If GPA is all he's concerned about, it's very easy. For any course grade that's at or above his previous GPA, choose letter grade. Otherwise, choose P/F. This guarantees his new GPA will be at least as good as, if not better than, his previous GPA.

    I'm not sure I think it is that simple. What if a student has a B average and this semester is earning all A's and B's? Yes, all classes are at or above his average, BUT, if he was only concerned about his GPA then taking just the A's would give a much bigger bump.

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  • stradmomstradmom 5197 replies51 threads Senior Member
    At my school, Deans List requires no P/F grades for the semester.

    They also warned students in certain certificate programs (education, social work) that professional certification may require letter grades.
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  • gwnorthgwnorth 565 replies8 threads Member
    edited May 13
    At DS19's school up to 6 credits out of 30 (which usually = 2 courses out of 10) can have a non numerical grade and still retain eligibility for Chancellor's/Dean's list as it accommodates their policy for Personal Interest Courses graded on a P/F basis.
    edited May 13
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 2213 replies37 threads Senior Member
    PrdMomto1 wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    If GPA is all he's concerned about, it's very easy. For any course grade that's at or above his previous GPA, choose letter grade. Otherwise, choose P/F. This guarantees his new GPA will be at least as good as, if not better than, his previous GPA.

    I'm not sure I think it is that simple. What if a student has a B average and this semester is earning all A's and B's? Yes, all classes are at or above his average, BUT, if he was only concerned about his GPA then taking just the A's would give a much bigger bump.

    Yes, if he only wants to maximize his GPA. In this case, he could recalculate his "new" GPA with only courses he gets As. Then compare this "new" GPA with grades from the other courses. If any of them is still above his "new" GPA, he would include those. For the most optimal strategy, he would do this repeatedly and iteratively, including the highest grade first, then the next highest, and so on.
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  • ProfSDProfSD 143 replies2 threads Junior Member
    edited May 13
    You also have to remember that most people assume a "P" means a C or lower. So anyone reading a transcript with a "P" will not think that this was a student that received a B in that course, but opted against the grade. It will be read as a C regardless, unless the college moved all classes to P/NC. (Most colleges require at least a C- to receive any credit.)

    I don't know anyone at my college who is advising students to take anything higher than a C+ P/NC. The only time it might be a question is for students who want to make Dean's List so they can take a course overload the next semester. And even then we simply don't encourage it. We are advising students who plan to pursue graduate school or professional certification (regardless of class year) to take the grade if it is a C+ or higher. C or C- is a bit murky, but even then it's not a clear choice. Those programs often want to see grades.

    I have also been crunching numbers for my students in the past few days as we work through their options. My college is only allowing students the option of taking two courses this semester P/NC, so the GPA difference is not especially large. While taking a course P/NC may help the current semester GPA, it often does not have a large effect on the overall GPA. (A typical course load is five classes/semester where I teach.) I would advise everyone to crunch the numbers beyond just the semester.
    edited May 13
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  • PrdMomto1PrdMomto1 483 replies7 threads Member
    ProfSD wrote: »
    You also have to remember that most people assume a "P" means a C or lower. So anyone reading a transcript with a "P" will not think that this was a student that received a B in that course, but opted against the grade. It will be read as a C regardless, unless the college moved all classes to P/NC.

    That's what I always assumed. But it sounds like some advisors are telling their students that this semester will be looked at differently, especially since some colleges are making all classes p/f.

    My D's school is pretty flexible. The students can designate all classes p/f if they want but have until early September to 'uncover" the grades they want to keep. So, my D has some time to decide how to approach this. But, she is a freshman and it's just hard to guess how these p/f's will be viewed 3 years from now.
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  • ProfSDProfSD 143 replies2 threads Junior Member
    edited May 13
    PrdMomto1 wrote: »

    That's what I always assumed. But it sounds like some advisors are telling their students that this semester will be looked at differently, especially since some colleges are making all classes p/f.

    I think it's different if the college is moving all classes to P/NC. I'm thinking about colleges that are giving students the option.

    Colleges are going to send a letter with the transcript that explains any grading changes for that semester, and the system used. Anyone viewing the transcript will have that context. It works the same way as high school transcripts for college. Admissions officers do not go in blind. High schools provide a report that explains the system so they can try to compare applicants more closely. It will be the same thing for college transcripts this semester. My college has already explained this to students.
    edited May 13
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 9813 replies110 threads Senior Member
    Purdue still required a certain number of credits be for letter grades to be considered for the Dean's List.

    The C-19 footnote on transcripts says: “For Spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic required significant changes to delivery of instruction. The deadline to elect a Pass/Not Pass grade also was extended to the end of the term.”

    IMO, that doesn't offer a lot of reassurance to a grad school for students electing P/NP.
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  • NJWrestlingmomNJWrestlingmom 1668 replies2 threads Senior Member
    S17's school is doing P/NC. Kind of worked out as a blessing for him this semester since he was taking the required foreign language - which he is awful at! Taking the "P" there will save the GPA. He should have 2 A's and 2 B's in his other classes. His GPA is right about a 3.0, so I think he will keep them all. 2 A's would help the GPA more, I guess, but I don't see the harm in B's on his transcript.
    If he ends up with a B- in the one course....that will require a decision. Not a terrible grade, but it will hurt the 3.0 GPA threshold.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82721 replies738 threads Senior Member
    PrdMomto1 wrote: »
    My D's school is pretty flexible. The students can designate all classes p/f if they want but have until early September to 'uncover" the grades they want to keep. So, my D has some time to decide how to approach this. But, she is a freshman and it's just hard to guess how these p/f's will be viewed 3 years from now.

    Again, it depends on things like:

    * The actual grade.
    * Whether the course is for her major or otherwise required (or highly desired) to be for a letter grade.
    * How much GPA matters for things like entrance-to-major, graduate/professional school, employment that she may be interested in.

    For example, assuming a P/NP system where P is a C- or higher, and neither P nor NP affect GPA calculated by the college:

    * C- in a non-major course? Leave it covered up with a P.
    * D+, D, D-? Leave it covered up with an NP unless you will not repeat the course and really value the credit more than avoiding the GPA damage.
    * F? Leave it covered up with an NP.
    * Pre-med with B+ or lower in course not required for pre-med purposes (which medical schools really want to see for a letter grade)? Leave it covered up with a P.
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  • sushirittosushiritto 5204 replies20 threads Senior Member
    Pre-med with B+ or lower in course not required for pre-med purposes (which medical schools really want to see for a letter grade)? Leave it covered up with a P.

    You can't show a B+ in a non-required course? Wow, a tough Medical School AO you would make. No med school because of ONE B+. :smiley:
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