Taking classes pass/fail comes with pros, cons

Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option, known as “pass/fail courses,” are a substitute to the typical “A” through “F” grading scale.

Some students, however, are uncertain about what taking a class pass/fail really means.

To receive a satisfactory mark, a student must receive a “C” or better in the class, while a “D” or “F” will yield an unsatisfactory mark, said Bob Kline, academic adviser in the College of Arts and Sciences. When students register for classes, they must decide to take a class with the S/U option.

Every college at the University has a different policy on pass/fail classes, Kline said. Students must research that policy when compiling their class schedule.

For example, the College of Arts and Sciences allows students to take up to 16 hours of pass/fail classes, Kline said. However, students cannot take classes pass/fail within their major or minor.

Although taking classes pass/fail may make classwork easier, it can come with negative consequences, Kline said.

“Graduating with Latin honors could be impacted by taking numerous pass/fail courses,” he said.

Other problems can also surface as a student continues his or her academic career, Kline said.

“If you start out as a journalism major and take a sociology class pass/fail, you are fine, but if you switch to a sociology major, then what do you do?” Kline said.

This type of scenario could mean taking classes again with a normal grading scale, he said.

While there are some downsides to taking classes pass/fail, many students said they think the positives outweigh the negatives.

Senior Jamie Meggas said taking classes pass/fail has helped her tremendously.

“I had to take a science class that was not part of my major,” Meggas said. “I took that class pass/fail, which made it easier to concentrate on other courses.”

Meggas also said she took classes pass/fail to help keep her GPA up, and it was a “very safe option, because all you need is a ‘C’ or better for it to count.”

Senior Maddy Brown expressed similar feelings.

“Hard classes usually average into your GPA, but with pass/fail, you still get the credits without a grade affecting your GPA,” she said.

Both Meggas and Brown agreed on one downside to the pass/fail system   – if a student takes a class pass/fail and earns an “A,” he or she cannot change from the S/U option so the “A” can help his or her GPA.

Students taking classes pass/fail may also slack off on assignments and attendance because they aren’t focusing on the class as much as others, Brown said.

Researching the pros and cons of the pass/fail system is essential for students, she said.

“I think students should definitely be more aware of the opportunity to take classes pass/fail because it can help with GPA requirements,” Brown said. “Taking classes pass/fail, however, is not a way to disregard working hard and learning in the classroom … It should be used as a tool to succeed – not an excuse to be lazy.

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