Besides being the day before Valentine’s Day, Feb. 13 was also the last day for students to elect the pass/no credit option for their classes. In many cases however, students hadn’t received test grades in their classes yet, something that can be very important in determining whether to change a graded class to a pass/no credit class.In my case, only one of my five classes had a test before the deadline. I had grades in my other classes before the 13th (quizzes, etc.), but these grades were not of much consequence. In the four classes that I hadn’t taken a test in, the first tests were worth 28 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent and 33 percent of my final grades. Had I failed any one of these tests, it would have had a tremendous impact on my decision to take that class pass/no credit.
I know I wasn’t the only student in this situation. I know some students who are in as many as three of the same classes as me. One of these students, Paul Meyer, a freshman pre-business major said, “The date to elect pass/no credit should be after midterms; that way everyone has had a test and is able to make a more informed decision on the option.”
If the date were moved back just two weeks, to Feb. 27, I would have taken tests in four of five of my classes, instead of only one. And after taking these tests, I think I have a much better feel for how the rest of the semester is going to go. Knowing how I did on these tests, I might have elected to take one of my classes pass/no credit. Instead, I am faced with trying to make up for an unsatisfactory grade on a test worth 30 percent of my final grade.
According to Registrar and Director of Enrollment Management, Patrick Miller: “The purpose of the deadline is to maintain academic rigor. We do not want to promote grade-shopping; our thought behind the policy is that students should be able to figure out the difficulty of the course in the first few weeks.”
I agree that it wouldn’t be right for students to wait until the semester was almost over, realize they were going to barely pass a class and choose the option as an alternative to lowering their GPA. But I believe the best test of how a student will perform in the course is a test, and I think the student should have that opportunity before deciding whether to take the class pass/no credit. Plus, it’s not like students can do this for every class. For example, business majors can only take two pass/no credit classes during undergraduate studies.
Pass/no credit grades do not count toward a student’s cumulative GPA – you either receive credit for taking the course or you do not. Depending on your definition of a poor grade, low test scores, especially on tests worth one-third of your final grade, can be devastating to a final class grade. In these cases, merely receiving credit for the score is much more beneficial than a grade that can lower your GPA.
Another student, Lindsay Morgan, a freshman biology major, was faced with the same situation as Meyer and myself, having taken only one test before the date. Her opinion (seems to be a pattern here), is that the date could be moved to a later one, giving students a much better feel for whether or not to take a class pass/no credit.
“It would definitely be beneficial for students because it would tell you whether or not the class would help or hurt your GPA in the long run,” Morgan said. “If I had received a low grade on one of my tests, I would have seriously considered taking that class pass/no credit. A poor test grade can mean a poor grade in a class, which is obviously worse for your GPA than just getting credit.”
Many times, as in my situation, students are not aware of how difficult classes will be until they have taken the first test. When the pass/no credit option is available, students should be able to make an informed decision as to whether they want to utilize this option. How can they best do that without having taken a test in that class?
With the current deadline, it is possible for students not to utilize the option and then wish they had. Moving the deadline back only a couple weeks would make a tremendous difference in many cases and would be extremely beneficial for students who are unsure if they want to elect the pass/no credit option.
Dan Plate is a freshman pre-business major from Ogallala, Neb. His column appears every Friday.