WC can help lower student stress by adopting a Pass/Fail grading system

By Megan Loock

Elm Staff Writer

Get your blue light glasses and your favorite sweatshirt, Washington College. After spending the last half of our spring semester online, we’re in for another virtual semester. And if staring at a computer screen for hours a day isn’t enough to stress you out, reverting back to the letter grade system might. 

On Aug. 3, the Washington College Response Team sent an email alerting the school community to an entirely remote fall semester. These fall courses, except those that are already graded pass/fail, will use letter grades.

During a Zoom class meeting, one of my professors told me and my peers that she wanted us to participate more. But what is participation in a virtual learning environment? Our new class system does not foster the same esteem that the campus environment would.

A tweet from current WC sophomore Eylie Sasajima perhaps explains the current emotional and mental state of other students best.

“[In] the most respectful way possible, I just don’t see how I (or anyone) can give on-campus effort for online classes. Like does that make sense or am I just going off the rails?” Sasajima tweeted.

School and home are different entities that foster different mindsets. We have learned to associate a specific environment with learning, while home environments are associated with leisure. Now, all these associations are jumbled, making it hard for students to learn and relax under the same roof.

Switching from the pass/fail system to the traditional letter-grade system within a short time frame normalizes the current chaotic climate we have yet to mediate.

Both options present their inherent advantages and disadvantages. The obvious advantage to reverting back to the letter-grade system is the return of GPAs.

“College GPA can carry significant weight in determining scholarships, graduate school admissions and requirements for majors and programs, which is why students should understand the policy at their college regarding how pass-fail may appear on a transcript,” US News & World Report’s Josh Moody said.

Students were accustomed to the letter-grade system long before the pandemic, but in a time where students are forced to carry both the weight of school and a global health crisis, it produces an avalanche of stress.

Whether it’s having to take up extra hours at work, the problems faced with living at home, or unreliable internet connections, students are being forced to overcome a situation that cannot be overcome.

“[The pass/fail system will] allow the grader to focus on learning and growth, while students have more opportunities to try, mess up and improve without feeling that everything is lost or their GPA is ruined,”CNN’s David Perry said.

Students still have more adjusting to do. As a student who’s admittedly anal-retentive when it comes to her schoolwork, the switch to pass/fail last spring semester was somewhat of a relief. Pass/fail is not an ideal system, but we are not living in ideal circumstances. 

We should be, as Perry puts it, “cutting each other as much slack as possible, while still acknowledging the work we’re all doing, staying connected and trying to remember what normal looks like.”

Featured Photo caption: The Casey Academic Center. Photo by Izze Rios.

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