Having a Pass/Fail option isn’t an excuse to slack on academics

Opinion: The Pass/Fail option is nice, but it’s not an excuse to slack on academics, writes Alanna Joachim.

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Collegian file photo

By Alanna Joachim, Collegian Columnist

About a month ago, the future became extremely uncertain. Even then, I was not able to comprehend the scope of the virus and its repercussions on our society and daily life in the coming weeks. For some students, the effects of the virus are extremely detrimental. Students all over the country live in abusive family homes, have limited access to learning resources or suffer from mental health conditions that could be worsened from self-isolation. Additional hardships like these make working from home, for some in self isolation, difficult or nearly impossible.

Recently, the University of Massachusetts became one of many schools in the United States to implement Pass/Fail grading for all university courses for Spring 2020 due to the coronavirus. For many students, the new implantation of Pass/Fail courses offers a great relief due to unforeseen circumstances that may have developed in their lives due to the pandemic. For others not in such situations, the Pass/Fail option may seem like an easy out.

For those not aware of UMass’ policy on Pass/Fail grading, under usual circumstances Pass/Fail grading cannot be used to fulfill a students’ major requirements or General Education requirements. For the Spring 2020 semester only, UMass has allowed students to take all their classes on a Pass/Fail basis, and all other restrictions usually associated with Pass/Fail grading have been revoked. If a student chooses Pass/Fail grading for a class, they will still receive a grade in the course, but if it will hurt the student’s GPA it will only be counted for University credits. A student can also revoke Pass/Fail grading for this semester’s classes any time up until 6 months after their graduation. Therefore, my professors and advisors have stated that choosing the Pass/Fail option for this spring can only benefit me.

While I support UMass’ decision to allow students to choose Pass/Fail grading, I encourage students to use this opportunity to help them, rather than to hurt them later on in their college careers. In this difficult time, it is important to take time for oneself and stay mentally healthy. Students should not stress over getting perfect grades in every class. UMass implemented the Pass/Fail option in order to compensate for the additional stressors and issues that may arise from the current pandemic.

But some students may also see Pass/Fail grading as an easier option that allows them to complete all of their classes with little effort and without having to worry about Bs or Cs affecting their GPA. While for some classes, such as Gen Eds, it may not hurt a student to slack off, many classes are crucial building blocks for later education. This sentiment is especially true for classes taken in the freshman and sophomore years. I encourage students to take advantage of Pass/Fail grading in a way that is most helpful, not just now, but later as well.

Not only are the classes taken freshman and sophomore year building important skills for later classes, but freshman year is one of the best times to boost one’s GPA in preparation of harder classes taken in their junior or senior year. It is also not valuable to waste the time and effort put in at the beginning of the semester now, just because learning looks a lot different for the second half of the semester.

It is up to every individual student to decide how they want to motivate themselves, and it may pose more of a challenge to some than others. If you have the ability to motivate yourself to be productive, do not waste the opportunity of an education by simply slacking off since mediocre grades will not count.

Many students all over the world would love the privilege of a college education. I know that the circumstances at hand are less than ideal, and that everyone would much rather be back on campus with their friends and participating in the activities that make college such a great experience, but it is better to appreciate the memories of this last school year and to make the best of these last weeks. Pass/Fail grading is a great option for all students, but I urge people not to waste the opportunity given by simply slacking off.

Alanna Joachim is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]