When is it time to declare pass/fail?

Anthony Miller, Opinion Editor

Even the best of us stumble eventually.

We can try our hardest every day of our lives but we can’t be great at everything we set out to do.

Once we realize we failed to meet our expectations for ourselves, the best thing we can do is make the best out of a bad situation and move on.

This is all a really roundabout way of saying that I had to declare a pass/fail this semester.

For those who don’t know, a pass/fail is a grading system you can opt into for certain courses where, instead of being graded on a A-F scale, you’re instead graded on a binary scale of pass/fail.

As a downside, however, you can only use a pass/fail once in your four years at Mercyhurst.

That is, once outside of classes like Beyond the Gates, which is automatically a pass/fail.

So why would you ever want to take one of these?

For one, a pass/fail does not impact your GPA.

Secondly, no one except yourself and your professor will ever really know what you got in the class.

For many people, it looks much better to have a pass/fail on their transcript than to have a low C or a D after years of Bs and As.

Ideally, you’ll never have to use your pass/fail.

However, things rarely work out in an ideal way.

I never thought I would have to use mine until this latest semester.

As I’m finishing up my REACH requirements, I’ve had to take courses that are far outside of my major.

While I’ve gone through most of them just fine, my recent trek through Biology has left me befuddled.

As someone who’s big into the arts and humanities, I’ve always had a hard time getting into STEM.

And biology is infamously a tricky field even for students more keyed into that sort of thing.

So I found my grade in the class slipping a bit too low for my liking.

As a result, I decided to take a pass/fail.

The process for submitting a pass/fail is surpsingly simple.

All you have to do is grab a pass/fail submission slip from the registrar’s office, fill it out, get your advisor to sign off on it and off you go.

I think that it’s a good decision to have students talk it over with their adviser first before having them submit a pass/fail.

Taking a pass/fail, especially early on, can have big implications for your academic career.

Talking it over with an expert in Academic Affairs can help you decide if it’s really the right thing to do.

Afterwards, the fact that you’ve taken a pass/fail won’t show up almost anywhere.

It certainly doesn’t show up on Blackboard.

It does not even show up on Self-Service.

It largely seems as if nothing has changed, despite the fact that you’ve made a rather large decision.

It’s not a decision I took lightly, and it’s not one that I think others should take lightly either.

You have to remember that you only get one of these things in your entire four years at Mercyhurst.

I’d recommend using it on a REACH course.

If it’s a class your taking for REACH, not many people will bat an eye at you having taken one.

It’s largely understandable that you would struggle and need a pass/fail when you’re dealing with a class that is far outside of anything you’re used to engaging with at Mercyhurst.

In some cases, it may not be material you’ve engaged with since high school, many years ago.

In any case, I would encourage anyone considering a pass/fail to think on it for a bit.

I feel comfortable using mine because it’s my senior year, but I don’t think freshmen should be so eager to use it.