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Pass-Fail Grading…Should You Do It?

With our MTSU community’s lives being altered by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, this is a time to be extra generous and kind. None of us envisioned our semester being flipped upside down like this, but we are all working together to make the best of a less than ideal situation!

Our university understands that some of its most exceptional students are currently working mothers and fathers, may be out of a job due to the current status of the country or lack the tools at home that are provided on campus, such as labs, internet access, or the library. It is the university’s intention to help eliminate stress by presenting the choice to convert to the Pass-Fail grading scale.

Integrating Pass-Fail policies into our Spring 2020 semester has given us, students, the option to stay on course the best we can and fight through this. As President Sydney McPhee said, “We demonstrate daily we will not bow to this virus nor will we let it diminish our True-Blue spirit.” And, we WON’T!

We are going to dive into the way Pass-Fail works at MTSU and go over a few points to think about when making your decision!

What is Pass-Fail exactly?

Often times, letter grades are thought to reflect the efforts of the student. Seeing that letter grade you worked hard for at the end of the semester is supposed to be satisfying. Traditional methods of grading were reassessed this semester to help make sure you continue to reach that satisfaction despite the extra weight being put on by the pandemic.

For those who are majorly affected by the event, the choice to substitute the letter grade for a passing grade can be career-saving. When a grade of Pass is applied to your transcript, it does not impact your overall GPA. You would have officially completed the course, earning all credit hours from it. What would impact your GPA would be grades above a B+ and grades below a D- for undergraduate courses and grades below a C- for graduate courses. If you prefer the letter grade, that is OK too. Making the switch is completely your decision and can be quickly completed on the homepage of your Pipeline account.

The Pass-Fail option can be applied individually to courses you choose. MTSU’s Pass-Fail instructions read as follows:

  • For undergraduate courses, an A, F/FA, or N will remain and grades of B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, D- will be converted to Pass.
  • For graduate courses, an A, A-, or F/FA will remain and grades of B+, B, B-, C+, C, C- will convert to Pass and grades of D+, D, and D- will convert to Fail.

Your decisions must be made by Wednesday, April 29 at 11:59 pm. After this, you cannot change.

You can find further instruction for opting into Pass-Fail on the homepage of your pipeline account. Make sure to take a look at MTSU’s Student FAQs about the Pass-Fail Option to view frequently asked questions and more details when thinking about the switch.

Want to boost that GPA?

You might consider converting classes to pass/fail if you are trying to improve upon your GPA or can’t afford for it to drop. A student’s GPA can be a determining factor with scholarships, acceptance to graduate school, or admission into college programs.

Providing the option to convert to this scale is enabling students to be strategic about their decision. Since an A will count toward boosting your overall GPA, it can only benefit you to choose the Pass-Fail option for classes you are not certain you will receive an A in. In order to meet your GPA goal, reach out to your teachers before the decision deadline and discuss the probability of reaching an A.

In the end, it is up to the student to put in the work to reach the A, not the teacher. Be sure to keep this in mind when making your decision after receiving input from your teachers.

You can access your current GPA by logging into Pipeline, then following Registration and Student Records to the Academic Records section. Click on GPA’s, and you will find yours at the bottom of the webpage. Or, use MTSU’s GPA calculator to determine what grades you may need to obtain from your classes to reach your GPA goal at the end of the semester.

Make sure to do your research!

There are some factors to consider that may affect you in the long run if you decide to make your classes Pass-Fail. Since this decision is situational, you have to do what is best for you and your situation. The last thing you would want is to make a hard semester even harder!

Graduate School Preventative Measures

Be aware that it is possible that switching to Pass-Fail may create new consequences to students seeking admission to graduate school. During this time of crisis, many graduate schools are accounting for students’ harsh situations during this semester in their evaluations. However, the competitive graduate programs, like medical school and law school, present a chance for there to be less leniency. Even Harvard Medical School, who has switched over to a Pass-Fail grading system, stated that “letter grades would be preferred if the option for such grades is offered.”

Do you have scholarships or financial aid?

A Pass-Fail grade may be a determining factor for your eligibility with outside scholarships. As far as MTSU scholarships go, you are in the clear! Your undergraduate scholarships offered directly from the university will not be affected based on what you choose to do. However, for those of you awesome Blue Raiders who received outside scholarships, check in with their contact to see if a Pass grade will meet the requirements.

Tennessee’s financial aid, such as Tennessee Lottery, is based on GPA requirements and attempted hours. These two factors are reviewed in benchmarks at every 24 attempted hours to determine future eligibility.  If you are not at a benchmark, you don’t have to worry about Pass-Fail affecting your financial aid. If you are, your eligibilitymight be questioned. You can contact MTSU One Stop to review the benchmark you are currently at, and that could help you along in your decision.

If  any of this this is the case for you, check your intended school’s updates on the topic, review your scholarship requirements, and speak with MTSU One Stop about your financial aid standing before you determine your decision.

Author Margaret Mahaffey is a senior at MTSU, majoring in Video and Film Production with minors in Marketing and Fashion Merchandising. The views and opinions expressed above are her own.


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