MMC’s Alternative Letter Grading

Pass/Fail Grades for the Spring Semester

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With COVID-19 wreaking havoc across the globe, many schools have turned to Pass/Fail grading to lessen the weight on students. Within the last month, Marymount Manhattan College has made the decision to allow Pass/Fail as an option as an alternative to letter grades. Faculty will continue grading students throughout the semester and will assign final letter grades based on the criteria outlined on their syllabi. At the end of the semester, students will receive their grades as usual. At that point, they may opt for Pass/Fail in one or more spring 2020 classes by submitting an online form. At that time, any grade of D or higher in the courses selected will convert to P unless you have an F which will remain that way. Students can make this request for any spring 2020 classes without restriction. As long as students complete work that represents a passing grade, they will receive credit for their courses, but it will not count towards a student’s GPA.

Graduating seniors must submit these requests by Monday, June 1, 2020, so that their transcripts can be finalized and their degrees can officially be conferred. It is not possible to change final grades once your degree has been conferred. Academic Affairs will send an online form prior to the end of the semester to submit these requests. You can also reach out to the Advisement Office ([email protected]) for additional guidance.

Students who are not graduating in June will have until Monday, June 15, 2020, to submit their requests for the Pass/Fail Grading option. Academic Advisement will send an online form prior to the end of the semester to submit these requests. Students are encouraged to speak with their faculty advisors about their decisions. You can also reach out to the Advisement Office ([email protected]) for additional guidance. You should contact Financial Aid ([email protected]) if you have questions about the financial aid implications of the P grade.

While Pass/Fail is a great option for students, there are a few factors you should consider before making a decision about choosing Pass/Fail or a letter grade.

To start with the pro’s, Pass/Fail grading is a great relief to students. Many classes have weighted assignments that are worth 30-50% of their final grade. Passing all of your assignments can sometimes be meaningless if you still fail your exams. This all results in a letter grade not representing the student’s full knowledge. Pass/Fail eliminates this issue because there is no GPA, less competition, and less pressure to maintain a certain grade in a class.

Because there’s no letter grade, that also means there’s a lot more “fairness” that comes with Pass/Fail. Marymount is a liberal arts school, which means there’s a lot of wiggle room in grading. There aren’t many definitive right and wrong answers when it comes to the arts. On the other hand, when it comes to some subjects like math and science, there are standard methods of judging students. A Pass/Fail grading system ditches these methods and allows for more coherence in the classroom rather than using unpredictable methods.

Pass/Fail grading could be seen as negative to students who thrive on competition and incentives. If you’re a student that needs to be pushed by seeing a letter grade, Pass/Fail might not be the option for you. Some people flourish off of letter-based grading systems and not having that can produce a bad habit of procrastination. This isn’t always the case, but by using this option, there is no longer an incentive to study harder, put more effort into assignments, or engage more often in class.

Both Pass/Fail and letter grading have their advantages and disadvantages, but every person is different and there is no wrong choice. We are all in hard times right now and every student should make a decision that makes them most comfortable in whatever mental and physical state they’re in.