Kim: No shame in taking Pass/No Pass courses

Won Hee Kim, Copy Editor

My fingers trembled as I typed in the request. I double-checked my grammar. I changed a few words, moved the mouse over and hit submit. You can’t take back the request, the system warns me.

Don’t worry SIS, I know.

The deadline to request to change a class to pass/no pass (P/NP) grading is today, March 29. For first-year students, it’s next month. I was nervous about submitting the request, but now that I’ve done it, I’m relieved.

P/NP grading is an alternative to the standard A-F grading that does not count toward GPA but gives the same credit hours as normal. According to the bulletin on the school website, undergraduate students can take “one course each fall and spring semester on a P/NP grading basis, provided they remain enrolled in at least 3 credit-hours of courses for regular evaluative grades.”

P/NP grading sounded like the ideal solution for my grades and my stress, but I hesitated for a long while because I was worried about the stigma. What exactly does it say about a student if they take a course without grades? Would they be perceived as lazy or uncaring about school? Overly focused on their GPA and not on actual learning?

I talked extensively with my friends, siblings and even complete strangers before I came to the conclusion that, well, the option is there for a reason.

“As someone who is really concerned over mental health in this country, pass/no pass classes offer the opportunity to learn without pressure,” Samantha Chrin, a fourth-year chemistry major and my friend told me.

It’s important for college students—for everyone, really—to take care of their mental health, as it affects all aspects of our lives. I briefly considered dropping the class completely to avoid the stress.

But we’re students of Case Western Reserve University, and it’s no question that we want to learn. Pass/No Pass classes, in that way, are the love-child of auditing classes and regular classes. They allow students to be invested in their learning without the extreme focus on letter grades.

However, taking classes as P/NP may be troublesome for other reasons. “You may change your major,” a family member warned. I didn’t think I would, having senior status, but it is a concern for underclassmen. The grades might also look bad on a transcript, but so long as they are not for major/minor courses, everything should be fine.

As a final test, I went over to another friend, someone I respect a lot. “I’m thinking about making one of my classes pass/no pass,” I said. “What do you think?”

“Cool,” he replied.

It just solidified that there’s no reason for me, or anyone else for that matter, to feel ashamed of going the route of Pass/No Pass.

Won Hee Kim is a third-year English major with minors in creative writing and economics.