With the wave of new information regarding the pass/no pass class option comes a flood of graduate and professional school hopefuls who are beginning to think about the impact this option may have on their transcripts.
Students who wish to receive pass/no pass credit for semester-long classes can consult with an adviser to switch from a standard letter grade scale before Nov. 20, but this option raises questions for students who know graduate and professional schools look at letter grades when determining admission.
The University Senate approved a resolution Sept. 17 to allow students to opt in to a pass/no pass grading scale for their general education and elective courses. Under the resolution, individual colleges can decide whether to allow students to take major and minor courses for pass/no pass credit, and the College of Arts and Sciences was the first college to do so Friday.
Alicia Bertone, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate school at Ohio State, said although pass/no pass can be a good option for students whose academics are negatively affected by COVID-19 or other extenuating circumstances, there are factors that students need to consider if they are contemplating post-undergraduate education.
“Some of the negatives are simply that if you look at the very high-level graduate education and the respective universities, [acceptance] is based on how much those students know about their field when they get out. Are they outstanding when they get out?” Bertone said.
Caroline Breitenberger, the director of the Center for Life Sciences Education and the honors biology major adviser, said although she thinks pass/no pass classes will have some effect on graduate school admission chances, the effect on professional school admissions could be even more noticeable. Applicants to professional schools, such as medical schools, are required to prove proficiency in many different subjects — often in the form of letter grades.
Despite the seemingly high stakes, Breitenberger urged students not to worry yet.
“Don’t panic. Don’t make a decision now that is going to hem you in later on,” Breitenberger said. She said the university extended the deadline to choose pass/no pass so students can more accurately gauge the letter grade they would receive by the end of the semester.
When discussing what grades may warrant a student taking advantage of the pass/no pass option versus not, Breitenberger gave students the same advice she received from her dad when starting college: “B or better.”
“There are very few programs that really require you to have a 4.0,” Breitenberger said. “And if you get a B here or there on your transcript, it’s easy to get your grade point average pretty high.”
Breitenberger said even if a student gets a C in a course, two more A’s in different courses will bring the cumulative GPA above 3.0.
Bertone said something for students to consider is graduate admissions offices often look at letter grades to ensure prospective students can succeed academically at their school. She also recommended that students applying to professional school check schools’ prerequisites for mandatory letter grades for some classes. Above all, she said to speak to an adviser before making any final decisions.
“Use your adviser, course instructors, people that are supportive of you and will spend some time with you to say, ‘Hey, for this career trajectory that you’re interested in, I would think that it would be better for you to do X, Y or Z,’” Bertone said.