In my last semester of undergrad, I decided to treat myself — I took my first and only course pass/no pass (or pass/fail). [If you’re unfamiliar with this, it is the option to enroll in a class and not receive a letter grade at the end of it. You either pass the course or you fail to pass the course].
This fork in the road might frighten some. Typically one would choose this course of action if he or she were simply taking the class for fun, and unconcerned with the lack of a letter grade on his or her transcript. However, a fun course should be an easy course right? So why not just get that easy ‘A’ and move on with your life?
My reasoning was different. I was in fact quite committed to ending my collegiate career with a high GPA, though I knew it didn’t mean much. My decision rested on my desire to learn something unrelated to my degree, something new yet still pragmatic and ultimately interesting to me, while offsetting the risk associated with taking on this new study. The best way I knew that I could best shelter my GPA from the potential disaster in taking my first business course was to take it pass/no pass.
This line of thinking is absurd and not the point at all.
The real benefit here was that by taking a course for no grade, I was able to learn in the most unfettered, undisturbed manner possible. I had no stake in this course. It wasn’t for my major. My GPA would never be affected. I did not have to be up at all hours studying for an exam whose grade, good or bad, would have no bearing. I could choose to do the work, or I could choose not to. I never had to worry myself with impressing my professor. I could choose to participate and attempt to answer questions in class, or I could sit quietly and observe, unbothered by the chase for participation points.
As the days turn to weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to semesters, one can quickly and decisively lose track of the aim in getting an education — to be educated. An unyielding wave of assignments can render even the best and brightest incapacitated, limping to the finish line, if you’re lucky enough to still be in the race.
And it is a race, which can be unfortunate. Your experience in school should be a microcosm, a miniature representation of the marathon that is life. Yes, perhaps upon completing your education you will be forced into working environments where deadlines have to be met and there is an inevitable race against the clock. Still. You know better.
Wouldn’t it be nice if a student could walk into class and leave with no more to stress about than when they arrived, with their sole concern being learning for no other sake but for their own personal betterment?
It can absolutely be like that. You just have to make a decision.
If you can afford yourself the freedom in your schedule, and if you possess the comfort levels to do so, I’d encourage you to take a class for no grade. And not because you fear failure, or that you’re just after an easy grade; but because you welcome opportunity. Needless to say, mine was my easiest class experience through my four years. Not as evident, however, was that it was by far my most genuine learning experience through my four years. Who would’ve thought?