Students should explore interests with pass/fail classes

Adam Humphrey

The college experience is all about expanding one’s horizons. There are countless classes to take, ranging from accounting to Yiddish and everything in between. It’s important to focus on one’s particular area of study, but it is equally important to look for new interests outside of that concentration.

With registration underway, now is a good time for each student to do some soul searching and figure out what courses they’ve been dying to take. 

So civil engineering student, take that medieval studies class. Absolutely register for an Italian class, nursing student. Just be sure to sign up to take it pass/fail. That way, the grade made won’t affect your GPA (unless you fail the class) and you can actually enjoy a much less stressful course.

Pass/fail grading systems have been shown to improve general mood and decrease stress among students. A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic on a group of medical school students indicated that the students subject to pass/fail grading experienced reduced stress and increased group cohesion. If battle-hardened medical students can be de-stressed with pass/fail grading, surely undergraduates will feel the same way.

There are caveats for the pass/fail system. A student must complete 30 hours of coursework, can only take approximately five pass/fail courses total (varying by college) and may only take two in a given semester. These courses will only count as electives for a degree plan, but that’s not the point of a pass/fail class anyway.

Taking a class on a pass/fail basis can serve as a statement that the student is actually invested in comprehending the course material. It also allows students to focus their attention on other important classes they are taking at the time.

Courses like Human Sexuality and Relationships, or Interpersonal Communication Theory may not fall into a student’s degree plan, but they teach important lessons that come in handy before and long after graduation. Taking courses like these pass/fail gives students the freedom to lift their head and listen to the lecture rather than furiously scribbling notes for an upcoming test.

Students may not be able to take the easy way out of a "weed-out" course with the pass/fail system, but that doesn’t mean that they should write it off. It is a valuable system that allows students to focus on what they need to while still taking extracurricular courses that interest them with a much reduced level of risk.

When you’re constantly refreshing your internet browser waiting for registration to open, be sure to give some thought to the courses you actually want to take, not just the ones you have to.

Humphrey is a journalism senior from Round Rock. Follow him on Twitter @Humphrinator.