November 20th, 2005

classic cylon

MIT grading

Some MIT students have trouble adjusting to the freshman year, so the first semester is
pass/no-record, and the second is A/B/C/no-record. After that, any grade you get appears
on your transcript. (After sophomore year, you may take two non-departmental or Institute
requirements P/D/F, which means if you have a C or better, it appears on the transcript as
a pass, otherwise, the grade appears.)

I suppose MIT has done a lot of research on this, so they are able to justify this
policy. However, I'm sure there are quite a few students who have more trouble after
freshman year, e.g. when they hit a time sink/weed-out type of class like Unified
Engineering in the Aero/Astro department. There is something called "sophomore
exploratory" that allows someone to change the status for a class from graded to
listener. It serves to encourage students to try out classes in prospective majors and to
ease them into sophomore year. (I don't remember offhand if this existed while I was a
student there.) However, I wonder if things might be easier if students were allowed to
designate, say, any four classes as pass/no-record, and any four others as
A/B/C/no-record. (Four classes per semester is usually enough to graduate in eight
semesters.) This way, you can apply your "adjustment" wherever it's most needed.

Personally, I would have benefited more from no-record options in my 2nd semester freshman
year and 1st semester sophomore year.