At Olin, we strive to be motivated by our interest in learning, and our desire to do our best work. Yet all too often, we are instead encouraged to be motivated by a single number that we are conditioned to think is an accurate representation of how well we are learning.
This is why, since coming to Olin, I have not once looked at my grades.
The idea of “Pass No Recording” Olin is to stay motivated by our interest in learning and our desire to do our best work by simply not looking at our grades. With this mindset we can continue the motivation we all had during our first semester, where we would go above and beyond on a project not because our professor would give us a good grade, but because we had a passion that we were excited to work for.
Once we start to look at and internalize letter grades and GPA’s, we slip into the mindset of distributing our time and effort in order to receive that maximum number of points, even if that means spending less time on a project we are passionate about because we know that if we go above and beyond, it won’t make a difference on our transcript. When we do this, we start to lose that passion that makes Olin different.
Not looking at letter grades and GPA’s, however, is only one side to “Pass No Recording” Olin. The other, equally (or perhaps more) important side comes in the form of a reflection. While a letter grade can not attempt to distill all the work you have done over a semester, a written reflection (whether it is written by the student or the professor) can get much closer.
A written reflection can highlight the project you went above and beyond on, all that you contributed in class, and how much you progressed over the semester, but it can also show your weak points and how you can improve.
When collected together, all these reflections, or evaluations, provide a comprehensive picture of your journey through Olin. They allow you to take pride in your successes and learn from your failures. These are attributes that a number simply can not even start to encompass.
Deciding to not look at your grades is not without its challenges though. When my parents asked me to send in my transcript so they could get the good student discount from the car insurance company, I physically covered up my screen so I could only see the download button, attached the document in an email, and immediately deleted it from my computer. I am still unsure what I will do when an employer asks for my GPA in an application.
It may not be realistic for you to not look at your grades, and that’s fine. Even if you don’t write it down, reflect on your work for the semester. Feel pride in your triumphs, and work to fix your weaknesses. Try to think what really motivates you, and use that to guide you.