The Question: Grading
Facts and statistics are easy to find. A student perspective is another story. Welcome to The Question, a blog by sophomore Kimberly Takahata designed to give you honest answers to some of the most popular questions about life at Brown University. Your quest for real stories from a real student ends here.
In 1969, a group of Brown students and faculty got together and worked to create the New Curriculum. Although not so new anymore, the freedom that the New Curriculum established continues to define the Brown experience. With the lack of a core curriculum and the option to take any class S/NC (the Brown version of pass/fail), students are free to explore just anything that strikes their fancy.
With this less conventional organization, though, comes worries about grad school perceptions and life after Brown. This week’s question, taken straight from a worried prefrosh: Do people take all their classes S/NC?
Short answer: Well they can….
Long answer: Let me back up and explain the grading system at Brown.
First off, each semester you register for classes. Within this option is the option to take it for a grade or pass/fail (S/NC). However, you are allowed to change this decision for another month, giving every student a chance to feel out a course to make the best decision. Some classes are mandatory S/NC, and those appear with an asterisk on any student’s transcript to designate them as such.
If you choose to take a class for the grade, Brown does not have pluses or minuses. Brown does not have Ds. And, if you fail a course, that course does not appear on your external transcript.
And yes, you theoretically can take all of your classes S/NC.
But, to be realistic, very few students do. In general, students may take about one class in six S/NC. That option is perfect for exploration in a new department so that students can enjoy their experience and truly branch out rather than worry about the grade they will receive at the end of the semester. The point of the New Curriculum is to have the opportunity to take classes you actually enjoy, and so to allow students to take full advantage of this unique situation, S/NC was extended as an option across campus. And with this option, students actually end up having a transcript that looks like they attended a school with a core curriculum, simply because there are so many amazing classes in so many disciplines.
It is also important to mention the Course Performance Report (CPR). If you’ve taken an S/NC course with a professor and worked really hard, it is still possible to receive long-lasting record of this work. It is common to ask the professor to write a CPR, which is a page that gets attached to your transcript, written by the professor, that highlights the great work you did and the effort you put into the class. It’s almost like a mini recommendation added to your academic transcript!
Even if you do take a class for a grade, professors here do not foster a competitive atmosphere, and because those who deserve the grade receive it regardless of their peers, a collaborative rather than a competitive atmosphere is fostered.
Can you tell we’re in finals period?
Prefrosh! Brunonians! Have a question that just might be The Question? Have an answer that you want to be The Answer? Email suggestions/comments/corny jokes to email@example.com