It's Wednesday night. You're sitting in your dorm room (like you do), working on an assignment for Modeling and Simulation that's due at midnight. It's not very hard, but it's frustratingly time-consuming - like eating a slightly overcooked scallop. You think you've got the right answer for #6, but you're not absolutely sure. Maybe you should check the MATLAB events file to see if ODE's got the proper directional - wait. What was that? Are those... footsteps? Is there someone running through the hallway?

And then, as if from an angel on high announcing a football game through a slightly blown-out loudspeaker, you hear it. Every first-year's favorite sentence:


This is the part of the story where you find out that the sophomores are staging an enormous Nerf gun battle in the first floor lounge, run downstairs to join them, forget completely about your homework, have a blast, wind up accidentally falling down on top of your secret crush, kiss passionately, graduate from Olin with flying colors despite your incorrect answer to #6 on Wednesday November 13th's ModSim diagnostic, get married, and have 2.7 children with your Olin-found true love.

The only problem? 

None of this actually happens.

I must've heard the story from thirty different people - OK, I made up the 2.7 children bit - but so far this semester I've been thoroughly underwhelmed by the reality of Olin's Pass/No Record system. (For those of you who read the Olinsider and somehow still don't know about Pass/No Record, hi mom! It's this thing where we don't have grades for our first semester classes, and even if we fail they don't go on our transcript.) There've been no straight-line marches to the Chipotle Grill. There've been no inter-floor Nerf wars. There've been no sophomores running through my hall at 11 PM shouting at the top of their lungs - which is probably a good thing, come to think of it. At any rate, either the spirit of Pass/No Record has been grossly misrepresented, or I'm even less aware of my surroundings than this guy:

motorcyclistI can absolutely understand why the legend of Pass/No Record and the reality of my first semester at Olin haven't quite lined up. For one thing, as much as the first semester is supposed to imbue students with a freewheeling spirit of adventure, no one wants to actually no-record something. It's nice that a failed class doesn't wind up on your transcript, but you still have to retake the darn thing, which is for many students a bigger disincentive than an F. And if you happen to no-record more than one class... well, there are some nasty stories about students who no-recorded a little too hard and were "asked" not to return to Olin. That'd be the worst of all cases. 

I bring this up because, less than two weeks ago, I was seriously concerned about the possibility of no-recording ModCon. I got several labs behind due to a series of circumstances that were at least 100% my own fault, and then I lost almost an entire week to the Franklin W. Olin Players production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, and then it began to seem as though I might lose another week and change to an immediate family crisis, and all of a sudden I looked up at the calendar and I had seven days (at most) to do seven ModCon labs. 

I confess that I don't exactly remember how I pulled it off - I think there might have been some intravenous coffee involved - but I managed to get all seven labs done, and done beautifully, in five daysIt was pretty impressive. It was also completely insane. Prospies who read this, don't be like me. Over those five days, I spent more time in the ModCon lab than in my room, which is right up there with "drop an eight pound clamp on my head" on the list of things I never want to do again. 

But my near-miss with ModCon, more than just inspiring a blog post that I can never tell my parents about, taught me the Real Meaning (TM) of Pass/No Record. It's not about crazy one-off adventures and abandoned assignments. It's about the time frame, the ability to get stuff in a little bit late and a little not perfect, the chance to spend some time getting to know your classmates rather than doing homework. It's about increasing opportunity. It's pretty darn cool.

As long as you Pass, that is.

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