What Pass/No Record Did for Me

Picture the very first day of your college life. What’s on your mind?

“This will be the best phase of my life."

“I am going to make sure I learn a lot in college."

High school teaches us to associate the grades we get in tests to the understanding of the subject. This is where Pass/No Record helps; it doesn’t matter if someone has an A or a C, the transcript will only show Pass grade. The first semester at Olin is P/NR to make sure people from different backgrounds and high school experiences can smoothly transition to college.  Each person uses it differently -  some don’t stress about submitting an assignment a day late.  Others spend just enough time to pass the class. There are no grades and there is no comparison to worry about. Having worried about grades my whole life, the semester was a nice change to just enjoy the process instead of focussing on the outcome.

My hopper mechanism from Design Nature

When I was registering for the second semester, people suggested not taking 20 credits and sticking with 16 (4 credits = 1 course). I tried to find the balance while challenging myself by taking 18 credits and flooding my schedule with Co-Curriculars, a Passionate Pursuit, research, and by joining a build team (for our Human Powered Vehicle). While it was suggested to us that we take required classes first, I signed up for ones that interested me regardless of whether they were required. I observed a surprising thing; I spent more time travelling and working on projects outside of my coursework the second semester. As I thought more about the reason behind this, I realized how much the first semester helped me to look beyond grades.



This year's Human Powered Vehicle

The fun part of being at Olin and taking classes here is that we do not have final exams. Instead, we have design reviews, mini-projects, sprint reviews and final group projects with a few quizzes sprinkled all over the semester. We do end up working hard on each of these assignments and we also have our share of all-nighters but the work feels so much different from high school. The project topics at Olin are completely open to interpretation, and so is the scope of the project. Having been at Olin for two semesters, I have forgotten how to take tests while learning how to understand a subject by doing it instead of reading about it. The process of unlearning and relearning was possible with the Pass/No Record semester.


So I travelled more, learned more and understood more in my second semester. I spent my spring break volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, building a house in North Carolina. I not only learned about constructing roofs but also about living in sub-standard living conditions. I travelled to California with my build team and learned more about gears and composite in bikes and tricycles. Along with my friends, I went on hikes to near and far away hills. In my research, a team of faculty and students are investigating collective motion of bacteria. My second semester has given me more memories and taught me so much about learning and travelling. At the start of the school year, I would have never imagined to be this relaxed about grades -  the Pass/No Record semester at Olin definitely helped me get here. 

Spring Break in North Carolina

Posted in: Class of 2018