Second semester seniors should enjoy a pass/fail grading system

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Sydney Wuu

Aspen Helgeson ('20) relaxes in her bed, enjoying the freedom of being a second semester senior.

Second semester seniors are more than 88% done with their Webb careers, but the stress of grades is not over yet. We believe that Webb should implement a pass/fail grading system to assess second semester seniors instead of the traditional A-F scale.

With all of their college apps submitted, the Class of 2020 has almost reached senior spring. But this relief could be so much better if seniors could be relieved from the pressure of pursuing the perfect 4.0+ GPA and letting intangible numbers dictate nearly every moment of their high school lives. 

According to a recent survey posted on STAS, 60.6% of the 66 respondents agreed that second semester seniors should be assessed on a pass/fail system.

“As grades started to become more of a priority for transcripts and college applications, I devoted more time to homework and studying concepts repetitively to achieve straight A’s and less time to my hobbies such as playing the harp,” said Deanna Oei (‘20), a student government tech commissioner. “Even after grasping a concept and feeling confident that I understand it, I always spend extra time studying to ensure my grade doesn’t drop. If second semester senior classes were pass/fail, then I would not feel the pressure of preventing A’s from becoming B’s and be able to dedicate that time, instead, to the harp and my other passions.”

In addition, while some may argue that this system would allow seniors to completely give up, the caveat that they need to maintain a passing grade ensures that students will not ditch their responsibilities–they just have more breathing room.

“I agree, the grades just add onto the stress,” said Mia Wang (‘20), a Jones dorm prefect. “The pass/fail system tells the college whether you’re doing work or not, but at the same time, doesn’t add unnecessary stress to the students. Even though it’s second semester, grades are still a stress factor in our lives, because we’re always worried that our grades will be too low and colleges will rescind our offer. Therefore, if we implement a pass/fail system, we would not feel as stressed and would spend more time enjoying the rest of our high school career.” 

During the recent mandatory Health & Living for seniors, five young Webb alumni reflected on how they wished they would have cherished more friendships if they could relive their second semester senior year. They emphasized the special raw human relationships formed at such an intimate school and advised Webbies to live more in the moment and engage with others more often rather than zone out or not show up at school functions.

This new system would relieve the stress of high school grades that has been plaguing Webb seniors since they first walked into campus in 2016. By taking the emphasis off grades, seniors would actually be able to learn and enjoy the class and attend class for the joy of learning rather than participating and learning for the purpose of getting the highest grade in the class. 

“Us seniors have worked hard for three-and-a-half years, so I think we deserve a semester where we don’t have to care what letter grade or percentage we get in a class,” said an anonymous STAS survey voter from the Class of 2020.

More often than not, we spend so much time obsessing over homework that we forget we are teenagers who are growing up and one day will lead our own lives as functioning adults. As adults, we will have to know how to cook, do our laundry, pay our bills, and interact with our employers. Therefore, if the classes are made into a pass/fail system, we will have more time to prepare and finesse more practical skills, such as learning how to cook, attending job fairs, and finding our specialty so in five years, we will be ready to take on the real-life challenges society has to offer.

Furthermore, as colleges begin to release their decisions, many seniors are choosing to matriculate to a university outside of Los Angeles. For many, these remaining five months mark the last opportunity for these seniors to explore LA’s melting pot of cultures and the bustling downtown metropolis nearby.

Another major issue that is often overlooked at Webb is mental health and the anxiety that many students internalize due to stress from academics, sports, relationships, and insecurity. Many seniors choose to place other priorities above their personal health out of habit, opting to pull all-nighters and skip meals so that they can achieve an esteemed A in their next test. With lack of sleep, many students chug caffeine to and from the dining hall, crowding around the coffee machine, half asleep, and daydreaming about February break. Implementing a pass/fail system will relieve the pressure of grades off of second semester seniors’ shoulders so they can use some well-deserved time to disconnect, rest, and focus on themselves. 

“Seniors need to catch up on the sleep they haven’t had for the past four years,” said another anonymous student voter on STAS.

“We should have the system because if seniors are historically going to slack off anyway, might as well just ask our class to at least pass, which is doable,” said Ian Igleheart (‘20).

Before you know it, the Class of 2020 will be soaking in the last few weeks of May and watching their final sunset together. Regardless of the grading scale, we should continue to form long-lasting memories with people that we may never live near again.