Tips for the Pass/Fail Semester

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Good morning, afternoon or evening, prospective Mudders!

At this point, you may have already heard that Mudd’s course load is very demanding. When I was applying to HMC, I remember reading on forums that I would be lucky to get 5 hours of sleep, and, as someone who can’t function without proper sleep, those posts made me doubt if I could even survive at Mudd.

The good news is that, while everyone’s experience is different, for most people I know Mudd isn’t as stressful as some of these pages describe it. It’s possible – and super common! – to enjoy Mudd and the rigor it offers- and yes I am sleeping the recommended amount! If I have not convinced you that managing your courses and stress levels is do-able, you should also know your first semester at Mudd will be Pass/No Credit; which is a great opportunity to discover the best way for you to deal with Mudd’s workload and your life/work balance.

Two students sitting with several notebooks and computers, studying

Staged picture of Avani Anne ‘25 and I actually studying | Photo: Ellie Sundheim ‘25

The Pass/No Credit system means that your grade will either be ‘HP’ (High Pass), ‘P’ (Pass), or ‘NC’ (No Credit), and that it will not affect your GPA either way. Mudders take advantage of this system in pretty different ways. This may mean skipping a question when you are tired or even skipping an assignment to take a day off at LA with your friends, which are all valid approaches (if my boss reads this- I’m joking). The first semester is your chance to adapt to Mudd’s Academics and Honor Code, get to know people, learn to live on your own, and experience many other new situations.

Here are the insights from my roommates, Avani Anne and Kaitlynn Gray, and me about how Pass/Fail worked for us and what we could have done differently during our first semester at Mudd.

1) Sometimes it is better to just say “Pass/No Credit” and move on!

Avani Anne: If there was one day that I couldn’t complete one assignment or couldn’t figure out a problem, I wouldn’t be super concerned about it. I would just think “Pass/Fail*, it’s okay.
* The policy was a bit different some years ago and most people still refer to the old name.

Ana Studart (me!): In the beginning, I thought that I needed to stock points for when classes get harder. I rewrote my first math homework until it was ‘perfect’ because I didn’t want to lose 0.001 points. It was not worth it. I didn’t feel like classes exponentially increased in difficulty.

2) High Pass is not necessary.

One of the possible grades for your first semester is the ‘HP’ (High Pass), which by definition means “superior performance and mastery of course material”, but, as the ‘P’ and the ‘NC’ grades, it won’t affect your GPA. Still, you should aim for ‘P’ so you don’t have to repeat the course.

Kaitlynn Gray: The High Pass can give you the satisfaction that you can do extremely well, but I don’t think it’s worth the stress. […] At the end of the day, it’s just one extra letter in your transcript.

Ana Studart: I used to think that if I didn’t get an HP, I wouldn’t be able to get a good grade in the other semesters either. However, the HP is not even equivalent to an A. For many courses (like CS005, for example), the HP average cut is way higher… Most professors encourage you to aim for Pass rather than HP

3) Take advantage of Pass/No Credit to adjust to Mudd

Kaitlynn Gray: Coming to Mudd, that is such a demanding school, being given these assignments that feel impossible and getting scores that we don’t usually get could have been crushing. […] Pass/Fail also takes away that desire to want to compare ourselves to others, because we don’t have grades to compare to, so it was really good while transitioning.

Avani Anne: It allowed me to take advantage of other activities. I joined the newspaper and intramurals, and I wouldn’t have done it without Pass/Fail because I would have been too consumed about grades, going to office hours, and other stuff like that. Even if we are not in Pass/Fail anymore, doing Pass/Fail gave me more confidence and helped me to understand the school, so I think I will be able to continue with everything.