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This former student earned a 4.0 GPA but pass/fail classes could've helped with her only regret
Students fear taking courses that might hurt their GPAs, though they can potentially find new skills and enjoy school more if they take these classes they avoid. That might be where a pass/fail grading system could help. - photo by Payton Davis
Rachael Larimore maintained a 4.0 GPA and garnered 12 varsity sports letters during high school but whenever she struggles to use a camera at vacations or sporting events, she does have some regret about her experience as a student, she wrote for Slate.

Why? Because in Larimore's pursuit of perfection, she passed on electives, including photography, that could've "opened up whole new worlds, satisfied my curiosity, and kept high school from being such a demanding slog," according to Slate.

Larimore's article indicated the path she chose ultimately reaped benefits as she earned scholarships and received admittance to the university of her choosing. However, if a third path existed, between taking chances potentiallly harmful to her GPA and the route Larimore took, she might be proficient in "f-stops and shutter speeds and aperture."

That's where pass/fail class options in high school come in, she wrote.

And Slate reported now's the best time.

"Todays students face an even more powerful pressure-cooker situation than I did in the early 1990s," Larimore wrote. "More students are going to college, and the demands this heightened competition places on the application process with elite schools rejecting 70 percent or more of the applications they receive lead high school students to sign up for ever-more extracurriculars and crazy summer internships. Sadly, once they get to college, they are more likely to need mental health services to help them cope."

According to Slate, even if high schools offered students one pass/fail option a year, kids would take courses to uncover new talents and help shape their world views.

An NPR article indicated entities like the U.S. Air Force are shifting to pass/fail for more straightforward reasons: Said grading scale reduces need for officers to cheat.

In fact, a cheating scandal among officers spurred the Air Force's transition. Anything less than 90 percent on tests used to mean failure and even that score wasn't impressive, according to NPR.

"I was told that if I got a 90 on a test, I was a D student and I would be treated that way," Lt. Daniel Sharp told NPR, referring to a culture where officers often turned to cheating to avoid scrutiny.

According to NPR, the Air Force's new approach replaced paper tests with exercises that measure "practical skills." Now, the new pass/fail testing instills in officers that "as a team, they need to make the right decisions, but as individuals they're not required to be perfect," Lt. Col. Barry Little told NPR.

A Campus Explorer piece cited pass/fail classes as great in allowing students to take risks with their schedules and enroll in classes they normally wouldn't consider.

However, students must take these course options as seriously as those with traditional grading, according to USA Today.

"Pass/fail classes can help to alleviate the stress that comes with taking a course for a traditional letter grade," USA Today's report read. "But taking a pass/fail class is not an excuse to exert minimal effort, and doing so is almost certainly a recipe for failure."

According to USA Today, in a pass/fail course, establishing a regular study schedule, staying up-to-date on homework and always attending class yield success.