Career Considerations for Pass/Fail Grading

This guide provides information on pass/fail grading considerations for students interested in employment and professional school after graduation, as well as general advice for students interested in graduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences.

For information on the academic considerations of pass/fail grading and for more detailed advice on graduate programs in your area of study, contact your academic adviser, your major’s director of undergraduate studies, and faculty specializing in your field of interest. You can make an appointment with your academic adviser at the College Scheduling site, and you can visit the College Catalog for more information on pass/fail grading procedures.

If you’re considering requesting pass/fail grading – whether because of a difficult personal situation, disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic, or other circumstances that prevent you from doing your best work – you may wonder how this could impact your prospects for internships, employment, and graduate school.

Career Advancement is here to help you make an informed decision. Individual employers and graduate schools will all have different approaches to pass/fail grading, but this page provides a general overview of career considerations to keep in mind if you’re exploring this option.

To discuss your specific career situation in detail, please don’t hesitate make an appointment with a Career Advancement adviser.

Career Considerations IMAGE

General Information for All Students

Role of Grades and GPA in Job and Graduate School Decisions

  • A limited number of pass/fail courses (especially those taken during the pandemic, and Spring Quarter 2020 in particular) is unlikely to adversely impact your competitiveness for most opportunities

  • Grades and GPA do play a partial but important role in many employer hiring decisions, and they play a critical role in graduate school admissions as well as for some jobs and internships

  • In general, most employers and graduate schools prefer to see quality grades over pass/fail grades, especially for opportunities with strict GPA and transcript requirements

  • However, many employers and graduate programs review applications holistically, and grades are just one of many ways you can show your skills, knowledge, and leadership potential

  • Career Advancement works closely with employers and graduate admissions teams to educate them on the rigor of UChicago’s curriculum, and they take this into account in their evaluation processes

Your Applications and Pass/Fail Grading

  • In most cases, one or two pass/fail courses won’t significantly affect your applications, but some employers and graduate programs may hesitate to consider candidates with multiple pass/fail courses without additional context from the applicant

  • Many employers and graduate schools have reported that they will be flexible with pass/fail courses taken during Spring Quarter 2020 in particular

  • If possible, minimize pass/fail grading for courses that are directly connected to your intended career path or a discipline where you intend to pursue graduate study

  • If you do choose pass/fail grading for one or more courses, use these tips to put your best foot forward:

    • Provide honest and accurate transcripts and GPAs for all applications

    • Highlight previous experiences (internships, research, RSOs, volunteering, etc.) that showcase your qualifications

    • Note relevant technical skill certifications and courses where you’ve performed well

    • Secure strong letters of recommendation from supervisors or faculty members who can speak to your strengths

    • If you feel comfortable, consider explaining why you decided to choose pass/fail grading in your application or interview; Career Advancement advisers can help you determine the best way to go about this

Information for Specific Industries and Opportunities