Slightly different P/F question - one P not due to Covid-19, but happens to align with it and colleges offering P/F everywhere.

Schadret

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    A friend's kid is a freshman and considering medicine. They don't know much about the process yet nor how some decisions made early on could potentially have negative ramifications a few years from now, but it is-what-it-is.

    Their kid had a normal course load this semester but decided to take an extra (6th) "fun" class to break up the science/math-heavy monotony of the other courses. She took this class P/F. It's not BCPM or any type of med prerequisite.

    If Covid never happened - was taking a course P/F a bad idea to start with? They would have had 5 letter grades and a P in that case.

    However, since Covid did happen, the school is giving them the option of doing any class P/F after they see their grade. Assuming the grades are all good (B+ or better let's say), which option do you think would be best:

    1. Letter grades for the 5 classes, and the P for the class that has no other option
    2. All classes P, since so many schools are doing that anyway in the semester of the pandemic

    They have no idea if when their transcripts get sent to med schools years from now if there will be some notation for this semester. Will it say something like "student had option of letter grades or P/F on a per-course basis"?

    If it DOES say something like that - will it negatively effect choice #1 even more because it will be assumed the P was optional and taken to hide something.. or does a typical transcript somehow note that "this was a P/F grade to begin with only with no option of a letter grade"?

    If it has a caveat like that it also seems to make #2 a really bad choice since that would definitely look like they were trying to hide bad grades since it was optional.

    I guess the real question is will med schools (or grad or other professional schools) know the specific-school options that were offered to students this semester - p/f mandated, p/f optional but all-or-none, p/f optional per-course, when a person applies?

    Thanks!
     

    Wolvvs

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      Here's an example set of COVID guidelines: Title

      Basically, if you need to take a P for a prerequisite, it's fine, but don't try anything weird and you should take the letter grade if it's offered.

      So your option 2 is not a good idea. Option 1 is probably fine. Is it a class that's only offered P/F, or they already decided to take it P/F? In the future, I would recommend taking a normal courseload and using extracurriculars instead of P/F courses to break up the monotony. Start volunteering/clinical experience sooner rather than later.
       

      Schadret

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        It was a class they chose to take P/F at registration time (so not a covid-related mask/unmask choice after-the-fact). Since their kid is just a freshman they haven't really delved deep into the whole pre-med process and weirdness yet, and pre-med advising at their school doesn't really offer much until your at least a sophomore, so they didn't know that P/F can "look bad" down the road when it comes to med school admissions. Telling them that it can be dangerous to be "intellectually curious" by taking fun and interesting classes if it has any chance of hurting the GPA will probably get some head-scratches from them as well, but gotta play the game I guess.
         
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        KnightDoc

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          It was a class they chose to take P/F at registration time (so not a covid-related mask/unmask choice after-the-fact). Since their kid is just a freshman they haven't really delved deep into the whole pre-med process and weirdness yet, and pre-med advising at their school doesn't really offer much until your at least a sophomore, so they didn't know that P/F can "look bad" down the road when it comes to med school admissions. Telling them that it can be dangerous to be "intellectually curious" by taking fun and interesting classes if it has any chance of hurting the GPA will probably get some head-scratches from them as well, but gotta play the game I guess.
          A single P in a non science, non prereq isn't going to matter one way or the other. Taking every class P/F on a voluntary basis is going to look like the semester was a bust.

          The answer to the question you're not really asking, though, is that med schools like to see grades, so as @Wolvvs said, taking fun classes P/F is not a great idea, because it's going to look like you're masking Cs. Taking classes out of intellectual curiosity is actually encouraged, but med schools are also looking for overall excellence, so the idea is to take the classes for a grade and to then do well in them, as opposed to taking them P/F and leaving med schools wondering whether you got an A or a C. They will assume the latter.
           
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          Wolvvs

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            Also, we're talking about optimization here, or what an applicant who is laser-focused on applying to medical school should be doing. Taking interesting classes P/F or even for a grade if you can't do well in them isn't optimal, but it might be a reasonable choice for this particular student.

            Still, I would argue that it's possible to be intellectually curious without impacting the GPA. Auditing classes instead of taking them P/F would be a better option. Doing research would be an example of an extracurricular that could be both engaging and helpful for medical school.

            In the end, medical schools need to go through thousands and thousands of applications, and rely heavily on measurable stats as a way to filter their applicants: GPA, MCAT, number of hours spent on clinical activities/volunteering/research and pubs (for top schools). Less objective measures like difficulty/number of courses taken don't come into play as much. That's why it's important to at least to some extent play the game.
             
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