No Traditional Letter Grades

In high school, grades were king. Score an A on a test and you knew how things were going to fair out for the rest of the semester.

But for some students, grades are just over-encompassing letters that don’t take into account so many other factors, like effort, and envelope a semester’s worth of work into a tiny symbol.

Lucky for the latter, in college, grades don’t necessarily have to be the end all be all. You can choose to go to a school with non-traditional grading systems.

In fact, here is a list of colleges that offer other ways of “grading” without the grades.

Evergreen State College
Evergreen was formed on the basis of being an experimental and non-traditional college. Instead of distributing grades, professors issue narrative evaluations of students’ work.

Union Institute & University
Similar to Evergreen State, Union offers written evaluations rather than traditional transcripts.

Goddard College
At Goddard, each student has a file full of narrative evaluations documenting that student’s learning and growth. These evaluations are written by advisors and the individual student. When a student requests a transcript, these records are compiled into a document that tells the reader far more than a list of courses and grades ever could. A Goddard transcript tells the reader something about who the student is as a learner and as a person, what the student’s academic interests and passions are, what they learned, and even how they learn best.

Hampshire College
According to Hampshire, not having grades probably will affect your application to a graduate program, but not in a negative way. Most graduate school programs have received a Hampshire transcript (or one from a similar college) and will be familiar with the format, which includes detailed narrative evaluations describing your growth through each division, and end-of-semester evaluations from representative courses. Though this format does create more work for graduate admissions committees, it also serves to set you apart from other candidates and is far more illustrative of you as a person and scholar than a simple GPA could ever be.

Antioch University
Antioch was among the first universities to offer narrative assessments, which provides you far better understanding of your strengths as a learner and those areas that might need improvement.

Here’s a glimpse from an  Antioch assessment to show how this personal evaluation is more meaningful than a letter grade:

“J. undertook these assignments with creativity and flair…. J’s performance throughout the course was excellent. I have no specific suggestions for improving her performance in future courses, as she is already a gifted and thoughtful student. Keep up the great work!”

New College of Florida
Once again, narrative assessments over grades are the way to go at New College of Florida. At the completion of each course, students receive an evaluation written by the instructor critiquing their performance and course work, along with a satisfactory, unsatisfactory, or incomplete designation. No letter grades. No grade point averages.

Harvey Mudd College
For first-year students in their first semester of residence at HMC, all courses numbered below 50 are graded on the High Pass, Pass and No Credit scale. All courses numbered 50 and above are graded on the letter grade scale, except when noted. First-year courses are those numbered below 50. Lower division courses are those numbered 50 to 99. Upper division courses are those numbered 100 and above. Unlike the colleges listed above, at Harvey Mudd this only applies to first-year students.