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Blanket
12-11-2014, 05:08 PM
I'm taking an extra course next semester, and have the option of pass/failing it. This class is an upper level elective, not Intermediate Micro/Macro/Econometrics. Is pass/failing it a bad idea? From what I've read, undergraduate econ courses are entirely different than grad level courses, so electives aren't much of a signal. I plan on going hard in it, and am fine with risking hiding an "A" with a "pass". This class is outside of my interest zone, but I have heard great things about the Professor.

Thanks,

The Warmest

Food4Thought
12-11-2014, 08:02 PM
I can't imagine it would hurt you. If you have been getting good grades in other, more difficult classes, it is extremely unlikely that a professor would view that as, "oh, he took it pass/fail. He must not have been able to get an A."

Econhead
12-12-2014, 01:12 PM
I can't imagine it would hurt you. If you have been getting good grades in other, more difficult classes, it is extremely unlikely that a professor would view that as, "oh, he took it pass/fail. He must not have been able to get an A."

Agreed, as long as it is not Game Theory.

Two Questions though:
1) Are you paying to take this pass/fail?
2) Why are you taking this pass/fail?

To me the question isn't weather or not you are going to be penalized in the app process, but rather weather you can gain anything. If you plan to go HAM and expect an A (past performance, you know your drive, whatever), there's just no reason to take it P/F unless it doesn't cost you any money. For example, at my UG institution you were able to audit classes for only $30, compared to the $900 it would have been for a 3 hour class. Otherwise, you're losing some weakly positive signal, which is silly if you're going to get an A. I mean, no matter how small of a positive signal it is, it's still positive.

If your plan is to shift your efforts to your other classes if the semester gets too rough, letting this grade fall- that's fine -but that's kind of the reason to take it pass/fail.

Blanket
12-12-2014, 03:21 PM
Agreed, as long as it is not Game Theory.

Two Questions though:
1) Are you paying to take this pass/fail?
2) Why are you taking this pass/fail?

To me the question isn't weather or not you are going to be penalized in the app process, but rather weather you can gain anything. If you plan to go HAM and expect an A (past performance, you know your drive, whatever), there's just no reason to take it P/F unless it doesn't cost you any money. For example, at my UG institution you were able to audit classes for only $30, compared to the $900 it would have been for a 3 hour class. Otherwise, you're losing some weakly positive signal, which is silly if you're going to get an A. I mean, no matter how small of a positive signal it is, it's still positive.

If your plan is to shift your efforts to your other classes if the semester gets too rough, letting this grade fall- that's fine -but that's kind of the reason to take it pass/fail.

Exactly right econhead. I am taking metrics next semester, which at my institution is more like metrics II, as well as a seminar w a very prominent professor. Based on my past performance, it is silly to expect anything other than an A, but I don't want to bet on it and quite frankly I am tired of being a slave to the grade.

Econhead
12-12-2014, 03:26 PM
Exactly right econhead. I am taking metrics next semester, which at my institution is more like metrics II, as well as a seminar w a very prominent professor. Based on my past performance, it is silly to expect anything other than an A, but I don't want to bet on it and quite frankly I am tired of being a slave to the grade.

Then to me it is a no-brainer. Take it Pass-Fail (unless you are allowed to audit it).

I recognize that you might be making yourself too identifiable to your professors, but I'm curious what the course is? I keep thinking it must be something semi-specialized that is closer to a topics-type course, like health econ, rather than something more traditional, like "public finance," or "money and banking," or "IO"

Catrina
12-12-2014, 03:51 PM
I am very surprised with the answers other people are giving on this thread and strongly advise against taking the course pass-fail.

At many schools, if not all, you can switch from taking a course for a letter grade to pass-fail up until a certain point in the semester, and that is an option that students doing badly in the course tend to take. Therefore, if I would see someone with a pass/fail grade, I would think that it was likely that the student as doing poorly in the course and therefore decided to switch to pass/fail.

Econhead
12-12-2014, 04:33 PM
I am very surprised with the answers other people are giving on this thread and strongly advise against taking the course pass-fail.

At many schools, if not all, you can switch from taking a course for a letter grade to pass-fail up until a certain point in the semester, and that is an option that students doing badly in the course tend to take. Therefore, if I would see someone with a pass/fail grade, I would think that it was likely that the student as doing poorly in the course and therefore decided to switch to pass/fail.

Even if that is true, I don't see any adcom giving 2-cents about it when the applicant has A's in almost all Math/Econ courses, A's in intermediate Micro, metrics, maybe grad micro. It's an electives course anyway. At worst case, what do they say: Oh, student decided to take this pass-fail, got straight A's in all their other courses, must have had a bad semester?

I just can't see this being significant, given all the other circumstances. If OPs grades were routinely A/B/C, sure, but that's a much bigger issue.

Catrina
12-12-2014, 04:40 PM
It should have roughly the same effect as doing poorly in an economics elective course. Given that the OP should be able to make at least a B taking it for a letter grade, taking it pass/fail seems like a terrible idea.

ColonelForbin
12-12-2014, 06:01 PM
Yes -- Pass = C. Don't take the class if you're gonna do P/F.

Econhead
12-12-2014, 06:16 PM
This is absurd.

For a student from an Ivy that gets A's in nearly all of their Econ and Math courses, there is no reason why a Pass grade in an Econ Electives course will make any difference in admissions. This is the definition of an extreme example of making a difference at the most extreme marginal cases. Even then, it'd have to be two candidates that are exactly the same. LoR's or anything else would outweigh such a small part of the application process.

Even if they think that OP would have gotten a D in the course, there is no reason why adcoms would have any reason to doubt OPs abilities given all of his other grades (especially if he has A's in all his other courses that semester).

Even if you think this non-zero probability of affecting OPs admissions chances will happen at one school, it'd be beyond irrational to say it'd matter at more than one.

If OP gets rejected someplace, it's not because of this. This is ludicrous.

ColonelForbin
12-12-2014, 06:19 PM
deleted

ColonelForbin
12-12-2014, 06:25 PM
No -- this isn't ludicrous. Taking a course in your proposed field of study P/F is ludicrous. If you're interested in the material and don't want the grade on your transcript, just unofficially audit the course.

Econhead
12-12-2014, 06:33 PM
No -- this isn't ludicrous. Taking a course in your proposed field of study P/F is ludicrous. If you're interested in the material and don't want the grade on your transcript, just unofficially audit the course.

My UG university did not allow you to unofficially do it, even Auditing it showed up on your transcript. I suspect others don't allow you to either. Not all courses could be audited, though, and your professor had to approve it regardless. (Note that in a previous post I suggested auditing the course over P/F if that was an option).

The question here isn't weather anyone thinks it is silly from the perspective of it being 'your field,' it is how an adcom will view it. If a Letters can boost someone as far as they can, there is no way that a P/F in an elective is going to make any real difference in admission results. Similarly, people get accepted to amazing programs without much research experience, but the argument that a P/F is going to make a noticeable difference in admissions results? Such a small mark on an otherwise outstanding application just won't make any real difference.

ColonelForbin
12-12-2014, 07:39 PM
Yes -- likely won't make any real difference, just like one bad math grade isn't going to make that big of a difference. I still wouldn't suggest P/F within the major under any circumstance.

Just realize though, you are going to get the cost of the doubt for this decision. If you're an overwhelming yes it won't matter, but these marginal difference can make the difference in admission.

If one person really is partial to your P/F in an upper division course, they could use this as the linchpin of their argument to accept someone else over you.

9 times out of 10 this probably doesn't happen, but this is a very competitive process and something this marginal could turn the tides.

PhDPlease
12-12-2014, 08:17 PM
I had a similar sentiment in undergrad (also ivy) at one point as I was over the # of credits required for my major and to graduate, and was advised against pass-failing the class. I'd just take it for a grade. I think it's pretty unlikely that pass-failing it would make or break your admissions, but why take any risk? In my experience, the econ electives (even the upper ones) were mostly pretty easy and didn't require much work.