honors/pass/fail

4 Jan

When people discuss the transition between Mod 1 and Mod 2, inevitably one of the first differences cited is that our courses are no longer pass/fail, cut-n-dry.  Understandable.  With the exception of very few (perhaps the best of us), we are a goal-oriented, grade-driven bunch.  Come on, we know the statistics.  They’re certainly not everything–thank God–but our grades and our MCAT scores mattered when applying to school.  Why else would I have obsessed over my post-bac grades in order to counter-balance my 2.0 undergrad science GPA?  (To be fair, I only took the one bio class over the course of my entire undergrad career, which I probably should have failed.  My dad made me take it.  I was trying to prove a point…I don’t remember what the point was, but boy did I show him!  Needless to say, he never made me take another science class again, for fear of permanent damage.)  Why else would I have taken the MCAT three times?  Hmmm…I might not have shared that adventure yet.  Long story short, I am not be the best test-taker, but I know what I want.  The last MCAT I took ten days after receiving the scores of MCAT round 2.  But I digress…

Okay, while I understand why we care about grades, and I appreciate that it is important for us to know how we’ll be evaluated and what is expected of us, I can’t get over it: why do we care so much?  Why has honors become the motivation, the carrot dangling in front of our noses?  I mean, aren’t we adults?  Shouldn’t we be passed this?

And I am 100% guilty.  I shrug my shoulders and try to come off like this change doesn’t make a difference to me, but I’m lying.  There is a variety of motivations to consider here.  There are my peers who know (how they know, I have no idea) that they want to enter into a competitive specialty, and will therefore work beyond the limits of sanity to honor in every subject.  And then there are those who simply don’t want to be embarrassed in comparison…I unfortunately fall, at least in part, into this latter category.  Every time a classmate says something to the effect of, “Well, it’s honors/pass/fail, now people are really going to bring it,” I’m left horrified: “Weren’t they already bringing it before??”

Of course, beneath this unfortunate layer of bullshit, there is good…a lot of good.  We are all motivated by a love of learning, a desire to develop ourselves as students of the medical profession, a hope of becoming great physicians.  If I believed in new year’s resolutions, I would say that I was going to try to, in all sincerity, keep these goals as the keystone in my Mod 2 efforts, and do my best to ignore the honors.  There are some Penn students who already succeed in this regard, like pros.  I have no idea how they obtained this truly remarkable combination of strength of character and work ethic, but I hope I might uncover their secrets.  The alternative is too frightening to consider.

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One Response to “honors/pass/fail”

  1. Jim Oppenheimer January 5, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Well, if the teacher’s doing their job, the grade indicates how well you’re doing yours.

    Merely absorbing this stuff is not the objective, but rather to have absorbed it to the extent that, when some slight aberration of symptoms presents itself, there’s at least a chance that you’ll remember that one isolated abstract-yet-relevant factoid enough to probe further, and thus perhaps save a life.

    Not that you should feel at all pressured….

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