Do You C R Dilemma?

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With the close of the first semester, discussion regarding the use and effects of CR-ing a grade has reignited. For context, if a student receives a grade higher than a 65 in a class, there is the option to replace it with a credit-received, or CR, to show that the student has passed the course. The grade will then appear as a CR on the transcript and will not be factored into the student’s overall average. In the ‘Dear Incoming Stuyvesant Class of ...’ Facebook groups, students of all grades are asking whether they should CR their lower grades (generally ranging between 80 and 95), fearing the impact on college admissions. Much of the discourse has led to the discussion of whether students are truly using CR as intended, and how the option has been turned into a tool in the seemingly ever-complicating college process.

The option to CR was introduced in the spring of 2020 to support students who were facing challenging circumstances during remote learning, such as familial disruptions at home, a lack of internet access, and more. The CR option provided a reprieve for students whose raw grades did not accurately reflect their capabilities. Though the idea of CR-ing a grade was proposed originally as a way to compensate for the difficulties of remote learning, it has largely strayed from this path.

Stuyvesant students have consistently gone to extreme lengths to boost their GPAs, even if only by a few decimal points, and many saw the CR option as a way to do so. This opportunistic use of CR has triggered numerous conversations among students who wonder whether colleges would prefer the blank CR to a grade in the 80s or even the 90s. The discussion represents the larger obsession with grades and college at Stuyvesant and indicates the intangible but omnipresent “Stuy Culture.”

There’s no metric to quantify this phenomenon, but the toxic competitiveness that characterizes it is present at all grade levels. Students who arrive at Stuyvesant are immediately greeted by academic feverishness, coupled with parental pressure surrounding high achievement, and must acclimate without questioning why such an atmosphere exists. Though there is no single cause, much of this “Stuy Culture” stems from a frenzy surrounding college admissions. The current treatment of CR as an attempt to ensure a satisfactory GPA is just the most recent demonstration of what students will consider as a means of rising to the top. Similar to how students often prioritize high grades over learning for its own sake, our present situation is one in which the original intent of the CR option has been abandoned, as many students now view it as a way to prepare an elite transcript.

Simply put, to CR a grade without just cause is to wrongfully game a system whose original intent was never to give certain students a favorable hand to win, but merely to help those with a deck stacked against their favor.

In retrospect, perhaps students’ fixation on numbers as the measure of their intelligence and college readiness in such a concentrated, pressure-cooker environment like Stuyvesant is inevitable. Students are simply products of their school environment, and the Stuyvesant environment reinforces and tolerates this behavior. Though the appeal of CR-ing grades may tempt any student, freshmen and sophomores can be especially susceptible to misusing the option. This appeal holds especially true if they do not have the hindsight of comfortably receiving mediocre grades and understanding that it does not make or break anything. Indeed, it is common for freshmen to find their first Stuyvesant grades to be lower than what they got in middle school (consider it a rite of passage!). It would serve you well to cut yourself some slack.

All of that is to say: CR as you will, but be aware of all its intricacies. Look at high school with a larger bandwidth, one that allows you to realize, “GPA is not forever.” It is a tough pill to swallow, but a necessary one. Perhaps your eyes bulge in horror at the sight of a grade below a 90. It might as well be a single-digit grade, for all you care. But an admissions officer might see things differently. Yes, you got an 80 in math. But the next semester, you got a 90. After that, an 100. After that, you replaced the teacher. In truth, colleges want to see improvement as you progress through high school. (For the dissenters: they do see you as more than just a grade-producing machine). But CRs, when abused, can have a stink to them. Colleges are free to gag as they will. An 80 will always be an 80. But a CR is an unknown blank—for better or for worse, colleges can fill in that blank, probably with a lower grade than you imagine.