How do I try less in a class I’m taking Pass/D/Fail? I chose that option for a good reason — I’m overcommitted — but I’m still putting 100% effort into all my commitments and am already exhausted.
Hannah Sussman Response
As someone who is constantly overcommitted, let me start by saying that I think it is great that you are working to find a better balance. That being said, I have found that Pass/D/Fail gives the illusion of less stress instead of actually lowering the workload. At Kenyon, the cutoff for a “pass” is not above 50%, it is 70%. This cutoff makes it difficult to determine the exact amount of effort to invest, as you must be careful not to slip beneath a C–. In my experience, the best use of a Pass/D/Fail is in cases where you find that regardless of how much effort you put into a subject, you can’t seem to get above a C (for me this was physics). If this is not you, then I would consider returning to a lettered grade or withdrawing from the course. All that being said, let’s go through some possible courses of action you can take:
1. Talk it out: If you are confident that less effort in this class is what you need, consider which specific parts of the class you can invest less in. Maybe you will write shorter discussion posts, or set a maximum on your study time. If you are continuing to struggle, you can always ask your professor. Make sure they know you are not trying to blow off their class; instead, you are looking to invest the most energy into the parts they deem most important.
2. Overcommitment does not equal productivity: Remember, despite the serotonin boost you might get from being helpful or taking on something you know you can do well, having a lot to do is different from being productive. Learn to say “no” to additional commitments, and work on making sure your “yes” is absolute. Try the phrase: “I appreciate this opportunity, but at this time I cannot take on additional work”.
3. Budget your energy: Like any other resource, your time and energy are limited. Take stock of what commitments are taking the most time and energy from you. Are there some “easy” tasks that get you stuck? Are you pouring too much into some things while pushing other tasks off completely? These are the areas you should reevaluate, finding a different approach or limiting the time you devote to them.
4. Do, delegate or delete: After compiling your list of commitments, consider what you can reasonably do, but don’t be afraid to delegate some activity commitments to someone else, or to remove some commitments altogether.
Whatever you decide to do, I am proud of you for all of the work you do, but mostly I’m proud of you for taking steps to make sure you don’t burn out.
Hannah Sussman ’25 is the opinions editor at the Collegian. She is a sociology major from Glencoe, Illinois. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dorothy Yaqub Response
Hey there! As a chronic overachiever, I’ve been in the same boat as you. If I’m not giving everything my very best effort, I worry that I’m not living up to my full potential, and that isn’t a fun feeling to have. However, like with many problems, I’ve found that the solution that works best for me is to put it down on paper, either through drawing or writing.
My personal recommendation: Make a pie chart. The more time a class or activity should require, the bigger its pie slice. Once you have a visual representation of everything you have to do, budgeting time and effort becomes a lot easier. For example, let’s say that your Pass/D/Fail class takes up 10% of your pie. If this is the case, don’t let yourself spend more than 10% of your time doing work for that class. If you have to set a timer to stop yourself from going over your limit, that’s totally fine. I’ve done it more than a few times.
The other way that I recommend organizing your commitments is through a ranked list. Write each of your activities down on a separate slip of paper so that you can easily rearrange them, and then rank them in order of priority. Once you’ve made your list, you have a default order in which to go about doing your work. Not only will this provide you with a work plan, but it will also provide you with a chance to do some serious introspection about how much each of your classes and extracurriculars matters to you and why.
Your Pass/D/Fail class will likely be lower down on the list, and by the time you finish your other work, you’ll probably be more than a little burnt out. Well guess what? That’s great news. Now that you’re too tired to give it your best effort, you’ll be forced to try less. Use your exhaustion to your advantage.
My parting words of advice: Don’t stress too much about failing. The fact that you got into college and made it this far means that your best work probably earns you As. Your 75% effort, or even your 50% effort, is more than enough for a Pass/D/Fail class.
Dorothy Yaqub ’26 is a columnist for the Collegian. She has not declared a major and is from Santa Barbara. Calif. She can be reached at email@example.com.
To send your own submission to “Ask the Editors” you can follow this link: https://forms.gle/sz7VCnGkXTHbjeZi7.