Another semester has ended which means another set of 4 (or 5 or 6!) letter grades have come out! Harvard students not only work hard throughout the semester, but we’ll also have to earn the privilege of seeing our grades early.
I’m pretty much obsessed with Harvard College, but that doesn’t mean it’s the epitome of perfection. I think Harvard’s grading system could be more transparent. My public high school used an online system where teachers would input individuals’ scores in varying categories and compute these scores into an overall grade. The online system basically served as a real-time progress report which personally helped me gauge and evaluate what I needed to do more or less of in each class. Although all my assignments and exams at Harvard have been promptly returned, it would be nice to have a similar online grading system, especially because I feel like most of our grades are ultimately relative to other students. This grading system may not exist (yet?! Heyy computer science concentrators, get on this!), Harvard College does offer a singular website where students intricately critique/compliment the classes that they’ve taken during the most recently passed semester. As an incentive to participate, the registrar allows students who have completed course evaluations to view their grades a few weeks earlier than the nonparticipants.
This compilation of student reviews is called the Q guide (which I believe is formerly known as the cue guide; you can’t really see much without a student ID but it doesn’t hurt to browse!). It asks general questions about the course itself (i.e. general thoughts about the course, how it can be improved, difficulty of assignments, etc.) as well as commenting on individual professors and teaching fellows (TFs). It’s really open ended – you can talk about how approachable they are, how timely they are, or even how funny they are. I’ve always done my Q guide evaluations (as a source of procrastination during Reading Period) and I try my best to be comprehensive and extensive as possible. Last Spring semester, my organic chemistry TF was always there for me via email or person. He was the funniest, most patient and down to earth guy! I spent more than an hour basically writing him a letter of recommendation, raving about how he really goes above and beyond his call of duty to make sure that his students understood the material.
I’ve put in a good amount of time to this Q guide because you really get out of it what students decide to put in. I feel like most students look at the Q guide when deciding between both mandatory courses and electives because it can be a good gauge of expected time commitment and what background knowledge is necessary to understand the underlying concepts. However, it’s definitely not something to swear by because a lot of times a class may seem easier on the Q guide than it actually is or vice versa. This Q guide has become a pretty substantial player on campus because I remember my prefrosh (aka Visitas) host telling me how helpful it is and many online course catalogs include an overall Q guide score (ranging from 1 to 5, 5 being the best). The internet is taking over! Are you ready?