Some colleges de-emphasize letter grades or don't give them at all. Here is how three schools describe their systems:

New College of Florida, Sarasota:

"At the end of each semester students receive narrative evaluations from their professors. These evaluations rate performance as satisfactory, incomplete or unsatisfactory. The contract sponsor reads these evaluations and decides whether the goals of the contract [the student's agreed course of study] have been met. The transcript lists all academic work successfully completed, but the contract itself must be satisfactory if progress is to be made toward graduation. New College believes that this evaluation procedure allows individual guidance and assessment for each student, heightens a sense of personal motivation, and does away with the distraction of grade competition."

Evergreen State College, Olympia, Wash.:

"At Evergreen, your academic progress will be evaluated via narrative evaluations. For every program, course, or contract you complete, your transcript will include a self-evaluation written by you, as well as an evaluation written by your faculty. Additionally, you will write evaluations of your faculty and, in some cases, of the overall program. . . .

"Writing your self-evaluation is part of your learning -- it is the analysis and synthesis of your learning. Self-evaluations challenge you to reflect upon your work and identify your most significant learning. Your self-evaluation will be included in your transcript to be read in the future by prospective employers and graduate school admissions committees. Well-written self-evaluations convey what your goals were entering the program and how your work moved you toward those goals."

Reed College, Portland, Ore.:

"Reed College encourages students to measure academic achievement by intellectual growth and by self-assessment of their grasp of course material. The college does not wish to divide students by labels of achievement. A conventional letter grade for each course is recorded for every student, but the registrar's office does not distribute grades to students, provided that work continues at satisfactory (C or higher) levels. Unsatisfactory grades are reported directly to the student and the student's adviser. Students whose records are satisfactory may obtain their grades from their advisers or the course instructor if they wish to do so. Students may also order a transcript from the registrar's office.

"Students' work is closely observed and frequently evaluated by instructors; the student and adviser then discuss these evaluations in individual conferences. In the case of students whose work is incomplete or below the expected standard, instructors write comments, giving their perceptions of the student's difficulties in addition to the course grade. These comments are given to students, advisers, and student services and are considered along with the grade record when a decision is made as to whether an academic action needs to be taken."