Things to consider when thinking about changing your Fall 2020 grading basis

The COVID-19 pandemic situation has brought numerous changes and challenges to our everyday lives. If you are considering changing any of your Fall 2020 courses to S/N grading basis, here are some things you should consider before making your final decision.


The COVID-19 pandemic situation has brought numerous changes and challenges to our everyday lives. Hopefully you are taking care of yourself, have found a groove with alternative instruction courses, spending time resting, and feeling good about how your Fall 2020 courses are wrapping up.

The University has made a number of changes due to this situation, including a temporary change in the grading basis (A-F vs S/N) policy. We in CSE Advising know students have many questions about this change, and want to pass along helpful information for you consider if you are thinking about changing any or all of your courses. You can find those reflection points below. The University has also published a Frequently Asked Questions resource that addresses many common questions.

Please note this change applies to final, posted grades; you will not be able to change your grading basis right away. Please see below for information on when and how to change a grading basis.

1) What is motivating you to change your course to S/N? Please remember that in order to earn an S (pass), you would still need to do the same quality of work that would earn a C- in the A-F grading basis. Also, please note that S/N grades do not count into your GPAs. Thus, if it is possible you will get a good grade or at least pass your course(s), we recommend you stick with A-F grading

2) Do you have a good, informed understanding of how you are doing in a course? We strongly recommend you contact your instructor if you have questions about where your grade sits, and what sort of academic work you would have to do to get a good grade over the rest of the semester. If you are wanting to do GPA calculations for what the potential outcome of your semester would be with different grades, you can find the U's GPA Calculator here.

3) If you are considering graduate or professional school in the future: It is possible that your intended school will not accept S/N grading for prerequisite courses. While there is a lot up in the air right now globally, historically-speaking, we recommend students considering graduate or professional school in the future keep their major courses A-F. We cannot guarantee who will/will not accept S/N grading. Pre-health students can find guidance from the Pre-Health Student Resource Center here.

4) Pre-major students: Please keep in mind that while a grade of S this semester will fulfill major requirements, it has no weight in your GPAs. That means your other technical courses that you have/are/will take may have more weight in your technical GPA for application to the major. Thus, if you can do well in your courses this semester, it could help set a good base for your technical GPA for application to keep A-F. Please also consider the following updates to the application review process in your decision:
  • Although grades of "N" do not factor into a student's technical GPA, multiple Ns may be considered when reviewing an applicant's record to determine likelihood of progress towards a degree.
  • If there are space constraints within a major, all technical GPAs of applicants for that major may be recalculated in a standardized was (i.e. all Ss may be calculated as Cs, all Ns may be calculated as Fs) to ensure a fair and equitable review of all applicants in the review process.
  • A technical GPA of 2.0 or higher is still required to be considered for application.
  • Grades on applicants' records as of January 9, 2021 will be used in the application to the major review process. Grading basis changes after that date will not change the outcome of the review. The deadline to request a grading basis change for a Fall 2020 course is January 6, 2021. Please see the University's Frequently Asked Questions document for the grading basis policy change for more information.
  • Students who will apply to their major in a future semester should also keep the above points in mind, as many of them will apply to future semester application cycles, as well.
5) Scholarship implications: Some scholarships have requirements regarding grading. If you have questions about if/how changing your grading basis may impact your scholarship(s), please contact the office or organization that sponsors your scholarship. If you are unsure as to who that may be, please contact One Stop Student Services

Please note that as of December 9, 2020, you are able to change a Fall 2020 grading basis for a final, posted grade by emailing One Stop Student Services (onestop@umn.edu) between January 4 and 6, 2021. To change your grading basis, please email onestop@umn.edu with the following information:
  • A statement that you wish to change the grading basis
  • Course subject and number (i.e. CHEM 1062)
  • 5-digit Class Number
Lastly, all final grades of F earned at the end of the Fall 2020 semester will be converted to N after final grades are posted by the University. No action is needed on your part.

If you have further questions, please contact your CSE academic advisor via email, or speak with an advisor at advising drop-ins, Monday-Friday, 2p-4p via Zoom at cseadvisingdropin.appointments.umn.edu. We're happy to help!