Things to consider when thinking about changing your Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 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 or Spring 2021 courses to S/N grading basis, here are some things to know and 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 your courses, are finding time to rest, and feeling good about how your school year has gone so far.

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, as well as how to change your grading basis. The University has also published a Frequently Asked Questions resource that addresses many common questions.

Before changing your grading basis, carefully consider the following:

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 earn 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) Future employment: Whether or not S/N grades on a transcript will impact future employment opportunities varies across employers and industries. Most employers would rather see the resulting A-F grade from a course, especially those pertaining to the applicant's major. A couple S/N grades may be fine, but multiple may start to impact whether or not an employer reaches out for an interview or job offer. If you would like to discuss specific career or internship questions around this topic, we recommend you connect with the CSE Career Center.

5) Pre-major students: Please keep in mind that while a grade of S from Spring 2020-Spring 2021 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 way (i.e. all S grades may be calculated as Cs, all N grades 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 the date of review for major applications 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. 
  • 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.
6) 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.

7) If you are taking a 5xxx-level or higher course: These courses are not guaranteed to have the S/N option. If you are considering changing to S/N in a 5xxx-level or higher course, contact your instructor for clarification as to if this is an option for you.


How to Change Your Grading Basis
  • Fall 2020: Email One Stop Student Services (onestop@umn.edu) with the following information:
    • A statement that you wish to change the grading basis of a Fall 2020 course
    • Course subject and number (i.e. CHEM 1062)
    • 5-digit Class Number
  • Spring 2021: You may change your grading basis in courses allowing S/N grading by yourself via MyU until April 30, 2021. After April 30, you will need to wait until final grades post to make further changes. More information will be available as the end of the semester nears; please watch your UMN email.

Lastly, all final grades of F earned at the end of the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters 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!