By: Belinda Gonzalez-Leon, Ed. D., MBA
Ph: (305) 494-9389
Many college students have been notified that because of the COVID-19 situation, they have the option of accepting a Pass (P) or Fail (F) grade in their course instead of the usual letter grade. Some colleges are offering their students this as an option whereas others made it mandatory. There are also colleges not making any changes to their grading policies despite the disruption to classes.
If your college implemented a mandatory P/F policy, there is nothing you can do. Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Stanford, and John Hopkins University have all instituted such a policy- so you are in good company. However, what do you do if you have the option? The University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Cornell, Princeton, and Yale are all giving their students a choice of sticking with their current letter grade policy or request a P/F grade instead.
If you have given a choice, first read the policy carefully. Does the P/F option apply to all courses? How will it count in your grade point average (GPA)? If you Fail, can you retake the course and have the F forgiven? What is the actual grade that you are being given? Harvard is coding it’s passing grade as “Emergency Satisfactory” and it’s failing grade as “Emergency Unsatisfactory” grade. This is a special grade because of the current circumstances.
The most important piece of information regarding the grade you choose to take, if you have the choice, is the deadline to submit your choice. Mark your calendar with the due date and a few days before, submit your decision. However, get a hold of your professor NOW and discuss how realistically your progress. Determine what your final grade could be. If you honestly think you can earn a grade of B or higher, I recommend you accept the letter grade. Below a B? Seriously consider accepting the P/F grade. Right before the deadline, recalculate your expected grade and submit your decision.
In your academic career, you may be asked why you have some P/F courses while others are not. Be sure to explain how you were a student during the time of the COVID-19 crisis and that your school either implemented a mandatory P/F grade or that you requested a P/F grade. Explain what lead to your decision- including the possibility that it was your first class online, a loss of employment, or general stress. This worldwide situation should not be an issue on your transcript going forward.