COVID-19 Academic Policies—Spring 2020 FAQ

Frequently asked questions about COVID-19 academic policies for undergraduates in the College

The changed academic policies for the spring 2020 semester created many questions for undergraduate students. The information contained here describes the changes that were implemented to support students and instructors as a result of the transition to a remote teaching and learning environment.  Beginning in the fall 2020 semester, the College's standard academic policies were reinstated. Students should contact an advisor in the College Center for Advising Services or the College Deans' Office with any questions.

Information as of 6/8/2020

General Questions

Will all undergraduate courses be graded S/F? Will it be automatic?

Yes, all courses will be graded using the satisfactory/fail system unless a student chooses the letter grade option for one or more courses.

How will S and F grades appear on my official transcript?

Instructors will have the choice of entering a grade of “P” if a student’s performance is satisfactory and an “F” if the performance is not satisfactory.  The grades on the transcript will appear as “P” or “F.”

The use of “P” instead of “S” is necessary to resolve some technical aspects with how data flow through our student information system and degree audit system. The use of “P” ensures that students will have courses correctly associated as meeting degree requirements, which is especially important for graduating seniors.

What is the deadline to make the decision between the S/F and letter grade option?

The new deadline is April 29, which is the last day of classes in spring 2020. We believe that this extended deadline (originally April 3 and later changed to April 10) will provide students with sufficient time to evaluate their new learning circumstances and engage advisors, faculty, and other resources to make a decision that best supports their ability to complete the semester successfully. The online form should be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29.

What happens if I decide to change my decision on the letter grade option?

Students may submit a new form with their new selections of grading basis up until the April 29 deadline. The Registrar’s office will use the information from the last form submitted. Please note that each resubmission must be filled out completely. Information from multiple forms will not be combined; only the last submitted form will be used. The online form should be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29.

How can I receive one or more letter grades this semester?

Use the online form to declare letter grades for spring 2020. The form should be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29.

I’m an instructor and want to know which students are choosing the letter grade option in my courses. What should I do?

The College and Eastman are setting up a comprehensive web form to collect this information from students for all courses. This information will be distributed to faculty following the April 29 deadline for students to declare the letter grade option. There is no need for instructors to collect this information individually, but they may ask students for this information if necessary for course-related activities (assignments, group projects). However, it’s important for instructors to understand that the data collected on the web form will still be the authoritative record of student selection of the S/F or letter grade option.

Will I have a GPA this semester?

If you choose letter grades in one or more courses, you will have a GPA for this semester.  Your GPA will be calculated based on the number of courses you complete with a letter grade. If you complete two courses with letter grades and two courses with “P” grades, your GPA will be calculated based on the two courses you complete with letter grades. If you complete four courses with “P” grades, your current grade point average from fall 2019 will be continued through the spring 2020 semester.

Does an “F” grade impact my GPA?

No, neither “P” or “F” grades will impact your GPA.

Will the credits count for these S/F courses?

Yes, as long as a grade of “P” is earned, you will receive credit for any courses you complete. 

Will spring 2020 courses count toward my program of study (major/minor/cluster)? What about S/F courses from previous semesters?

S/F courses taken in previous semesters would need to be uncovered in the usual way if you wish to use these courses toward majors, minors, clusters, and the primary writing requirement. Courses taken as S/F and passed with “satisfactory” (“P” grades) in spring 2020 only will be permitted to count toward College requirements and programs of study.  Note, students completing an incomplete from a previous semester during spring 2020, may request to have the final grade recorded under the special S/F grading option.  If a satisfactory ("P" grade) is earned, it can be applied toward a major, minor or cluster.

Why can’t I uncover my S/F grades in the future? What if I already declared the S/F option?

The regular S/F rules have been suspended for this semester so students who previously declared the S/F option will be treated in the same way as students who are being graded S/F moving forward. A very small number of students will be affected by this change.  Students will not be able to uncover “P” grades from this semester since no letter grade will be available.

What if I choose to take some courses S/F and request letter grades for others. Will that raise questions from graduate schools and others who might review my transcript?

The decision to take some or all courses S/F really depends on the student’s situation. This decision could be shaped by a student’s personal goals in the course, their course load, the type of course (seminar, lab-based, etc.), and/or the student’s future plans. It might also be shaped by how the course has been adapted to the new online environment. Students are encouraged to use the next weeks to evaluate these factors and make the best choice for their situation. This approach will also be helpful for those students who apply to graduate or professional schools and might have the opportunity to discuss how they navigated the COVID-19 outbreak in their academic and personal lives. In other words, there is no one-best solution for all students on whether to take all, some, or no courses S/F. The College’s senior leadership and the staff from the Greene Center for Career Education and Connections is closely monitoring the information that is being shared by professional organizations and universities. Updates and advice will be posted on the Greene Career Center website.

I am a NROTC student. Should I choose the S/F or letter grade option for my courses?

Based on updated guidance from the federal government and Naval Studies program, NROTC students should select the letter grade option for their naval science courses and a select handful of required courses (based upon their enrollment as Navy- or Marine Corps-option students). See the Naval Science Program undergraduate requirements page for more information. All other courses may be taken S/F.

Why did the College make this decision? Students with challenging situations are more disadvantaged, and this system creates inequalities. Why didn’t the College require all students to be graded S/F?

The College believes that this is the fairest way to proceed given the many types of uncertainties impacting students this semester. This decision provides students with maximum flexibility while helping them transition to online course instruction. The College will continue its efforts to provide students with academic resources to support them in this transition. Students should see the information available on the learning during times of disruption webpage and as well as the COVID-19 information for students and families webpage.

Students may be aware of various proposals to promote a Double A Universal Pass Policy at the University of Rochester and other universities. There are no plans to adopt such a policy in the College. Despite some claims to the contrary, we are aware of no other peer institution that has adopted such a policy. In addition, the Dean’s Office has received numerous student emails arguing against the imposition of such a policy.

How can I access academic resources since all of the services are now remote?

All student services offices have responded quickly to the transition to remote teaching and learning.  Appointments and services are now available and offices are continuing to offer new ways for students to contact them. Students are encouraged to review office and department websites and contact them directly for more information.

What is the last day to withdraw from a course?

The last day for undergraduates in Arts, Sciences and Engineering to withdraw from a course is April 22. Requests should be submitted electronically using the drop/add form (PDF). Students withdrawing from a course will receive a "W" on their official transcript.

Managing Illness and Other Unexpected Challenges

What if I choose letter grades and then become ill or experience other unexpected circumstances?

Students may petition the Administrative Committee, through the normal process, to request a late change in grading. Students are encouraged to speak with an advisor in the College Center for Advising Services (CCAS) prior to submitting a petition. Students should also note that the deadline to withdraw from a course has been extended to April 22.

What if I become ill with the virus and am unable to attend classes? How should I notify my instructors?

Students are encouraged to email their instructors if possible to let them know they will not be able to attend classes.  Students are also encouraged to contact the College Center for Advising Services by email ( to request that a notification be sent to their instructors directly.

Study Abroad Courses

Will all study abroad courses be graded S/F? If they are not S/F at my university abroad, will they transition to S/F on my UR transcript?

Only grades awarded by University of Rochester instructors for study abroad programs will have an S/F or graded option.

How will study abroad courses in spring 2020 appear on my transcript?

In spring 2020, courses from University of Rochester study abroad programs will appear on the University of Rochester transcript in the same way that the courses from non-University of Rochester programs appear. Courses will be listed along with associated credit earned, but no grades will be shown on the University of Rochester transcript. Students may use the transcript from the offering institution or sponsoring organization to indicate their grades in these courses.

Graduate School/Professional School-Related Questions

How should I choose to be graded if I’m planning to apply to medical school, law school, nursing school, graduate programs, or other post-graduate work?

The College’s senior leadership and the staff from the Greene Center for Career Education and Connections is closely monitoring the information that is being shared by professional organizations and universities. Updates and advice will be posted on the Greene Career Center website. As of now there is not a clear consensus from these various programs. For that reason, we encourage you to engage in your courses as if you are planning to select the “graded” option, making your final decision as we are closer to the April 29 deadline.

For further information, please see the information posted above in response to the question concerning choosing to take some courses S/F and requesting letter grades for others.

Courses Needed for College Requirements

(majors, minors, clusters, and the Primary Writing Requirement)

If I S/F a course for my major, minor, cluster or for the primary writing requirement, will I have to retake it?

No, all of the academic departments have agreed to allow courses completed under the S/F option in spring 2020 to count toward the College requirements.

What if I am finishing my major, minor or cluster this semester and need a specific grade in order to earn the required 2.0 GPA?

The S/F option is still available to students in these situations. Given the complexities of the COVID-19 situation, a grade of “satisfactory” will be taken into account when determining if the student meets the minimum grade requirement. Students concerned about their situation should discuss with an advisor.

If I’m taking two cluster courses this semester, is it OK for them to be graded S/F?

Yes, courses taken in spring 2020 with grades of “P” can be used for your clusters.

Graduate Courses

I’m an undergraduate taking two graduate courses. How will those grades work?

All graduate courses will be graded based on the student’s status as an undergraduate or graduate student. Therefore, undergraduates taking graduate courses will be allowed the option for S/F or letter grades as with their undergraduate courses. (Note that undergraduate students taking School of Nursing courses should respond to communications sent by the school’s registrar and dean’s office.)

Honors and Dean’s List

Would S/F this semester prevent me from earning Latin Honors?

Graduating seniors may use their grades at the end of the fall 2019 semester to qualify for honors and distinction. Further, for those students who choose to earn grades in spring 2020, those grades may also be used to qualify for honors and distinction.

Will there be a Dean’s List this semester?

Dean’s List recognition will not be awarded this semester.

I am a graduating senior and plan to have all of my courses graded with letter grades. Will my cumulative GPA at the end of the spring 2020 semester be used to determine whether I qualify for Honors?

Yes, as noted above, Honors and Distinction will be based on grades at the end of the fall 2019 semester or the end of the spring 2020 semester.

Eastman Lessons and Ensembles

Can I continue to take my lessons at Eastman?

At Eastman, all lessons are moving online and instructors have been in touch with students from the River Campus to make arrangements for continuing.  In the event that a student no longer has access to an instrument, students will be permitted to drop the course from their schedule.

Transcript Notation

Will there be a special notation on our transcripts this semester about S/F grading?

Yes, the University plans to place a statement on all transcripts across all University divisions referencing the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This statement is currently being developed.

Graduating Seniors

What if I am a graduating senior who needed a specific grade in order to earn a 2.0 for my major, minor, cluster, or degree?

The College will assess these cases individually to determine if the student’s performance in S/F courses would satisfy the minimum GPA requirements for programs of study.  The current situation with COVID-19 will be taken into account in this assessment. Students concerned by their situation should discuss with an advisor.

Change in Status

What if I want to withdraw below 12 credits for this semester? Will my status be changed to part time? Am I eligible for a tuition refund if I withdraw below full time status?

University policy does not permit students to change their status from full time to part time after the drop/add period.  Students who withdraw below 12 credits will retain their full time status and no refund would be issued.  Students studying at the University of Rochester on an F-1 visa are required to maintain a full-time course load (minimum of 12 credits) unless special approval is granted by ISO.

Repeat Courses

What happens if I’m repeating a course this semester? Is the original grade removed from my GPA?

As long as you pass the course you are repeating this semester with a satisfactory grade, the original grade will be removed from your GPA.

Financial Aid

Will S/F grades affect my financial aid?

A student’s decision to earn S/F grades this semester does not in itself impact your future eligibility to receive financial aid. Students are encouraged to speak with their financial aid counselor if they have questions about their situation.

Incomplete Coursework

Is it possible to arrange for an incomplete for one or more of my courses this semester?

Instructors will have the ability to award incomplete grades and arrange incomplete contracts as they do currently. The final grade, generally awarded within a year from the time the student originally enrolled in the course, will be determined by the grading option that the student selected during the spring 2020 semester (either the modified S/F or letter grade). The student and the professor should complete and submit an Incomplete Contract (pdf) to document the plans for the completion of the course.

Overload Policies

What can I do if I want to be eligible to overload in the fall 2020 semester? Do I have to choose the “graded” option?

There are two ways students can qualify to register for an overload in the fall 2020 semester. Students who earned a 3.0 or higher grade point average at the end of the fall 2019 semester will be eligible to overload in fall 2020. Additionally, students who complete the spring 2020 semester with at least 12 graded credits (i.e.,courses completed with letter grades), and earn a 3.0 or higher grade point average, will also be eligible to overload in the fall 2020 semester. See the overloads page for more information.

Pre-requisite Courses

What if a course I am taking is a pre-requisite for another course in my program? Do I have to elect the graded option?

You will not be required to elect the graded option.  Given the variability in student learning and grading, however, each academic department may reach out to students to assess their readiness to continue on to the next level course(s).

Non-Matriculated Students

I am registered as a non-matriculated student this semester. Will I have the same S/F and graded option as matriculated students?

Yes, these same grading options will apply if you are a non-matriculated student this semester. 

Course-Related Questions

Will my professor be holding office hours? Will course TAs be available?

Instructors are working out the details of office hours and TAs on a course by course basis. This information will be provided as soon as it is available.

How will my instructor calculate my final grade this semester? How will exams be administered?

Students can expect instructors to provide information about the changes that have been made to their courses. These modifications will vary from course to course and should include information about how assignments and exams will be modified, if at all, as well as information about course delivery, attendance, and how the final grade will be determined.

Final Exams

Will we have a final exam period this semester?

Currently there has been no change in the academic calendar and students should assume that the College will have a reading period and final exam period unless otherwise announced.

Academic Honesty

What is the College doing to uphold academic integrity and encourage honest completion of work?

We have reminded students and faculty that the  Arts, Sciences and Engineering (AS&E) Academic Honesty Policy still applies and will be enforced this semester. Further, brief updates will be posted on the  Academic Honesty website  and support continues to be available through the Academic Honesty Liaison ( as well as the Board on Academic Honesty (

What if I am found responsible for an academic honesty infraction? Will the automatic S/F in the course be rescinded?

Yes. Although courses have transitioned to satisfactory/fail, the academic honesty policy remains the same: if a student is found responsible for an infraction, he/she will not be allowed to maintain the S/F option in the course in which the incident occurred. The underlying grade will be revealed, and may be reduced as a result of academic honesty-related sanctions. The student also may not drop or withdraw from the course.

Academic Probation

How can I be removed from academic probation at the end of the spring 2020 semester?

Given the challenging circumstances experienced by many students this semester, the College implemented a new academic review process at the end of the spring 2020 semester. Students who were already on academic probation, are eligible to be removed from probation if letter grades were earned for most of their courses, and a minimum grade point average of 2.0 was achieved for both the semester and cumulative grade point average.

Students on academic probation who earned all "P" grades, as well as students who earned a mix of failing, P and/or incomplete grades, will be continued on probation and are expected to meet with their assigned CCAS advisor during the fall semester to ensure that they have the needed resources to address any academic challenges. While students who earn all "P" grades will not formally be removed from probation, the College considers this to be a very positive achievement.

What will happen to me if I don't do well this semester? Will I be placed on academic probation or required to take time off?

Given the challenging circumstances experienced by many students this semester, the College implemented a new academic review process at the end of the spring 2020 semester. Because some students experienced unique hardships related to the coronavirus, it was determined that students  would not be placed on probation or separated at the end of the spring 2020 semester. Instead, advisors in the College Center for Advising Services will reach out to students who appeared to have academic difficulties, and invite them to meet with their assigned CCAS advisor during the fall semester. These meetings are meant to ensure that students have the needed resources to address any academic challenges they may have experienced.


See also the University's COVID-19 website for important updates and guidance on working, teaching, and learning remotely.