Skip to main content

For Students: Temporary Undergraduate Grading Option

Dear Students,

We have heard from many of you about how you and your families are struggling. Thank you for sharing your stories. We understand that the pandemic and deep social injustices affect many of you on a daily basis. A number of students petitioned Northwestern to expand Pass/No Pass grading this fall as a result of these challenges. 

From the moment students first asked about fall Pass/No Pass (P/NP) grading, we have been working on a solution that would give you flexibility in your coursework this year, enable each student to make sound choices for their own current situation and future plans, and ensure students can show their proficiency in their chosen fields. 

Unfortunately, there is no solution that meets all of these requirements for all students. Our Northwestern community was divided in the spring over mandated P/NP grading, with some feeling it deprived them of the opportunity to show improvement or to distinguish themselves. In addition, the current restrictions in place on P/NP-graded courses limit flexibility in their use, while the petition makes it clear students need that flexibility.

We’re pleased to announce an alternative grading option that does provide flexibility and places these choices in your hands when you most need them — after you have full knowledge of how the course of this year has affected your learning and academic performance.

For this academic year only (Fall 2020, Winter 2021, and Spring 2021), we will employ a temporary grading option, Credit/No Credit, which will fulfill any academic requirement. Similar to Pass/No Pass, these grades will bear no impact on the GPA, but will denote whether someone has completed a course and earned credit (CR) or whether they have not (NC). Rather than selecting this grading option during the quarter in which you take a class, you will have the option in early summer 2021 to change up to one-third of the classes you completed this academic year to CR or NC grades. You may make this choice once at the end of the year, in consultation with your adviser, as you consider your future plans and how these grades play a role, so you can understand the full impact of this unusual year on your academic performance before you make your choice. 

Our goal is to provide you with relief now and balance that with maximum optionality, considering the uncertainty of the coming months. Making a choice after Spring Quarter gives you flexibility and the perspective to employ this option strategically, retaining those grades that highlight the best of your academic year. 

Traditional P/NP grading continues to be available this year as well.

Students who graduate in Fall or Winter quarters will also have two weeks after their graduation term ends to make their CR/NC grade elections. Students registered full time in the Fall Quarter who have petitioned to graduate during this academic year and who are who are applying for post-graduation opportunities may choose to elect Credit/No Credit for one fall class at the end of that term. 

More detail about this temporary grading option, including the maximum number of courses that can be taken for Credit/No Credit, when and how seniors may make an early election, and other important information, will be posted to the Office of the Registrar webpage early next week.


Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor