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Policies and Procedures for Winter and Spring 2020

Learn more about the academic policies and procedures that Northwestern implemented for Winter and Spring 2020.

Winter Quarter 2020

Graduate Student Final Exams and Grades

Instructors were urged to offer alternatives to in-person Winter Quarter exams, including remote or take-home finals or grading the course based on work completed to date.

The Winter Quarter grading deadline for faculty was extended until Wednesday, March 25 at 3 p.m. If instructors were unable to grade a final assessment or students were unable to complete the final assessment, students temporarily received an “NR” and had the opportunity to complete work for a grade by April 10.

Undergraduate Student Final Exams and Grades

Undergraduate winter quarter final examinations and assessments (e.g., writing assignments, projects, etc.) were optional. Undergraduates who took the final examination or who submitted final assessments/papers received grades according to the principles set out on the course syllabus.

Undergraduates who opted not to (or could not) take the final assessment were assigned a grade based on the work they have completed, temporarily received an “NR” if they were unable to complete the final assessment or the instructor was unable to grade on time. Instructors were asked to contact students to complete work and submit grades by April 10.

Undergraduates also were given the option to change their winter term grade from a quality assessment (a letter grade) to Pass/No Pass. Students had until May 29 to submit the request.

Spring Quarter 2020


Graduate Student Grades

Approaches varied. Policies for spring study at the Pritzker School of LawKellogg School of Management and Feinberg School of Medicine differed from other graduate programs. Information about those programs may be available on the schools' Coronavirus updates pages, which are linked in this text.

Other graduate programs offered a new option, in which students will receive Pass/No Pass grades for Spring Quarter, with the option to select quality (letter) grades extended for students who require letter grades for external accreditation, licensure or reimbursement.

Undergraduate Student Grades

Based on feedback from deans, Faculty Senate representatives, the associate deans for undergraduate study and others, Northwestern University decided to institute Pass/No Pass (P/N) grading for undergraduates in Spring Quarter 2020, with a passing grade designated as a D or higher, per University policy. 

GPA and Transcript Impacts

Pass/No Pass grades do not count in the GPA; a Pass grade does earn a unit of credit towards graduation. Individual schools communicated their approach to flexibility in using a Pass grade from Spring Quarter 2020 to fulfill requirements.

Language was added to student transcripts that pointed to the fact that a global pandemic during Winter Quarter 2020 and Spring Quarter 2020 required significant changes to coursework and led to unusual enrollment patterns and grades.


The University extended add, drop and withdrawal deadlines for students. These extensions were reflected in the academic calendar. 

Other Academic Policies

All policies and procedures that apply to students’ time on-campus also applied to remote learning, including policies and procedures outlined in the Northwestern Student Handbook and the University’s expectations around academic integrity during the remotely-delivered Spring Quarter.

For students unable to complete their Spring Quarter coursework, this situation was treated as it normally would have been. Faculty were encouraged to consult with departmental and school-level leadership, as needed, while students were encouraged to consult with their instructors, advisers, and program and school-level resources.