Temporary exceptions made to pass/no credit policy

[Update, May 11]: The article was updated to include the newest information on how to file a pass/no credit form. The update also added information about the qualification for Dean's List.

Rensselaer is making an exception to the normal pass/no credit rules this semester as students adapt to online classes. Students may P/NC any and all of their classes taken this semester, and have until May 15 to fill out the relevant form in order to designate a class as such.

Usually, students cannot P/NC 6000-level coursework or coursework that is explicitly required for their major or minor, but that requirement has been waived this semester.

Students are normally allowed to P/NC up to four classes, which could be a mix of free electives, up to two science classes not explicitly named in degree requirements, or up to two HASS courses that are not used to satisfy the communication-intensive or depth requirements. However, any P/NC taken this semester does not count towards the four-class maximum P/NC limit previously outlined.

Both the School of Science and the School of Engineering have Google forms that students must fill out if they intend on P/NC any of their classes. P/NC forms for non-SOE and SOS students can be sent directly to the Registrar. Due to the large number of P/NC requests, there may be some delay as to when P/NC is displayed on SIS.

The P/NC delineation corresponds to specific letter grades. A ‘P’ is the equivalent of a ‘D’ or better in the course, and the passed course will only count as completed. It does not affect the student’s overall GPA.

Though an ‘NC’ also does not affect GPA, students who receive an ‘NC’ in a class—which is equivalent to an ‘F’ letter grade—will have to repeat the course if it is a degree requirement. Grades of ‘P’ and ‘NC’ do not replace letter grades of repeated coursework, which is important if a student is currently retaking a class and is poised to earn a higher grade.

Students should also be aware of the qualifications for Dean's List this semester while considering P/NC this term, as students need 12 or more credit hours at Rensselaer with a 3.5 GPA or better for the term to qualify for Dean's List status.

Academic probation status and its financial impact can be mitigated by P/NC specific courses to raise a student’s GPA. RPI recommends students to reach out to their faculty advisors, respective school HUBs, the Advising and Learning Assistance Center, and the Office of Financial Aid to make the best decision for their academic careers in regards to their GPA and the potential of being placed on academic probation. Students currently on probation are asked to contact their advisor, school HUB, or ALAC to review the impact P/NC will have on both their term and overall GPA.

Prospective graduate and professional school applicants are also advised by RPI to look into the procedures and policies about course grading at the schools they are considering, since other schools may have different views on what a passing grade represents.

In an email to The Polytechnic, Professor Lawrence Howard, RPI’s Pre-Law advisor, suggested taking a ‘P’ instead of a letter grade for “any grade that is equal or better” than the student’s current average, explaining that “everyone, everywhere … law school admissions teams understand how completely disrupted this semester has been.”

Though it depends on the medical school and varies by situation, Department Head of Biomedical Engineering Dr. Juergen Hahn, in an email to The Polytechnic, suggested pre-med students “to go with the letter grade as some schools indeed view a ‘P’ as a ‘D’ which will make it hard to get into medical school.” Although Hahn wrote that graduate schools “tend to be more lenient than medical schools when it comes to course requirements,” he emphasized that there is “not one clear policy in place that all schools adhere to,” recommending students to talk to their advisors before making changes from letter to binary grades.

Hahn said that the allowance for P/NC this semester was designed to decrease stress in a trying time, but cautioned that students who are considering continuing their education through graduate and professional studies should be prepared to take their grades as they are.