Spring '20 Universal Pass/Fail for Undergraduates

All spring semester courses will be evaluated on a universal pass/fail system for undergraduates, in order to give students the best opportunity to complete their academic work and make progress toward their degrees in this unprecedented moment.


How does this differ from the Pass/Fail we have always applied to courses?

For this semester, faculty will not be entering letter grades, which the system converts to pass/fail. Instead, the system will require faculty to enter either Pass (P) or Fail (E) for each course.

Does the Pass/Fail status include theses and independent studies?

Yes, all courses will be graded as Pass (P) or Fail (E). For information on honors, see below.

How will this semester impact my overall GPA?

Your spring semester course grades will not be included in your overall GPA. Your transcript will list any Ps, Es, and withdrawals accrued for the semester, but they will not be translated into numerical values or factored into your GPA.

What about deferred courses, such as an honors thesis, in which I didn’t receive a grade for the fall semester?

Faculty will be asked to provide you with a letter grade for the fall semester, and a Pass (P) or Fail (E) grade for the spring semester.

Can these Pass/Fail courses be used to fulfill requirements?

Yes, courses with a Pass (P) grade will count toward major, divisional, QFR, DPE, and WS requirements.

Will my Pass/Fail courses for this semester count toward my allowance of three total P/F courses?

No. This semester represents a departure from our typical grading policy, and will not count toward your total number of accrued Pass/Fail courses.

What about law/medical/grad schools that may want to see traditional letter grades for required courses?

It is hard to predict what they will decide at this early stage, but graduate and professional schools know this has been an extraordinary semester for undergraduates everywhere, with most colleges moving to remote learning and many shifting to some version of Pass/Fail. Graduate and professional school admission officers will have to find sound ways to evaluate candidates from across the country who will not have letter grades, possibly by looking at grades in prior and subsequent courses, letters of recommendation and personal statements.

To ensure that you get fair consideration, your Williams transcript will include a clear notation that Pass/Fail grading was universal and mandatory for all undergraduates in all courses for this semester. Some places, like Harvard Medical School, have already indicated that they will consider Pass/Fail grading for this term as long as the policy was mandatory.

You should also know that our policy is consistent with MIT, Columbia, Bowdoin, and Wellesley, among other leading schools.

If I am currently on academic warning or probation, how will “good academic standing” be defined for the spring term?

Good academic standing will be defined as receiving 4 Pass (P) grades.

How will Latin honors (e.g., cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude), Phi Beta Society Kappa membership, and departmental honors be determined?

Latin Honors will be determined as usual, except that they will not include any grades from the Spring ’20 semester. Departments will continue to award honors and highest honors according to their usual standards (with the exception of Spring ’20 grades). For Spring ’20, all students not yet elected for the Phi Beta Kappa Society and in the highest 13.5 percent of the class, ranked by cumulative grade point average, shall be eligible for election provided they have met the requirements.

Will there be a Dean’s List this semester?

Because the Dean’s List is based solely on each semester’s GPA, there will be no Dean’s List designation this semester.

How will my grades from study away be handled?

As usual, we will not list grades for courses taken outside of Williams. Students will receive degree credit for all courses they pass at approved non-Williams programs in Spring 2020. Students should speak with departments about whether or not they can attain major credit for these courses.

Students who attended Williams-Mystic or the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford this year will have all spring semester grades recorded as Pass/Fail.