FAQ

FAQ For Students

All students are strongly encouraged to work with their advisors and their programs to determine possible implications of their choices.

  • Q: Is this optional?

    Grades of 0.0 for classes taken in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 will automatically be converted to Not Satisfactory (NS). For undergraduate, converting grades of 1.0-4.0 to Satisfactory (S) is entirely optional for one or all of your numeric grades. For graduate students converting grades of 2.0-4.0 to S is optional. MSU has designed it with the intention that choosing to exercise this option will not negatively impact students’ future academic success.

  • Q: Why should I see an advisor to help me with this new process?

    Every student’s situation is different, and an academic advisor can help each student consider the details of this situation and their individual needs and goals to help students make the decision that is best for them.

  • Q: How do I make an appointment with my advisor?

    This page has the links to all the advisor groups around campus: Academic Advising Resources

  • Q: Where does a student go in order to request that their classes be recorded in the binary grading system?

    The Registrars’ Office website (https://reg.msu.edu) will provide access to this option once grades have been posted at the end of Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters.

  • Q: By when do students have to make their decisions for Fall 2020?

    The window for requesting that a Fall 2020 class grade be recorded as S/NS will be open from Wednesday, December 23, 2020 (the day that grades are posted) until 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 (two weeks later).

  • Q: By when do students have to make their decisions for Spring 2021?

    The window for requesting that a Spring 2021 class grade be recorded as S/NS will be open from Wednesday, Wednesday, May 5, 2021 (the day that grades are posted) until 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 (two weeks later).

  • Q: What if a student requests S/NS but later changes their mind for Fall 2020?

    Students can choose to opt-into the S/NS grade recording system anytime up until 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. The option to make this request will open on Wednesday, December 23, 2020 (the day that grades are posted). Students who opt-in and later change their mind can return to the S/NS selection page in StuInfo and change their request up until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

  • Q: What if a student requests S/NS but later changes their mind for Spring 2021?

    Students can choose to opt-into the S/NS grade recording system anytime up until 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, May 5, 2021. The option to make this request will open on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 (the day that grades are posted). Students who opt-in and later change their mind can return to the S/NS selection page in StuInfo and change their request up until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

  • Q: Will this impact students who are graduating in December 2020?

    Students who are graduating during the 2020-21 academic year and choose to have any of their grades recorded in the S/NS system will need to earn S’s in all of the courses needed for graduation. Note that some programs may require the underlying numeric grade to be higher than the minimum threshold in order to be used towards graduation. At the conclusion of the semester and the binary grade selection timeframe the student has met all graduation requirements based on College and University review their degree will be conferred.

  • Q: Will this impact students who are graduating in May 2021?

    Students who are graduating during the 2020-21 academic year and choose to have any of their grades recorded in the S/NS system will need to earn S’s in all of the courses needed for graduation. Note that some programs may require the underlying numeric grade to be higher than the minimum threshold in order to be used towards graduation.

  • Q: What happens if a student does not request that a class’s grade is recorded as S/NS?

    Grades of 0.0 for classes taken in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 will automatically be converted to Not Satisfactory (NS). For grades above 0.0, unless a student specifically chooses to have their grade in a class recorded as S, they will be graded in the numerical 0.0-4.0 grading system or in whichever grading system the class was originally intended to grade them.

  • Q: Can students who decided to take a course CR/NC at the beginning of the semester now change to the S/NS option?

    Yes. Students who have already chosen to take a course as Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) can request that the Registrar’s Office switch their grading option back to the numerical grading system and they could then choose to have their grades recorded in the binary S/NS grade recording system.

  • Q: What happens if a student takes an incomplete in the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 term? Can they complete a S/NS option the subsequent semester?

    Yes. All 0.0-4.0 grades that are reported for Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 semester – regardless of the exact start or ends dates of the class, regardless of when the grade is reported – can be recorded in the S/NS binary recording system.

    Once the Incomplete grade is finalized in SIS with a numeric grade of 0.0-4.0, then the student can request the grade change to S/NS.

  • Q: What will be the cutoff between S/NS?

    For undergraduate students the cutoff is 1.0 and for graduate students the cutoff is 2.0. In other words, undergraduates who earn 1.0 or above in a class can convert the grade an S, and graduate students who earn a 2.0 or above in a class can convert the grade to an S.

  • Q: Will a binary grade of S/NS factor into students  GPA? 

    Grades recorded as S/NS will not be calculated into students’ cumulative GPA, nor will they be used in determining honors, or the Dean’s List.

  • Q: If an undergraduate student opts for a S/NS grade, are they still eligible to make Dean’s List?

    Yes. Credits earned in classes recorded as S/NS will not be counted in calculations like Dean’s List as they are no longer numerically graded credits. Please review the Dean’s List policy for more detail: https://reg.msu.edu/AcademicPrograms/Text.aspx?Section=110#s295

  • Q: How will graduate and professional schools view grades reported as S/NS when students apply to their institutions? Will we have to provide some kind of conversion on the transcript?

    Many institutions adopted a binary grading system for for the Spring 2020 semester, and some institutions have adopted changes to their grading for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. That being the case, we can reasonably expect that graduate and professional schools will take the unique circumstances in mind as they consider applications. MSU will also put on transcripts a statement describing the semester (and associated grades) as having occurred under unique circumstances. The Registrar’s Office will retain, separate from the students’ transcripts, the numerical grades students received, which students can request be sent to external entities.

  • Q: Will the credits from a course recorded with a binary grade of S/NS count toward graduation?

    Students will not receive course credit toward graduation for any class in which they earn an NS. Students will receive course credit toward graduation for any class in which they earn an S. However for classes in a major that have minimum accepted grade the grade reported by the instructor must meet that minimum in order to be counted toward the major. Programs can make exceptions to this rule, so students should speak with the advisors if they have any questions.

  • Q: Will students who opt into the binary grading system and who earn an S still be able to repeat the course?

    Yes. Regardless of the grade earned and recorded, courses recorded as S/NS are exempt from any policies limiting a student’s ability to retake the course. While these credits will be added into the total repeat count, students will be eligible to request an exception to the 20 credit repeat limit.

  • Q: Will the use of the S/NS option affect a students’ financial aid? 

    Numerical grades that have been recorded as an S should not impact any student’s need-based financial aid. However, any student receiving need-based financial aid and is considering having a grade recorded as S, should contact the Office of Financial Aid (517-353-5940, finaid@msu.edu) to review their individual situation and how a switch to S may affect their financial aid.

    Students receiving all NS grades are not considered to be making satisfactory academic progress toward the degree. A second term of 0.0 or NS grades may result in denial of financial aid and students will be notified if this occurs.

    Colleges, departments, and programs will have access to the grades originally assigned by the instructors when they make decisions about non-need-based financial aid. The recording of those grades as S or NS will not impact non-need-based financial aid decisions, but the original grade the student receive might. Students receiving non-need-based financial aid should contact the college, department, or program providing the aid or the Office of Financial Aid to review their individual situation.

  • Q: If a student is pursuing an Honors Option in a class, how will the S/NS affect the honors credit? 

    To qualify for Honors Option Credit, the numerical grade submitted to the Registrar’s Office by the instructor must meet the college’s minimum grade requirements for Honors Options.

  • Q: Can the original grade submitted to the Registrar’s Office by the course instructor be used in decisions about major progression and secondary admissions processes?

    Yes. The underlying grades that have been replaced with an NS or S will be available to colleges that have progression requirements or secondary admissions processes. Colleges can and may use the underlying grades students that earned when they make decisions about progress in the major or secondary admissions. Students who opt for an S in a course can retake the course and the retake grade will replace the S. In these instances, colleges will consider the retake grade for major progression or secondary admissions decisions without prejudice to the fact that the student retook the course.

  • Q: Will the use of the S/NS option put an undergraduate student at greater risk of going on probation or being recessed?

    Choosing to have a grade recorded as an S will not put a student at greater risk of going on probation or being recessed than would keeping their original grade. Colleges have been strongly encouraged to take into consideration the extraordinary circumstances that students are experiencing during the pandemic as they make decisions about a student's probation status or possible dismissal.

  • Q: What happens if I receive grades of NS for all of my enrolled courses?

    Students who receive a grade of 0.0 for any course, automatically have the grade changed to NS. If a student receives grades of NS for all courses for two consecutive semesters, the student will be recessed unless there are compelling reasons certified to the record by the associate dean of the student's college. If recessed, the student must remain out of Michigan State University for at least one calendar year. Students in this situation will also be placed in financial aid denial and will need to appeal for restoration of their financial aid as well, if and when they are allowed to re-enroll at Michigan State University.

  • Q: To whom does this policy apply? 
    • Undergraduate students coded as undergraduate (UN), English language (EL), agricultural technology (AT), or lifelong undergraduate (LU);
    • Graduate students coded as graduate (GR, i.e., doctoral or masters), graduate certificate (GC), lifelong graduate (LG)
    • Students who have already chosen to take a course as Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) can request that the Registrar’s Office switch their grading scheme back to the numerical grading system and could then choose to have their grades recorded in the binary S/NS grade recording system.
    • S/NS grading option may not be available for undergraduate or graduate students enrolled in degree programs governed by specialized accreditation. Undergraduate students enrolled in such programs should consult with their academic advisors. Graduate students enrolled in such degree programs should consult with their graduate program directors.
  • Q: Specifically, which students are not able to request that their grades be recorded in the S/NS system?
    • Most College of Human Medicine and College of Osteopathic Medicine students cannot request to have their grades recorded in the S/NS because they already use a trinary grading system. There are some students in CHM who are coded as “GR” graduate students (such as students in the Epidemiology or Public Health programs) who would be able to able to request that their grades be recorded in the S/NS system. CHM and COM students who are taking classes outside of their college will be able to request that their grades in those classes be graded as S/NS.
    • College of Veterinary Medicine undergraduate students are not eligible for S/NS, except in courses they take outside of the College of Veterinary Medicine.
    • MSU Law School students, who have instituted their own binary grading option, will not be eligible for this policy except in when Law School Students take classes outside of the College of Law.
  • Q: Will choosing to have my grades reported as S/NS impact my ability to access future federal grants or scholarships?

    For each course you choose the S/NS reporting for Fall 2020 or Spring 2021, you will still be earning credit toward your degree when the S is posted. Most grant programs require progress toward your degree. While some scholarships do require specific GPA requirements, the choice of S/NS will not negatively impact your overall GPA that was achieved at the end of the previous semester. All courses you choose to have reported in the original numerical format will impact your cumulative GPA. You are encouraged to review the academic requirements associated with any grant or scholarship and should you have further questions reach out to the Office of Financial Aid.

  • Q: Can S/NS be utilized for Education Abroad coursework?

    Students who earn course credit during a Fall Semester ’20 Education Abroad are eligible for the S/NS policy in one of the following ways:

    1. If a student took coursework that comes back to MSU with a grade, then the student should follow the S/NS policy as written.
    2. If a student took coursework that comes back to MSU as transfer credit, then MSU will accept the credit with an equivalent grade of 1.0 or higher.

    For students who receive their final grade on or before January 5, 2021, they will follow the same procedures for decision-making as campus-based students by the January 5, 2021 deadline.

    For students whose fall grades come in later than January 5th, they will have two weeks from the receipt of their grade to decide relative to S/NS. If this decision comes after the January 5th deadline, then students should work with their academic advisor and their College Dean’s Office about their decision related to keeping the grade or using the S/NS option once they receive their grades from the Office of Education Abroad.

 

FAQ Specific to Graduate Students

All students are strongly encouraged to work with their advisers and their programs to determine possible implications of their choices.

 

FAQ for Faculty

  • Q: Can faculty apply for an exemption for their classes?

    Only colleges can exempt courses from this policy, and all the sections of that course must be exempt. Only courses in which a reasonable argument that a binary grade would never be in any student’s best interest will be considered for exemptions. Ultimate authority for approving or disapproving requests for exemptions will be decided by the Provost.

    All such requests for Fall 2020 must be submitted by the colleges no later than 5 p.m. EST on Friday, December 11 (the last day of Fall 2020 classes).

    All such requests for Spring 2021 must be submitted by the colleges no later than 5 p.m. EST on Friday, April 23 (the last day of Spring 2021 classes).

  • Q: Where do faculty direct students for more help?

    Please direct students to their academic advisor. Every student’s situation is different, and an academic advisor can help each student consider the details of this situation and their individual needs and goals to help students make the decision that is best for them.

  • Q: What services or tools are available to faculty to help students through this process?  Where can I go for more information?

    Advisors are the primary point of contact for questions related to S/NS.

  • Q: How does the binary grading option affect faculty members’ evaluation of student work?

    For courses in which the numerical 0.0-4.0 grading system is normally used, instructors will still assign numerical grades for all the students in their classes. The Registrar’s Office will convert to the binary system—S/NS—for those students who have opted in. Given the shift to remote teaching, instructors should keep in mind the instructional guidelines offered on keepteaching.msu.edu when assessing student performance/achievement in courses.

 

FAQ for Advisors

All students are strongly encouraged to work with their advisers and their programs to determine possible implications of their choices.

  • Q: What is the deadline or the important milestones I should be aware of when preparing students for the opportunity to have their grades recorded in the S/NS binary system?

    For Fall 2020, students will receive their Fall 2020 grades on Wednesday, December 23, 2020 and will have until Tuesday, January 5, 2021 to opt-into the binary grade reporting system for each of their classes. All students can choose to opt-into the S/NS grade recording system anytime up until 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Students who opt-in and later change their mind can return to the S/NS selection page in StuInfo and change their request. The deadline for all decisions is 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

    Students who receive grades after January 5, 2021 due to Incompletes/Extended Time or due to later receipt of international transcripts form Education Abroad programs should see their Assistant/Associate Dean’s Office of their major to request these grades be recorded in S/NS binary system.

    For Spring 2021, students will receive their Spring 2021 grades on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 and will have until Tuesday, May 18, 2021 to opt-into the binary grade reporting system for each of their classes. Students who opt-in and later change their mind can return to the S/NS selection page in StuInfo and change their request. The deadline for all decisions is 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.

    Students who receive grades after May 18, 2021 due to Incompletes/Extended Time or due to later receipt of international transcripts form Education Abroad programs should see their Assistant/Associate Dean’s Office of their major to request these grades be recorded in S/NS binary system.

  • Q: Will a binary grade of S/NS factor into students’ GPA?

    To qualify for Honors Option Credit, the numerical grade submitted to the Registrar’s Office by the instructor must meet the college’s minimum grade requirements for Honors Options.

  • Q: What happens if a student gets a S grade?

    Grades recorded as an S should be considered as completion of the course (unleses a specific grade in the course is required for graduatioon) and there will be no impact on the student’s GPA.

  • Q: What happens if a student gets an NS grade? 

    A student who has received an NS grade has not fulfilled the requirements for passing the course and will not receive credit for taking the course. That course will not count toward their cumulative GPA, and the 0.0 will be automatically converted to NS.

  • Q: Why would a student want a S/NS grade?

    There is general agreement among institutions of higher education that the unusual circumstances students, faculty, and communities are experiencing as a result of the COVID19 pandemic substantially increased challenges for everyone. A binary grade recording system frees students of concerns about some of the potential impacts of these events on their GPAs, which will hopefully reduce some of the stress students are experiencing and will increase the ability to continue to work successfully toward completing their degree.

  • Q: Why wouldn’t a student want a S/NS grade?

    Student who have earned a relatively high grades in courses may prefer to have the grades count in the calculation of their GPAs. There might be particular situations in which a student would want a grade of 2.0 or higher to increase their cumulative GPA’s. A student might have professional aspirations for which a numerical grade would be preferred over an S.

  • Q: How can I better explain the difference between P/N, CR/NC, and S/NS?

    S/NS is distinguishable from P/N and CR/NC by the fact that it is available only for grades earned during the Spring 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021 semesters. The difference between an S and CR or P is that the S allows the student to repeat the course while the P or CR can not be repeated.

  • Q: For a student who was repeating a course this semester, and earned an S/NS, how does that influence the GPA? Will the numeric grade be considered in that instance?

    A student who has earned an S in a class they are retaking will have their earlier grade in the course taken out of the calculation of their cumulative GPA. A student who has earned an NS in a class they are retaking will have the earlier grade removed from their GPA calculation. The NS grade for the semester however is not earned and no credit will be given for the course.

  • Q: How will graduate and professional schools evaluate this grading scale?

    Many institutions adopted a binary grading system for for the Spring 2020 semester, and some institutions have adopted changes to their grading for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021. That being the case, we can reasonably expect that graduate and professional schools will take the unique circumstances in mind as they consider applications. MSU will also put on transcripts a statement describing the semester (and associated grades) as having occurred under unique circumstances. The Registrar’s Office will retain, separate from the students’ transcripts, the numerical grades students received, which students can request be sent to external entities.

  • Q: Will a binary grade of S/NS count toward a student’s GPA and credit momentum?

    Grades recorded as S/NS will not be calculated into the student’s cumulative GPA, but the course credit will count toward graduation (unless a specific grade is required for the course) for all classes in which a student earns a S. Students will not receive course credit toward graduation for any class in which they earn an NS.

  • Q: What’s the numerical threshold between S/NS?

    For undergraduates, an S will replace any grade of 1.0 or higher. For graduate students and law school students an S will replace any grade of 2.0 or higher.

  • Q: Will students who opt into the binary grading system and who earn an ‘S’ still be able to repeat the course?

    Yes. Regardless of the grade earned and recorded, courses recorded as S/NS are eligible to be exempt from any policies limiting a student’s ability to retake the course and will not count toward the 20-credit limit on course retakes.

  • Q: For a student who was repeating a course this semester, and earned an S/NS, how does that influence the GPA? Will the numeric grade be considered in that instance?

    A student who has earned an S in a class they are retaking will have their earlier grade in the course taken out of the calculation of their cumulative GPA. A student who has earned an NS in a class they are retaking will have the earlier grade removed from the their GPA calculation and will not have completed the course.

  • Q: Can students who decided to take a course CR/NC at the top of the semester now change to the S/NS option?

    Yes. Students who have already chosen to take a course as Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) can request that the Registrar’s Office switch their grading scheme back to the numerical grading system and they could then choose to have their grades recorded in the binary S/NS grade recording system.

  • Q: What happens if a student takes an incomplete in Spring 2020, Fall 2020 or Spring 2021?

    All 0.0-4.0 grades that are reported for Spring 2020, Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 semester – regardless of the exact start or ends dates of the class, regardless of when the grade is reported – can be recorded in the S/NS binary recording system.

  • Q: If a student opts for a S/NS grade, are they still eligible to make Dean’s List?

    Yes. Though credits earned in classes recorded as S/NS will not be counted in calculations like Dean’s List, as they are no longer numerically graded credits. Therefore a student would still need to complete a minimum of 12 credits on the numerical scale to qualify for the Dean’s List in the Spring 2020, Fall 2020, or Spring 2021 semesters.

  • Q: Will the use of the S/NS option affect financial aid? 

    Students should contact the Office of Financial Aid (517-353-5940; finaid@msu.edu) to review their individual situation and how a switch to S/NS may affect their financial aid because there are some situations that might impact a student’s financial aid. Numerical grades that have been converted to an S or NS will not be used by any entity at Michigan State University in merit-based financial aid decisions.

  • Q: How will the S/NS affect honors option credit? 

    To qualify for Honors Option Credit, the numerical grade submitted to the Registrar’s Office by the instructor must meet the college’s minimum grade requirements for Honors Options.

  • Q: How will courses students take at other institutions this semester transfer to MSU if students utilize the S/NS option at that institution?

    Courses taken during the FS20/SS21 terms at another institution will transfer to MSU if there is an acceptable grade earned of passing. Whether that be a S in a S/NS grade system, a P in a P/F grade system, or a minimum of a 1.0 if the transfer course uses a numerical grading system.

    Transfer equivalency policy: Students wanting to transfer a course from another institution into MSU that did not offer S/NS grading or its equivalence during the FS20/SS21 terms may be allowed to transfer that course if they received a passing grade from their transfer institution.

    For more information on the transfer policy for courses taken this semester, please visit https://reg.msu.edu/AcademicPrograms/Text.aspx?Section=112#s505

  • Q: How will courses students take at other institutions this semester transfer to MSU if students utilize the S/NS option at that institution?

    Courses taken during the FS20/SS21 terms at another institution will transfer to MSU if there is an acceptable grade earned of passing. Whether that be a S in a S/NS grade system, a P in a P/F grade system, or a minimum of a 1.0 if the transfer course uses a numerical grading system.

    Transfer equivalency policy: Students wanting to transfer a course from another institution into MSU that did not offer S/NS grading or its equivalence during the FS20/SS21 terms may be allowed to transfer that course if they received a passing grade from their transfer institution.

    For more information on the transfer policy for courses taken this semester, please visit https://reg.msu.edu/AcademicPrograms/Text.aspx?Section=112#s505.