Interim Amendments to Academic Policies FAQ

your questions answered about policy amendments for spring 2020

Short-Term Questions

Can I still change my grade option to pass/fail? And how do I do that?

May 2020 degree candidates may switch a Spring 2020 course to pass/fail until 9 p.m. CDT on May 10. Due to deadlines for degree auditing and conferral, requests to change to pass/fail after May 10 will not be possible for May 2020 degree candidates.

All other students may switch a Spring 2020 course to pass/fail until 9 p.m. CDT on May 15. If a grade in a course is not posted by May 15, students may request to switch that course to P/F until 9 p.m. CDT on the 7th day after the grade was posted.    

To submit a request after May 15, please fill out our excepton petition form.

I just dropped a course. Why is it showing as a "W”?

Because this interim policy took effect after the original drop deadline, the College will need to manually change the "W" to a "drop" (i.e., with no transcript notation) for courses dropped between March 13 and April 24. This process will be run each Monday and will include all courses dropped during the prior business week.

Is it possible that the available grade options for a course may change?

We’re still in the process of updating grade options to reflect the changes faculty have requested given the circumstances. If the option is not available as of Monday, March 23, reach out to your faculty member. It may simply have been an oversight in the process of polling all our instructors and making adjustments. The faculty member should email Marissa Kaltwasser ( to have the P/F option added. If the faculty member is not willing to add the option, you should expect significant flexibility and compassion in evaluation. If you feel this is not the case, contact Dean Smith. 

Will the deadline to finish fall 2019 Incompletes be extended?

Yes. For most students, the deadline to finish fall 2019 incomplete coursework is extended to June 1, 2020, after which the Incomplete will automatically be changed to an F according to policy. SENIORS ONLY: Your deadline to finish any Incompletes is extended only to April 1, 2020, as your faculty will need time to evaluate your outstanding work before graduation. 

Degree Requirements Questions

Will the total number of credits needed to graduate or to complete a major or minor be changed?

No. You will still need to earn 120 units to graduate, and to fulfill the credit requirements of any major or minor. In the unlikely event that you are enrolled in a course which ends mid semester given the transition to remote learning, and thus earns fewer credits than expected, we will provide options for you to earn additional credits satisfying the same requirements via remote learning over the remainder of the semester. 

Will students be allowed to count more than 24 P/F units towards the 120 credits they need towards graduation?

P/F classes taken in spring 2020 will not be counted toward the 24 credit cap. 

Will I be able to count a P/F course for my major or minor?

Most Arts & Sciences courses are now offered with the P/F option, and most programs will count all courses taken P/F in Spring 2020 towards their major and minor.

However, some departments have conditions. To know what your major or minor requires, find the department that houses your program in the list below. If no conditions are listed, all courses taken P/F may be counted towards your major or minor. 

  • African and African American Studies
  • American Culture Studies
  • Ancient Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Applied Linguistics
  • Archaeology
  • Art History and Archaeology
  • Asian American Studies
  • Biology: Department will confirm with instructor that the passing grade was C- or higher in order to accept P/F classes towards the major.
  • Chemistry: The chemistry department will now accept all pass/fail courses towards the major or minor (policy updated March 26).
  • Children’s Studies
  • Classics
  • Comparative Literature/Comparative Arts
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (including Environmental Earth Sciences)
  • East Asian Languages and Cultures (all languages and East Asian Studies)
  • Economics
  • Education  
  • English
  • Environmental Studies
  • Film and Media Studies: Will count up to 2 courses P/F towards the major from Spring 2020
  • Germanic Languages and Literatures: P/F threshold B- in 300-400 level classes for majors/minors only
  • History: Will accept everything P/F except L22 399 Senior Honors Thesis P/F
  • International and Area Studies
  • IPH: Will accept everything P/F except: Thesis Prospectus, Theory and Methods, and Senior Colloquium. IPH is open to solving any issues on a case-by-case basis until the end of the semester.
  • JIMES (All majors)
  • Latin American Studies
  • Legal Studies
  • Linguistics
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Medical Humanities: Will consider counting P/F courses towards the minor on a case by case basis. Contact Wendy Love Anderson.
  • Music: The music department will now accept all pass/fail courses towards the major or minor (policy updated March 26).
  • Performing Arts (Dance and Drama)
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • PNP
  • Political Science (including Environmental Policy)
  • Psychological & Brain Sciences: Will confirm with instructor that the passing grade was C- or higher in order to accept P/F classes towards the major.
  • Religion and Politics
  • Religious Studies: Will count up to 2 courses P/F towards the major from Spring 2020, except Senior Honors Thesis.
  • Romance Languages and Literatures (all languages)
  • Speech and Hearing Sciences
  • Sociology
  • Urban Studies
  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Will I be able to count P/F courses towards my distribution requirements?

You already may count up to 12 P/F units towards area requirements and integrations; if courses taken P/F this semester would cause you to exceed that cap, we will make exceptions on a case by case basis. Applied Numeracy (AN) and Writing Intensive (WI) courses taken P/F in Spring 2020 only may be used to satisfy those degree requirements. College Writing may be taken for a letter grade or as P/F in order to satisfy the College Writing requirement.

Honors Questions

Will Dean’s List requirements be changed for this semester?

In order to provide students with the ability to take advantage of the loosening of restrictions on P/F courses, we will not be awarding Dean’s List this semester. We don’t want anyone to feel like they are disadvantaged if the environments they’re in aren’t conducive to learning. We will add a notation to transcripts for Spring 2020 indicating that given the COVID-19 disruption, Dean’s List was not awarded to anyone.

Will the deadline to submit my senior honors thesis be extended?

To create the potential for flexibility in submitting your thesis, the college has extended the departments' deadline to report their evaluation of honors candidates' thesis work. Please consult with your thesis advisor to see how this extension may impact your own submission deadline.

Will the Latin Honors process be affected for the Class of 2020?

No, other than potentially the deadline for thesis submission (see above).

Will the College Honors GPA threshold be affected for the class of 2020?


Probation Questions

How is academic progress being approached for SP2020?

The College will view academic progress charitably given the challenges of the SP2020 semester. Where the College has significant concerns about academic progress, it will place students on academic probation so that it can provide those students with additional support.

When should I expect to be notified by the College if there are concerns about my academic progress?

The academic review process in the College has begun. Students will receive letters regarding their academic progress by July 10.

Dissertation Defense Questions

What platform should I use for a virtual dissertation defense?

Washington University supports several platforms for conferencing. You are encouraged to use one of the WashU-licensed platforms.  

Once you determine which platform you want to use, download it early and take some time to learn about the capabilities. 

How should I prepare for my virtual defense?

Communicate with your committee before the defense. Talk through questions related to the flow of the dissertation. These discussions will help you set up your meeting with the correct functionality to minimize distractions or technical issues. 

  • When should questions be asked?  (e.g. in the middle of the defense, at the end, etc.)
  • Does your committee want to type in questions? Would they rather ask them over audio? Should you mute microphones at certain points during the defense?
  • Should certain people have different abilities during the defense? Does your chair want to be able to chime in with audio at any point?
  • Are other people outside of your committee permitted to listen? Can they ask questions? 
  • Ask your chair to outline these decisions with the committee before you begin the defense.

Scheduling your defense. 

  • Are all members of your committee in the same time zone? 

Pick a place for you to defend physically. 

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Identify a quiet place with minimal background noise and distractions. 
  • Check to make sure the internet connection is consistent.
  • Practice your defense with a friend or family member who is using a different internet connection to make sure the platform will work as expected. Check to make sure that all presentation materials, videos, and other visuals are appearing for your test audience.

Create a backup plan.

  • What will you do if a member of your committee thought their laptop had a microphone but doesn’t?
  • Share the plan with the committee for what will happen if you suddenly lose internet access.

Search WashU websites for the most recent resources available. 

Summer School Questions

I was planning to take summer classes at another school. Will I be able to transfer them if my local school is only offering online/remote-learning classes this summer?

Yes. For courses taken during summer 2020, we will accept transfer credit for approved online coursework. To begin the approval process, see

Can summer classes at another school count toward my major/minor?

With pre-approval from the department, a non-WashU course may be able to count toward a major or minor. As is always the case, you should consult with your department; there is a space on the form for them to approve the class if they deem it appropriate for their program.  

Can summer classes at another school count toward distributions?

No. As is always the case, only courses taken at WashU may count toward distributions.

If I take a non-WashU summer course p/f, can I still transfer it?

No. For a course to be eligible to transfer, it must be taken for a letter grade, and you must earn at least a C.  

What about summer pre-health classes, such as chemistry?

In summer 2020, many schools (including WashU) are only offering Organic Chemistry Lecture I & II. These courses may be approved to transfer to WashU as Chem 251 (Organic Chemistry I) and Chem 252 (Organic Chemistry II), which are lecture-only courses. If students transfer the organic chemistry lecture courses, they may take the corresponding lab courses at WashU, Chem 251L and Chem 252L, in fall 2020 and spring 2021, respectively. The combination of the lectures (251 & 252) and the labs (251L & 252L) are equivalent to the Organic Chemistry with Lab courses (Chem 261/262) and will be counted toward any WashU major that requires Chem 261 & 262. Read more about taking chemistry courses elsewhere here.

Note that Biology will accept online organic chemistry lab courses to count toward their majors. For other majors, students should check with their departments to see if they’ll accept the online lab transfer credit. For pre-health requirements, students should check with the schools they’re considering applying to, to see if the schools have communicated a policy about online laboratory courses