Where do I find information about Penn State's response to the Coronavirus and return to campus?

See the Penn State Coronavirus FAQ page for ongoing information about the University's response and the Keep Learning site for information about Spring 2021 classes. 

Alternative Grading Decision Worksheet - Fall 2020

How is alternative grading different for fall 2020?

  • Some administratively controlled majors (such as majors in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, the Smeal College of Business, and the Colleges of Engineering and IST) have identified a list of entrance-to-major (ETM) courses for which alternative grades cannot be used to satisfy the ETM requirements (unless the course was taken in spring 2020).
  • A student who has received an academic sanction as a result of a violation of academic integrity will not be allowed to select alternative grading for that course.
  • Courses for which students elect alternative grades in fall 2020 CANNOT be used in the grade forgiveness process. This means that a SAT grade taken in fall 2020 cannot be used to exclude a previous D or F from the GPA calculation.
  • To be considered for Dean’s List in fall 2020, students will need to have at least 12 credits carrying standard letter grades (i.e. A to F grades).
  • Courses for which students utilize alternative grades in fall 2020 will NOT count in meeting the minimum credit requirement to be considered for graduation with distinction.

This page is intended for students who are considering alternative grades for the fall 2020 semester only.

If you chose alternative grades for any other semester, please choose the appropriate semester to be sure you follow the correct procedures.

Visit the Keep Learning website.

The information below intends to give you a better understanding of the new option for alternative grading in the fall 2020 semester. Please a) read this document, b) consult the Alternative Grading Flowchart, and, if needed, c) consult with your academic adviser. If your cumulative GPA is 2.33 or below, before electing alternative grades, strongly consider consulting your academic adviser. Additional information can be found at https://remotelearning.psu.edu/alternative-grading.


Definitions of alternative grading letters
Alternative Grade Definition
  • Available if a student earns a C or better in a course
  • Does not impact GPA
  • Can be used to meet prerequisites requiring a C or better
  • Counts toward total credits earned and semester standing

Some administratively controlled majors (such as majors in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, the Smeal College of Business, and the Colleges of Engineering and IST) prohibit the use of SAT grades in select courses. Learn more on the Keep Learning website

  • Available if a student earns a D in a course
  • Considered a passing grade
  • Does not impact GPA
  • Can be used to meet requirements for which D is an acceptable grade
  • Cannot be used to meet C or better requirements
  • Counts toward total credits earned and semester standing
(No Grade)
  • Available if a student earns an F in a course
  • Can be used to replace an F grade and will be treated similarly to if the student had late-dropped the class
  • Does not impact GPA
  • Does not count toward total credits earned or semester standing
Definitions retrieved from https://www.registrar.psu.edu/grades/alternative-grading-system/fall-2020-grading/index.cfm

Ethical Considerations

Fall 2020 optional alternative grades are designed to serve as a safety net for students whose academic performance was impacted by COVID-19 or circumstances deriving from COVID-19 (e.g. Loss of home, food insecurity, financial insecurity, COVID-related death within the family, etc.). The decision to use alternative grades should not be taken lightly and all attempts at maintaining letter grades should be made. Additional caution should be used when considering alternative grades if you have law, medical, or graduate school aspirations. Before you make any decision toward alternative grading, please visit keeplearning.psu.edu/alternative-grading.  


Alternative grades must be entered into the LionPATH Alternative Grade Calculator and Request Tool between Wednesday, December 23, 2020, and Tuesday, January 12, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Students will only be able to enter this decision once per class; submitted choices are final. Make sure to get answers to any questions that you have before you request alternative grades for your courses. Your assigned adviser can assist you with these questions. Note: the university is closed December 24, 2020, to January 4, 2021. Please hold questions not addressed by 5 p.m. on December 23, 2020, until the university reopens on January 4, 2021. You can begin looking at your grades now using the information found at https://www.registrar.psu.edu/grades/alternative-grading-system/gpa-calculator/index.cfm.

The LionPATH Alternative Grade Calculator and Request Tool can be accessed inside LionPATH. Visit the LionPATH calculator page for instructions

General Guidelines from Penn State:

Is there some guidance on which courses I should convert to alternative grading? 

Even more so than in the spring, it is recommended that students use alternative grading cautiously. We have no control over how outside entities such as graduate schools or employers will view alternative grades, especially when used for multiple semesters. Remember that while various forms of pass/fail grading were widely used in spring 2020, they are much less common now, which may change how alternative grades are viewed. 

In most cases, it will make sense to select alternative grading for those courses in which you earned a D or F. Selecting SAT grades to replace C-or-better grades should be done with care. It is important that your transcript reflect your true accomplishments. Grades of C or better demonstrate these accomplishments, and shielding them from view to elevate your Penn State GPA should be done with caution. In addition to discussing this with your academic adviser, please read the additional guidance on this page. 

From: https://keeplearning.psu.edu/alternative-grading/ (11/16/2020) 


Please use the checklist below to think through whether optional alternative grading is something you should use for your fall 2020 grades.

  1. Find your current cumulative GPA in LionPATH.

    Click on Degree Planning and Progress button in LionPath. then click on GPA Calculator button in LionPATH . You will then see your cumulative GPA under Current Information. See example below.
    Current information section on LionPATH showing the number 29.0 in the Units for GPA field and 2.87 in the Cumulative GPA field.

  2. Determine which letter grade is above your current cumulative GPA.

    You can find the definitions of letter grades on the Faculty Senate website or view the table below.

    Letter Grade Grade-Point Equivalent
    Grade Grade-Point Equivalent
    A 4.00
    A- 3.67
    B+ 3.33
    B 3.00
    B- 2.67
    C+ 2.33
    C 2.00
    D 1.00
    F 0.00

    In the example from step 1 above:

    • Any letter grade of B / 3.00 or higher (B, B+, A-, and A) would improve the student’s CGPA, and advisers would recommend that you keep your letter grade.
    • Any letter grade of B- / 2.67 or lower (B-, C+, C, D, and F) would decrease the student’s CGPA, and advisers would recommend that you consider the optional alternative grading.
  3. Review the specific entrance-to-major and licensure/certification considerations, if applicable.

    If you are considering a major in...

    • Smeal College of Business, College of Information Sciences and Technology, or College of Engineering: View alternative grade considerations.
      • Actuarial Science: Students must earn a letter grade of a B- or better in the following courses to be eligible for VEE certification courses requiring: ECON 102, ECON 104, ACCTG 211, FIN 301, and STAT 415. You may not elect alternative grades in these courses.
    • College of Education: View the course considerations.
    • Eberly College of Science: The college will accept SAT grades for all ETM courses. Caution should be used when considering alternative grades if you have law, medical, or graduate school aspirations. Consult an adviser if you have questions or need additional guidance.
    • Communication Sciences and Disorders: View alternative grade considerations.
    • Advertising and Public Relations: For fall 2020 alternative grades: Letter grades must be present for ENGL 15 or any of the permitted substitutions: ENGL 30, ESL 15, ENGL 137H, or CAS 137H. For spring 2020 alternative grades: SAT grades are accepted for ENGL 15 and ECON 102. V and Z grades do not satisfy this requirement. 
    • Film/Video and Film Production: For fall 2020 and spring 2020 alternative grading, students must have grade of B in COMM 150 and COMM 242. SAT, V, and Z grades do not satisfy this requirement.
  4. Review the specific student population information below, if applicable.

    If you have additional concerns, further details can be found in the FAQs at https://remotelearning.psu.edu/alternative-grading.

  5. Review important information on academic warning status, if applicable.

    Students in academic warning have a cumulative grade point average (GPA) below 2.00 and should work closely with their academic adviser to carefully consider accepting alternative grades. To return to good standing, students must earn a cumulative GPA of 2.00 (C) or higher. This generally means earning grades of C+ (2.33) or higher to offset recovery points. For more information on academic standing, please review policy 54-00: Academic Policy.

  6. If you receive student aid, please read over the information about financial aid considerations at the bottom of the Keep Learning website carefully, and if you have concerns, please consult with Student Aid about how alternative grades could impact you financially.