Spring 2020 Academic Policy Changes

Undergraduate Academic Relief for Spring 2020 Courses (Updated 4/22/2020)

  • Any courses currently taken by undergraduates (that are classified as letter grade courses) can be designated Pass/Fail by June 1, 2020 (updated on April 22, 2020). In all cases, a drop that occurs after the last day of class will be considered a “rare situation” as defined in the General Announcements and be noted by a “NG" on the transcript. Students who in a later semester take a course designated as “NG” in Spring 2020 and earn a grade may have the Spring 2020 record of the course removed from their transcript if the student so requests of the Registrar.
  • Courses designated Pass/Fail in the Spring 2020 semester will not count against the normal allocation of Pass/Fail courses allotted to undergraduate students.
  • Courses with grades of “P” will be allowed to meet undergraduate major, minor, or certificate course requirements – ONLY for Spring 2020 courses.
  • The deadline for all undergraduates to drop a course has also been extended to June 1, 2020 (updated on April 22, 2020).
  • The deadline for graduate students to drop a course has been extended to the last day of classes for the Spring 2020 semester.
  • Because the audit deadline is tied to the drop deadline, the deadline to designate a course as “Audit” has also been extended June 1, 2020 (updated on April 22, 2020). Students should keep in mind that you cannot change from audit to credit at this time—only credit to audit, credit to drop, or audit to drop.
  • EX&S will hear petitions from students for extenuating circumstances related to courses in spring 2020.

Graduation Accommodations for Spring 2020 Degree Candidates

  • Undergraduate and graduate students at Rice will not be unduly penalized academically in the case that courses in progress in Spring 2020 are not offered for completion in Spring 2020 as a result of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Dean of Undergraduates will work with EX&S to identify, to the extent possible, potential exemptions from the Spring 2020 semester and bring them forward for approval of an exception at the December 2020 Faculty Senate Plenary Meeting.
  • In sum, students will not be “unduly penalized academically” if any courses in progress cannot be offered for completion due to the university’s response to the pandemic.

General FAQs:

  • Can you P/F or drop a FWIS? Yes, For Spring 2020 only.
  • Can you P/F a course that is designated as a S/U? No, it is not a class currently classified as a letter grade course, so the distinction of S/U will still apply.
  • What if the course is a major requirement, can you still P/F it? Yes, only for Spring 2020, and it will still count towards your major/minor/certificate requirements.
  • Is Degree Works going to be adjusted to account for these new rules? Yes, the Office of the Registrar is working on updating Degree Works and expects to have this completed on or by Monday, April 6, 2020.
  • Do I have to physically go into ESTHER and designate each course P/F? Yes, you must do this for each and every course.
  • Will uncovering rules still apply? Yes, you will still have until the second week of the following semester to uncover grades to any P/F courses from the Spring 2020 semester.
  • What would the last day be for seniors (May undergraduate degree candidates only) to convert the P/F designations to an earned letter grade for the Spring 2020 term? Wednesday, May 20, 2020.
  • To further expand on this pre-health P/F dilemma, we want to remind students that many medical schools are expressing concern with the P/F or CR/NC grading systems being employed, so thankfully Rice is giving letter grades, but also giving students the option to cover their grades for Spring 2020.
  • If I am an undergraduate that is taking some graduate courses (courses numbered 500-level and above), will I be able to declare those courses as P/F? Yes, but one important point, only the degree audits for undergraduate level programs will be modified to allow Spring 2020 “P" grades to be accepted for major/minor/certificate requirements. Graduate-level academic programs (such as professional master’s degrees) will not have this provision made to allow P-grades for Spring 2020 coursework.
  • How can I receive help in my courses this semester? To help academically support our students who may be located all over the world, the Fellows/Mentors community has prepared this spreadsheet listing all virtual office hours, review sessions, and one-on-one sessions. Please login to your Rice Gmail account to preview.

Information on Summer 2020 courses at Rice can be found here: https://registrar.rice.edu/students/summersessions

Pre-Professional COVID Considerations

We know that many of you are anxious about the potential impact of the pandemic on your future goals, whether that be a job, graduate school, health professions school, or law school. The OAA is trying to stay abreast to the rapidly changing landscape and keep you informed so that you can make good decisions.

Below is the most current and accurate information we have received and our best advice on how to handle the situation. We plan to continuously update this page as the situation evolves and more information is released. As always, if we can help you in any way, please reach out to your advisors in the OAA.

Generally, why the power of choice (P/F/Grade) is intended to benefit all students. Consider these:

  1. Many students have worked very hard this semester, value their grades earned, and want to benefit from their success.

  2. Some students strategically planned this semester as a prerequisite or science heavy semester to help them with their GPA and feel like the option to P/F or accept grades works to their advantage.

  3. If P/F was mandatory for all courses this semester, some professional schools might not make exceptions to grading protocols, which could then potentially force a student to re-take a course in which they had performed well. Some would then need to take summer classes or re-work their academic plans to accommodate.

  4. In addition, many professional schools recommend that given the choice, students choose letter grades for courses in which they will earn a C or better. They understand that if you choose a P for the final grade, it will neither improve or negatively affect your GPA. However, it is difficult to prove the level of learning with a P grade when compared with a letter grade, especially when considering the rigor of upper-level courses and courses in your major.

  5. The open options allow individual students flexibility to consider the multitude of personal hardships and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Rice’s academic rules changes align with what many of our peer institutions are doing to help assist students this semester.

  6. Similarly, the policies take into consideration scholarship requirements that might include grade commitments or thresholds for continued funding. We cannot be sure all models will accommodate generously or consistently given the situation, some may still require grades.

  7. Some students who have not performed so well in previous semesters (for a variety of reasons), may actually now be in a better position to succeed this semester and therefore want/need their grades from this semester to be able to improve their GPA (ex. Minimum graduation requirements, remaining in good academic standing, etc.)

We in the OAA are grateful that the Faculty Senate made inclusive and broad academic policy changes this semester so students have the ability to make choices best for their specific situations.

Pre-Medical Students

In general, medical schools recognize the unprecedented times and have indicated to us that they are wholeheartedly willing to work with applicants to make sure their questions are answered and their concerns are addressed.

MCAT

The Association for American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has issued a statement recognizing that they have had to suspend or reschedule many exam dates. For these reasons, AAMC Services are working to modify processes and operations to safely test students and support student applications to medical school. Regardless, they have indicated that they are committed to testing everyone who wants to test for the 2021 application cycle. Here is the official MCAT Coronavirus page for the latest information.

Pass/Fail/Grades for Prerequisite Coursework/Science Coursework


Can I P/F prerequisite pre-med courses or science courses for pre-med/pre-health programs? This varies school to school. Many have told us they will make accommodations for the Spring 2020 term, but some have indicated that if a student has a choice, they should not P/F.


In helping you make a decision to pass/fail you should ask yourself: Do I have enough compelling science grades/a strong MCAT score that would allow for a P instead of a grade, such that schools can still be convinced that I have enough science rigor background that would make me competitive?

We suggest students proceed with caution before permanently designating a science course as P/F, but fortunately you have time to uncover and make changes, so you can use the safety net and always adjust your selections once you have earned a grade.

This is a fluid situation and programs are updating their websites to be even more flexible regarding COVID-19’s impact on admissions and prerequisite work. Many even expressing much more leniency than first reported. Many schools have issued updates now embracing the P/F option, when otherwise they did not originally. A few examples are found below:

Baylor College of Medicine: https://www.bcm.edu/education/schools/medical-school/md-program/admissions/requirements

Harvard Medical School: https://meded.hms.harvard.edu/admissions-prerequisite-courses

University of Michigan Medical School: https://medicine.umich.edu/medschool/education/md-program/md-admissions/requirements

Yale Medical School: https://medicine.yale.edu/education/admissions/

Texas Medical, Dental, and Veterinary Schools are posting official updates to their specific policies through the Texas Health Education Services Newsroom. We strongly suggest you continue to monitor this page for the most accurate information from each school.

We will make every effort to supply you with national medical school information, but please be patient as we compile accurate information from medical schools across the country.

The specific information as it relates to the Osteopathic (DO) schools can be found here.

Click here to read statements from medical school deans in Texas and California.

Other Health Professions Tracks

Testing & Application/School Information

Please refer to this link to check the status updates for your individual program. Information on programs ranging from dental schools to pharmacy schools is provided here.

General Ideas for Pre-Health Students During COVID-19

Wondering how you can give-back, stay busy, or contribute as a pre-health student during this time? Here are some ideas for pre-health students during COVID-19.

Pre-Graduate Students

GRE

Educational Testing Services (ETS) has issued statements on how COVID-19 has impacted GRE test dates. As of March 27, the GRE General Test can be taken at home that will be conducted using live remote proctors by ProctorU. This option is available in selected countries. If a test date has been cancelled or postponed, ETS is waiving all rescheduling fees. You can visit ETS’ official Coronovirus webpage for more information. Similarly, if you are interested in learning how COVID-19 is impacting graduate programs, you can visit the Council of Graduate Schools web page for updates and information. You can also contact the programs directly to learn how they are responding to the pandemic.

GMAT

The General Management Admission Council (GMAC) is working with testing centers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. GMAT testing has been suspended in many worldwide locations, and to accomodate students an alternate, online version of GMAT is being prepared. This interim MCAT will provide a comparable structure, number of items, and scoring as delivered in test centers and remote proctors will be used to maintain integrity. The goal is to have this interim test available by mid-April, and you can learn more by visiting GMAC’s official Cornovirus webpage.

Pre-Law Students

Law schools recognize the tumultuous times that we are currently living in and have indicated that they are willing to work with applicants to ensure their questions are answered and concerns are addressed. The list of FAQs below have been compiled with the collaboration and guidance of the following professional organizations: Pre-Law Advisors National Council, Southwest Association of Prelaw Advisors, Law School Admissions Council, National Association of Law Placement, and the American Bar Association.

What about the LSAT?

The March 30th LSAT has been cancelled. Everyone who is signed up to take the exam that date has been automatically switched to the April 25th sitting (or the June 8th test sitting for those who had signed up to take it abroad). On, April 7, 2020, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) officially made the decision to offer "an online, remotely proctored version of the LSAT, called the LSAT-Flex, in the second half of May for test takers who were registered for the April test. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic closely and will make other LSAT-Flex test dates available this spring and summer if the situation warrants. We plan to resume the in-person LSAT once conditions allow, in strict accordance with public health authorities and using all necessary health and safety measures. In the meantime, the remotely proctored LSAT-Flex will provide candidates with the opportunity to earn an LSAT score even if the COVID-19 crisis makes it impossible to deliver the test in-person. Candidates currently registered for the April 2020 LSAT will be automatically registered to take the LSAT-Flex in the second half of May unless they choose to receive a coupon to use for a different LSAT date...This coupon will cover the full price of the test date it is used for. This form must be submitted no later than April 15, 2020, at 11:59 pm (ET). We will announce the exact date and instructions for the May LSAT-Flex no later than Friday, April 17." For more information, please visit the LSAT-Flex website.

Given the uncertainties around the outbreak, LSAC is waiving the test date change fee for all April registrants to switch to the June or July test. April registrants wishing to change their date without a fee, must complete the official LSAT Test Date Change request form by April 13, 2020 at 11:59 pm EST.

Further, the LSAC announced a new policy in light of this pandemic, so that “any candidate who registered for the March 2020 or April 2020 LSAT, and has a canceled score from a previous LSAT, will now have the opportunity to review their canceled score and restore that canceled score to their record if they choose...Candidates who choose to restore a previously canceled score may not re-cancel in the future; it will be a part of their candidate record.” These candidates will have until April 30 to make a decision. Those that are eligible for this have been notified via email with instructions on how to proceed.

LSAC is currently exploring alternative options for LSAT administration that help to protect the safety and health of the test-takers and administrators. These could include: secure remote-proctored tests, additional spring/summer administration, and other options that would meet public health guidelines.

For more information and updates, please read through the LSAC COVID-19 webpage and FAQs.

Should I consider taking the GRE instead?

Approximately 54 law schools (and counting!), including 10 of the T-14 schools, now accept the GRE to meet their standardized testing requirements for admission. Taking the GRE instead of the LSAT will not adversely affect your chances of getting accepted or being considered for merit-based scholarships. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) announced that they are providing an at-home testing option for those affected by COVID-19 test site cancellations. Ultimately, this decision will be up to you. You should ask yourself the following questions to help you as you make this decision: Do the schools I am interested in applying to accept the GRE? Do I feel like I can adequately prepare for the GRE? Do I feel comfortable with my writing abilities to be graded, if I take the GRE? Do I enjoy or excel at the logic games portion of the LSAT, or do I prefer the quantitative reasoning questions on the GRE? Do you prefer the tablet version or a computer based test? Which test will accurately assess your skill and ability to be successful in law school? As you make your decision, consider taking a practice test in both and make a comparison of the structure/style of the questions and which one suits you best. You can find a practice GRE test here and a practice LSAT test here.

Will law schools take into account how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted test prep and might impact test experiences moving forward?

Law schools complete a holistic review on all applications, regardless of admission year. This means that they will not just look at your LSAT/GRE score and GPA alone. While your academics are a large component of the decision-making process, they take into consideration a whole range of factors that have contributed to who you will be as a future law student and lawyer. Thus, law schools will likely be understanding of current circumstances and the challenges that they have caused.

What if my legal internship has been canceled? How will this affect my application?

Law schools do not expect or require you to have a legal or law-related internship prior to attending law school. Thus, participating in one will not “make or break” your application to law school. Law schools are more concerned with learning what you have done with your time and what you learned from these experiences. If your legal internship has been canceled, do not fret about its effects on the admissions process. Instead, consider pursuing another opportunity that is meaningful to you. This could include volunteering to help people more seriously impacted by the epidemic, caring for loved ones, finding a job to replace lost income, etc. Whatever you pursue, make sure that it will add to the narrative you plan to present to law schools. Additionally, you can explain this using an addenda in your application to law school; be sure to explain how you adjusted to the unexpected developments resulting from the pandemic.

If a law-related internship is important for helping you to decide whether a legal career is for you, consider other experiences in the fall/spring semester to help you make this decision. These could include a CCD Externship, CCD Career Crawl, HART Research, ASB trip, Legal/Judicial Practicum, Intro to Law course, Rice University Pre-Law Society event, etc. If you planned on applying in Fall 2020, you can also consider pushing back your application to a future cycle to give you more time to explore your options and prospective career pathway(s). There are no downsides in taking gap year(s) to help ensure this is the right path, and an internship during the year or a post-grad legal job could help you in making this decision.

What can I do instead, if my internship gets cancelled for the summer?

You can take online classes, look for online opportunities to learn new skills, develop/update your LinkedIn profile, polish your resume, work on personal statement, network virtually, complete informational interviews with lawyers/judges in the field, research the types of organizations you would want to work for, learn as much as possible about the work you are interested in, self-study for the LSAT (score is good for years!), look for remote work, and volunteer virtually. There are a lot of opportunities still available; just find the one that works best for you, your goals, and your interests.

How will law schools view my Pass/Fail grades?

The LSAC has made note of this: “law schools are fully aware of and understand that many undergraduate schools are going to some version of a pass/fail grading system for Spring 2020. In fact, many law schools are making the same decision for their current students. Law schools will be understanding of the situation and will not penalize any applicant for having Pass/Fail grades. LSAC will place a letter in the CAS report of every applicant enrolled during Spring 2020, to remind law school going forward that the semester was one in which many schools changed their grading systems in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ultimately, law schools are going to look at your grades holistically, over the course of the entirety of your undergraduate career. They will not just look at each semester independent of the others. Further, law schools welcome addenda in the application to explain anomalies in your academic record; a brief explanation of the circumstances will suffice to allay any concerns they might have about your academic preparation for a rigorous law school curriculum and past successes in academic coursework.

There may be law schools that would still prefer to see your academic coursework for a letter grade, but they will likely be understanding of the multitude of circumstances out of your control that may not allow you to do so (e.g. limited internet connectivity, additional family responsibilities, undue financial burden, etc.). With this in mind, taking a limited number of courses as Pass/Fail this semester will not keep you from gaining admission into law school. However, think through what other factors law schools will see that can help them to accurately assess your academic performance, such as previous semester grades, future semester grades, and standardized test scores.

What are top law schools saying about COVID-19?

See for yourself what Michigan Law says here.

Are law schools extending their seat deposit deadlines?

If you have already been accepted to law school, congratulations! Law schools are still proceeding with their seat deposit deadlines, many starting as early as April 15th. However, law school admissions officers are always open to considering deadline extensions on a case-by-case basis. If you have specific reasons for how your decision has been impacted by the crisis, then contact the schools directly to request this extension.

I cannot visit a law school due to travel restrictions. Will law schools grant me an extension for my seat deposit deadline? How do I make this decision if I cannot visit the law school(s)?

Law schools will likely deny a seat deposit extension for those that cannot make a decision by the deadline, due to visit day cancellations. Given that the situation will not likely change before the deposit deadline an extension will not really help in making this decision. It is important to visit law schools to help get a deeper understanding of a law school culture. Given that many visit weekends are cancelled, you can research this by attending virtual visit days, taking virtual tours, and talking with faculty, students, and alums of the law school. Many admissions offices are more than happy to put you in touch with current students, particularly those that match your interests or background. Additionally, many Rice alums have offered to share their law school experiences as a current student or alum in the Rice Pre-Law Facebook Group. You can also use Sallyportal or LinkedIn to find other Rice alums and reach out to them with your questions.

I have questions personal to my situation as a pre-law, who can I talk to about this?

Joyce and Marcos in the Office of Academic Advising are more than happy to talk with you over the phone or Google Meet about your personal situation and how it relates to law school. If you are a Rice student or alum interested in law school, please call 713-348-4060 or email aadv@rice.edu to schedule your virtual appointment today!

Wonderful Resources to Consult

Office | Ley Student Center, Suite 132

Phone | 713.348.4060

Email | aadv@rice.edu