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Pass/No Pass Option: The Pros & Cons

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April 22, 2020 - 10:24 AM

Student on internet with phoneIn the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown, most Mt. SAC courses went online as the campus was closed. Administrators knew that many students had never taken an online course before (although the college already had hundreds available), and they might struggle with this transition. Last week, it was announced that for most courses, students could elect to either receive a letter grade or take a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) option instead.

We spoke with Lina Soto, the Associate Dean of Counseling, and Silver Calzada, the Department Chair and professor of Counseling to find out the pros and cons of the P/NP option.

Lina Soto“Any student considering the P/NP option should first consult a counselor,” said Soto. “Not having a letter grade in some classes can affect transferring and applying to graduate school.”



Silver Calzada“Students who are doing well this semester probably should not consider the P/NP option,” said Calzada. “Earning a good letter grade improves your grade point average (GPA) and that will be used as you apply to four-year Universities and graduate schools. There is also a chance you may end up changing your planned major and that letter grade can be of use later on.”

Student watches professor on laptop“On the flip side to that, a stellar student who had problems this semester might not want to hurt their GPA, so the P/NP may be a great choice” explained Soto. “While the units will transfer to a four-year college; with P/NP, it’s a matter of how their new college will count them to their general education and their major.”  

The P/NP option allows students to earn credit for a course without jeopardizing their GPA. A student who would normally be getting a “C” or better in class will receive a “Pass,” or they will receive a “No Pass” for any grade under that. The P/NP does not get calculated into their GPA, but the units still get rewarded with a Pass. However, no units are rewarded for a No Pass.

Student learning remotelyTHERE’S NO RUSH

The most important thing to remember is that there is no rush for a student to decide. The deadline to take the P/NP option happens only after a student can see what they would get as a letter grade. Students will get an email with a letter grade the Tuesday of the week following their final, which will provide directions on how to change their grade option through the student portal and when the deadline is.

“They will have until Thursday at 5pm to change their grading option,” said Soto. “Since a student will only have about a day and half to change this, they should meet with a counselor early to discuss which option is right for their situation. We won’t be able to serve all of our students in those two days. Also, we may need time to research their situation and the school they want to transfer to. Set up an appointment today if you are considering it.”

“If they know early enough whether this option will work for them, they can either focus on other classes or work harder to achieve a good letter grade,” Calzada. 

Counseling staff March 2018COUNSELORS ARE READY TO HELP

Which brings up the second most important thing: that Mt. SAC counselors are working from home and are ready to advise students on this critical decision. Students may elect various methods of virtual counseling at the Online Counseling Website.

“We are still waiting for the Cal States to give us a full briefing on classes they will accept a P/NP,” Calzada said. “We know that the general education classes, and even the golden four (English 1A & 1C, transfer-level Math and Speech) can be done P/NP for Cal State Universities. However, some major-prep classes will probably have to be taken for a letter grade. Furthermore, what holds true for Cal States will not necessarily hold true for UC’s, private universities and out-of-state colleges. We are waiting as they adapt to this new situation.”

“It’s a great option, but it is also a very difficult and complex one as well,” said Soto. “There is no ‘one answer fits all’ with P/NP,” said Soto.

“Another thing to consider is that all Cal States have reduced the number of units needed to transfer to 48, down from 60. That is a huge relief,” said Calzada. “Even if a student earns a “D” in a course, they can still apply that letter grade and get the full units for transfer to a Cal State. With a NP, they do not get the units.”

“Just contact us,” said Calzada. “Ask us ‘what do you think? That’s what we are here for.”    

Student takes class remotelyP/NP MAY NOT BE ON THE TABLE

“Some courses will require a letter grade and P/NP will not be an option,” explained Calzada. “Usually, this is because of rules and regulations in accreditation or licensing requirements. If you’re not sure, you can speak to a counselor.”

The Counseling Department is offering appointments over phone, email-based, or video counseling, Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.  Use the Online appointment scheduler or call (909) 346-3717 or  (626) 387-3930.

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