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FAQ: Changing a Grade to Pass

What’s this all about?  Once per academic year, every upper-level J.D. student will be allowed to retroactively convert one grade into a “Pass.”  This is intended to encourage students to sign up for small classes without worrying that they might be stuck with a low grade.  The Pass will be substituted for the grade on the student’s transcript and will be used when GPAs and class ranks are next calculated.  (A grade of Pass gives credit for the course but does not affect GPA.) 

What grades can I change?  You cannot change a grade in any first-year class or any professional responsibility class, and you cannot change a grade of C or lower.  All other grades from fall 2017 or later are fair game.

How many grades can I change?  You can change one grade per academic year, starting in your second year.

When can I do this?  There will be two one-week periods each year when you can make a grade change (or three periods, if you take any summer courses).  You’ll be notified when it begins, but it will be soon after grades are released.  During each period, you can change any grade that you received during that academic year (defined as summer, then fall, then spring).  Therefore:

  • During the period following the summer semester, you may change a grade you received that summer (if any).
  • During the period following the fall semester, you may change a grade you received during the summer or fall.
  • And during the period following the spring semester, you can change a grade that you received during the summer, fall, or spring.

Keep in mind, however, that anytime you make a grade change, you have used up that year’s opportunity and must live with all grades you receive for the rest of that academic year.  For example, if you make a change after the fall semester, you won’t be able to change a spring grade.

What if I change a grade and then later regret it—e.g., I change a fall grade but then get an even worse grade in the spring?  Sorry, but no backsies. All grade changes are permanent once submitted.

OK, so why wouldn’t I always wait until spring grades are released, and then decide what to do?  Because class ranks will be calculated after changes are made to fall grades.  And those ranks won’t be recalculated again until after spring semester.  So if you wait to change a fall grade, you won’t get the advantage of the higher GPA and rank until after spring semester.

Any other limits?  I am glad you asked!  Yes: Over the course of your law school career, you can only change a maximum of seven credits.  So, for example, if you change a grade in a six-credit course in your second year, you’ll only be able to change the grade in a one-credit course in your third year.

How does this affect honors like cum laude and Order of the Coif?  Honors are not officially calculated until grade changes are made. (Note that the program printed at commencement will list honors based on grades through the fall, because spring grades won’t be done yet. That means the honors in the program are just an unofficial prediction.)

Will employers care?  Many law schools have some sort of Pass/Fail option, so employers should be used to seeing a Pass on a transcript.  But keep in mind that employers rely on your transcript as evidence of your commitment to and aptitude for your stated practice area preferences.  So they may possibly draw a negative inference if you have a Pass for a course within your preferred practice area.  Feel free to consult with your CDO adviser on this issue.

Is there an official policy somewhere, rather than a FAQ?  Yes, it’s under “Grading Policy” on our Academic Regulations page.

Why is this so complicated?  Because lawyers.