Guidance from HPPLC on Health Profession School Policies with Respect to S/F Grading

Many pre-health students have questions in light of the new policies established at Indiana University Bloomington for the spring 2020 semester on ‘S’ or ‘Satisfactory’ grades. We wanted to write and provide some guidance for you on what we know in this rapidly evolving situation about how health profession schools will treat courses with grades of ‘S’ for the spring 2020 semester. Updates will be posted at https://guidebook.hpplc.indiana.edu/resources/covid-19.html.

We encourage you to continue to devote about 30 hours per week to academic preparation outside of class.  For some students this semester will offer a new opportunity to focus on academics with fewer distractions during the stay-at-home restrictions.

Medical and Health Profession Schools

In the past most medical and health profession schools have required that admissions courses be completed with a standard letter grade, rather than a ‘Satisfactory’ grade.  Many medical and health profession schools are adopting special policies that apply just for the spring 2020 semester that allow for acceptance of some ‘S’ grades under particular circumstances, but these vary from school to school.  Some medical/health profession schools have set policies to accept all courses with ‘Satisfactory’ grades.  Other schools have stated they will only accept courses with ‘Satisfactory’ grades if all courses at the institution, or in a particular course, are graded only on an S/F basis. In the latter cases, if the student has an option to receive a standard letter grade in a course, they will expect the student to do so.  If you are concerned to know whether specific schools will accept courses with ‘S’ grades you should consult the policies of those schools to help you in making decisions.

The FAQ’s below provide some additional guidance.

FAQ’s

If I’m concerned about my performance in a class and I’m considering whether to take a ‘W’ or an ‘S’ which would be preferable?

If you feel confident you can perform at an acceptable level, completing the course with an ‘S’ grade would be preferable.  You would be able to continue to make overall progress toward graduation and completion of coursework required for health professions school admission, and it is likely that some professional schools would accept the course with an ‘S’ grade. If you determined later on that a school where you may matriculate will not accept the course with the ‘S’ grade, you could then choose to retake the course at that time.

Even if ‘Satisfactory’ grades may be accepted, will most health profession schools still prefer that students complete a course with a standard letter grade rather than an ‘S’?

Yes, most health profession schools continue to indicate that they would prefer to see that students complete a course with a standard letter grade that reflects the student’s mastery of the material at a high level, rather than an ‘S’ grade.

If I receive an ‘S’ grade in a course that is required for health professions school admission in spring 2020, should I plan to retake the course the following semester for a standard letter grade?

We believe the best advice would be that you should not repeat the course the following semester as long as you have mastered the course material at a sufficient level to move onto further coursework.  Students cannot know at this early stage where they will matriculate for health professions education.  We would not want to have students retaking courses that they do not need to retake.  If at a later stage you have confirmed that a particular health profession school where you may matriculate will not accept the grade of ‘S’ you could decide at that time to make arrangements to retake the course.

Do you have additional advice?

Yes.  We encourage you to continue to focus on academics and building a foundation for your future coursework.  For some students this semester will offer a new opportunity to focus on academic study with fewer distractions during the stay-at-home restrictions. We encourage you to continue to devote about 30 hours per week to academic preparation outside of class.  For further recommendations on transitioning to online learning please consult these helpful Online Learning Strategies.

Information on Policies for Specific Health Profession Schools

This document is being used to track policies set by medical schools on acceptance of Satisfactory/Pass grades.

 Indiana University Occupational Therapy Program ‘Satisfactory’ grades will be accepted for required admissions courses.

Indiana University Physical Therapy Program ‘Satisfactory’ grades will be accepted for required admissions courses.

Indiana University Physician Assistant Program ‘Satisfactory’ grades will be accepted for required admissions courses.

 Indiana University School of Dentistry A decision is still pending on acceptance of ‘Satisfactory’ grades.

Indiana University School of Medicine A decision is still pending on acceptance of ‘Satisfactory’ grades.

Indiana University School of Optometry  ‘Satisfactory’ grades will be accepted for required admissions courses.

By Kimberly Ecenbarger
Kimberly Ecenbarger Associate Director of Career Services Kimberly Ecenbarger