California AB 104: What Does It Mean For Me?

close up of photo of books
Julia de Raadt
Julia de Raadt

Julia has dedicated much of her career to education. Since commencing with Empowerly, Julia has looked after the research team which handles student questions on different topics about college admission.

In recent weeks, California passed a bill (AB 104) to give students who have struggled with the impacts of online learning during the 2020-21 year to recover from their poorer grades. Here we explain the bill and the opportunities it provides to students to make up for lower grades. We also look a bit deeper into one element of the bill, the option to change poorer grades to Pass/No Pass, and what students should be aware of if they decide to take up this option.

The California AB 104 explained

The AB 104 has three elements:

  1. High school students can opt for pass/no pass to any grade received during the  2020-21 school year. The change cannot negatively impact a student’s GPA. For example if an F converts to a No Pass, the zero credits won’t factor into the GPA. Similarly, changing a “D” or even a “C” letter grade to a “Pass” will likely increase a student’s GPA. 
  2. Elementary and secondary school students who have received D, F or No Pass for at least one half of their coursework during the 2020-21 school year, can opt to repeat the year. If following discussion between student, parents and school administration, everyone agrees that retaking the grade level is not in the student’s best interest, the student will be provided access to other options to recover lost course credits.
  3. Students who were in the 11th and 12th grades in 2020-21 and unable to complete their high school’s coursework requirements needed to graduate, will be exempt and only need to only complete California’s requirements. They can also opt to take an extra year in order to recover those course credits.

It’s a welcome relief for students whose education has been derailed by the pandemic and many students are likely to take up these options. We at Empowerly, have had some students enquire about the option to change letter grade to Pass/No Pass; and my guess is that this element of the bill is the most likely to be most popular among students. So what are the implications of California AB 104, and can it have any adverse effects?

It can increase your GPA

The most consequential effect of this change is you no longer need to fret over the poorer grade/s you may have received during the pandemic. The F, or even D or C you  got will no longer be counted towards your GPA. Any blemishes on your transcript can be wiped away and your GPA as a result can only be increased.

But converting too many grades to Pass/No pass may hurt your chances…

You may decide to change several letter grades (including any grades that aren’t a perfect A) to Pass. However, too many changes from a letter grade to Pass/No pass grade may prevent college admissions from being able to assess your true academic ability. Admission officers may even suspect that you have something to hide if too many of these grades appear on your transcript, which could have adverse effects on your admission chances. 

For this reason, you choose carefully and give plenty of consideration to the number of Pass/No Pass grades versus the number of letter grades you will have on your transcript. 

Not all colleges will accept these changes

The other downside of changing to P/F is that some colleges, including out-of-state colleges, may not accept these Pass/No Pass grades. However this shouldn’t prevent you from applying for a change to Pass/No Pass. In the case a college does not accept them, you can supply your original transcript with letter grades.

You can view here a list of California colleges that will accept changes from letter grade to P/F grade. This includes the UCs, CSUs (legally required to participate), and some private colleges. Given its only recent announcement, many out-of-state colleges may still not have made up their minds on whether to accept these grade changes. If you are planning on applying out-of-state, you should speak to the admission office on what policy applies.   

What is the deadline for requesting this change?

The deadline for submitting an application varies between school district. Some schools are asking students to provide their request for change as early as August 12 and up until August 31, 2021. If you are unsure, speak to your school administration to ensure that you get your applications in on time!

If you are struggling to understand the implications of California AB 104 on your high school transcript, or more generally are worried about how your high school grades will stack up against your peers when applying to colleges, we are here! Reach out to learn more about our program and how we can help. Book a free consultation below to receive a customized recommendation for your college application plan.

Questions? Let us know!