Academic Life: Frequently Asked Questions
What does my student need to do to remain in good academic standing?
First-semester students must pass at least six credits with a 2.0 semester grade point average. After the first semester, students must pass at least nine credits each semester with a 2.0 overall grade point average. Students who do not meet the grade point average and/or credits passed requirements are placed on probation for one semester and may be subject to dismissal. Students who do not pass six credits in the first semester or who do not meet the terms of their probation in subsequent semesters may be dismissed. Additional information on academic standing may be found in the University Catalog.
Will my student have easy access to her/his adviser and professors?
New students are assigned an academic adviser (a faculty or professional staff member), using information provided by the student in the various materials mailed during the summer. Because all advisers are trained to advise first-year students in any major, students may be initially assigned to an adviser outside their intended major. After the student’s first semester or when a major is selected, he or she may choose a new adviser. Although advisers are concerned with their advisee’s academic welfare, it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to initiate contact with the adviser. Advisers help students understand academic expectations and requirements, choose classes and understand how to access campus resources. Generally, advisers meet with students during posted office hours or by appointment.
How is the first year of study selected? What is an average academic load?
New students are registered over the summer with the help of a team of advisers. Students are sent a Registration Workbook in May that asks them to select course preferences based on intended academic plans, high school background and general interests. These preferences are used, in combination with placement exam scores, transfer or AP credit information and high school performance to create a preliminary schedule for each student. The registration process works to enroll students in appropriate courses that apply to the University’s general education and major requirements. During Orientation Week, each student will meet with her/his academic adviser to make any necessary modifications. Typically, students take an average of 15 credits each semester; the First-Year Seminar class is two credits, so many first-semester, first-year students take 14 or 16 credits.
Do academic advisers help students choose a major or assist with career planning?
Students are not required to declare a major until the spring of their sophomore year, allowing them to thoroughly explore their options before officially declaring a major. Career Services outlines a four-year career planning process and helps students solidify major and career choices via interest testing and individual appointments. The Center for Academic Success also offers major choice resources and hosts the exploratory student meeting during Orientation Week. Academic advisers and faculty members can also assist students in career planning and exploration. Students planning to major in education and attain teaching certification are encouraged to declare the major as early as possible, preferably during their first year. Any student interested in teacher certification should contact a member of the education faculty during the first semester.
When do we find out how much credit our student received for AP tests?
Advanced Placement (AP) subject areas with test scores of four or five always earn credit. An International Baccalaureate (IB) score of at least five earns credit in the same way as AP scores. Academic advisers will have this information to help facilitate registration. Students also receive a copy of their credit evaluation from the Registrar’s Office.
Is class attendance required?
Yes, as stated in the Student Handbook, class attendance is required. Students are expected to attend all regularly scheduled classes and any other time for which credit is granted. At a small university like Southwestern, classes are heavily dependent upon in-class discussion and move at a brisk pace.
If a student is having a tough time in any academic or personal endeavor, is there staff available to go to for advice or consultation?
Yes. In addition to consulting with their adviser, students who have specific academic questions or who are experiencing academic difficulty may seek help from the Center for Academic Success (CAS). The CAS staff can assist students who need help with skill development, excessive absenteeism, disability accommodations and personal or medical problems that affect academic performance. Counseling Services provides students with free, confidential counseling regarding personal issues.
Is tutoring available? How much does it cost?
Tutoring sponsored by Southwestern is free and available in introductory science, math and language courses. Most students in courses which do not have tutors receive help directly from the professor during regular office hours and by appointment. The Center for Academic Success (CAS) can help students make tutorial arrangements. Students may also hire private tutors who charge an hourly rate and are not employed by the University. Southwestern University believes in a system of self-advocacy.
Does Southwestern have a “watchdog” person assigned to first-year students?
While faculty members and CAS staff are always on the lookout for students who may be struggling, it is ultimately a student’s responsibility to take the first step in seeking the help and guidance which is readily available through a variety of campus resources. Faculty will alert CAS staff to specific problems in a student’s performance, attendance or engagement. When these situations occur, CAS staff follow up with the student to create a plan for improvement.
What grading system does Southwestern use?
Southwestern uses an A, B, C, D, F grading system; the grades of A, B, C and D may be awarded with a plus or minus. Additionally, a grade of P (Pass for a C- or better) may be awarded but does not count in a student’s grade point average (GPA). Please refer to the University Catalog for specific instructions on determining the grade point average and for additional details regarding the grading system.
Are semester grades sent to parents?
Because students may view their grades online, grade reports generally are not mailed. The best ways to see grades is to ask your student. Parents may request copies of final grades at the conclusion of each semester, provided your student has signed a release allowing this to happen. If they missed doing this prior to Orientation, they may file a release in the Registrar’s Office. The authorization to release grades to parents is effective until rescinded by the student. Due to government regulations regarding student privacy, student performance cannot be discussed with parents without the student’s explicit written permission.
Who can talk to me about my student’s academic performance and what can they tell me?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits the release of student information without written consent from the student and Southwestern University complies with this law. Although some students still may be the financial (and perhaps legal) responsibility of their parents, this does not automatically entitle the parents access to student data. When students sign a release to issue their grades to their parents, the release only covers grades and not performance. If your student gives written consent to faculty or an administrator to discuss his or her progress with you, only the information specifically stated in the release will be discussed. For more information, see What Parents and Guardians Should Know About the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Does Southwestern have an Honor Code?
Yes. A long-held tradition at Southwestern University is being true to oneself and others. Students established the Honor Code more than a century ago to commit themselves to academic integrity and to hold each other accountable in their endeavors both inside and outside the classroom. Students write and sign the Honor Pledge when completing every examination, paper, quiz and other professor-designated assignment to reaffirm their commitment to honorable conduct. The Honor Pledge states, “I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not.” If a student is noted to have engaged in dishonorable conduct, the concern is brought to the Honor Code Council. The Honor Code Council is composed of at least 12 students and at least 12 faculty members representing the Division of Humanities, the Division of Social Sciences, the Division of Natural Sciences and The Sarofim School of Fine Arts. While the main purpose of the Honor Code Council is to educate the campus community on the privileges of studying under an Honor Code, the Council also serves as a six-member Hearing Board for Honor Code violations beyond those resolved with Non-Judicial Resolutions. For more information about the Honor Code, visit www.southwestern.edu/academics/honorcode/.
Does Southwestern have a Dean’s List?
Yes. Students are placed on the Dean’s List for a given semester if they attain a grade point average for that semester of at least 3.60 for 12 academic hours of graded coursework, and if they are in good standing with the University. Announcement letters are mailed to students’ permanent addresses.
Paige Bonner ‘92
James W. Hunt, Ed.D.
David Gaines, Ph.D.
Center for Academic Success
Intercultural Learning Staff
Civic Engagement Staff