Statement of Philosophy
Academic advising is an important part of Plymouth State University’s commitment to the process of educating the student. Plymouth State University is committed to providing quality advising service to students in all academic programs. However, attaining this goal requires that both advisors and students understand their perspective roles in the advising process.
Advising assists students to realize the maximum educational benefits available to them by helping them to better understand themselves and to learn to use the resources of the institution to meet their special educational needs.
– David S. Crockett
The foundation of the advising process is the relationship between the advisor and the student. In this process, the advisor helps students to review, select, and reach their educational objectives in a professional, helpful, and mutually respectful atmosphere that allows students to:
- become well informed about policies and procedures, curricular options, and academic program requirements;
- clearly define their educational objectives;
- plan programs which incorporate their interests, abilities, and careers goals; and
- make full use of the facilities and resources available at PSU.
What Is It All About?
Faculty are an integral part of academic advising, and it is critical that they be involved. Advising, effectively delivered, can be a powerful influence on student development and learning, and therefore, be a potent retention force on campus. Academic advising is the best source for accomplishing the task of focusing on services that enable students to clarify their educational and career goals and relate those goals to academic offerings, the route to retention. The advisor is key to this process.
Definition of Academic Advising:
“Academic advising is a developmental process which assists students in the clarification of their life/career goals and in the development of educational plans for the realization of these goals. It is a decision-making process by which students realize their maximum educational potential through communication and information exchanges with an advisor; it is ongoing, multifaceted, and the responsibility of both student and advisor. The advisor serves as a facilitator of communication, a coordinator of learning experiences through course and career planning and academic progress review, and an agent of referral to other campus agencies as necessary.”
– David S. Crockett
The developmental approach to advising goes beyond requirements and registration. It is a person-centered approach that integrates these activities, while also clarifying values, providing information about educational options, and monitoring the student’s educational progress. The main goal is to establish a personal and caring relationship between student and advisor. Developmental advising can promote retention since it provides the personal touch that many students need in order to adjust and succeed in the educational process. Research shows that if students establish a one-on-one rapport and relationship with at least one individual on campus, they are more likely to stay.
(David S. Crockett)
- Care about advisees as people by showing empathy, understanding, and respect.
- Establish a warm, genuine, and open relationship.
- Evidence interest, helpful intent, and involvement.
- Be a good listener.
- Establish a rapport by remembering personal information about advisees.
- Be available; keep office hours and appointments.
- Provide accurate information.
- When in doubt, refer to catalog, advisor’s handbook, call someone, etc.
- Know how and when to make referrals, and be familiar with referral sources.
- Don’t refer too hastily; on the other hand, don’t attempt to handle situations for which you are not qualified (i.e., suicide attempts).
- Have students contact referral sources in your presence (Can they call from your office if an appointment is necessary?).
- Keep in frequent contact with advisees; take the initiative; don’t always wait for students to come to you.
- Don’t make decisions for students; help them make their own decisions. (Decision-making is at the heart of academic advising. “What courses do I need to take next semester?” “What major should I choose?” “Should I drop my math course?” An important role for advisors is to assist students in learning the decision-making process and the skills necessary to become effective and independent decision makers.)
- Focus on advisees’ strengths and potentials rather than limitations.
- Seek out advisees in informal settings.
- Monitor advisees’ progress toward educational goals.
- Determine reasons for poor academic performance and direct advisees to appropriate support services.
- Be realistic with advisees.
- Use all available information sources.
- Clearly outline advisees’ responsibilities. Encourage advisees to consider and develop career alternatives when appropriate.
- Keep an anecdotal record of significant conversations for future reference.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of your advising.
- Don’t be critical of other faculty or staff to advisees.
- Be knowledgeable about career opportunities and job outlook for various majors.
- Encourage advisees to talk by asking open-ended questions.
- Don’t betray confidential information.
- Categorize advisees’ questions; are they seeking action, information, or involvement and understanding.
- Be yourself and allow advisees to be themselves.
Responsibilities of the Student
- Recognize personal responsibility for continuous evaluation of progress toward the objectives set by the University and the ultimate responsibility for all academic choices.
- Formulate social and academic goals in order to optimize life and career choices.
- Become acquainted with the resources at PSU that can increase the likelihood of academic success and help with definition of long-term goals. These include The Bagley Center, Plymouth Academic Support Services (PASS), Office of Undergraduate Studies, the Undergraduate Advising Center, the Writing Center, the Math Activities Center, and the academic advisor.
- Become familiar with academic policies, procedures, and requirements by studying the Academic Catalog, the Student Handbook (on-line), and the current Schedule of Classes.
- Know the graduation requirements for the chosen program in order to monitor progress toward completion of the degree.
- Maintain accurate and current academic records, such as add/drop transactions, transfer credit evaluations, student request copies, and correspondence from beginning to completion of the degree program.
- Initiate regular contact with the advisor.
- Prepare in advance for every meeting with the academic advisor and bring to each meeting the necessary supporting materials such as tentative schedules.
- Follow through on the evaluation of transfer credit from other colleges and universities to assure that transfer credit is applied correctly to PSU degree requirements and on the students’ PSU transcript.
Responsibilities of the Advisor
Most members of the University faculty will be asked to serve as faculty advisors, and the success of the academic affairs program hinges on the extent to which these faculty advisors carry out their responsibilities. The advising process should involve those faculty members who have the knowledge, experience, and interest in developing communication with students that is genuine, sincere, and confidential. Faculty advising of individual students involves being available to assist students in a variety of their life activities while at Plymouth State University. Recognizing that students differ in terms of the variety and urgency of their need for help, advisors should be particularly interested in the academic planning, scholastic achievement, career planning, and social adjustment of their assigned students. Such counseling should be based on the evaluation of skills and abilities and the identification of personal priorities.
The following list of responsibilities suggests some of the functions an advisor might perform:
Registration and Program Advising
- To help the student feel welcome and to provide pertinent general information relative to University life;
- To assist the student in completing registration and utilizing the drop/add process;
- To be certain that the student is familiar with procedures and regulations relative to curricula offered, requirements for graduation, required courses and electives, and the content and values of specific courses;
- To make the student aware that he/she is primarily responsible for the development of an appropriate academic program;
- To establish a basis of contact with the student upon which personal, academic, and administrative process may be integrated.
- To coordinate this University and its offerings with the student’s abilities, needs, and interests;
- To assist the student in the evaluation of scholastic strengths and weaknesses, and planning for improvement;
- To analyze with the student personal efficiency in studying with attention to individual energy, health, and related problems.
- To assist the student in making wise and sufficient selection of suitable activities in line with abilities and interests;
- To encourage the student to give support to worthy and interesting programs for the social good;
- To identify, prevent, or remedy the social maladjustment of the student through observations and conferences;
- To assist the student to develop a sense of personal integrity;
- To use available resources as a means of understanding and helping the individual to meet problems of social relationships in the classroom, in living arrangements, and with friends and family.
Who Serve as Academic Advisors?
Most full-time members of the University Faculty, including Faculty in Residence (FIR) serve as faculty advisors. In addition, others may be designated by the department chair and/or the Vice President or Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies.
How are Academic Advisors Assigned to Students?
The Undergraduate Advising Center assigns advisors to incoming (new and readmitted) students. The advisor is assigned based on the student’s intended major and is usually a member of the department where the major is housed.
How do Students Change Advisors?
Students wishing to change advisors may request reassignment at the Undergraduate Advising Center located in Mary Lyon 034. Any student who would like to be reassigned to a particular advisor must first ask that advisor. If the faculty member agrees, the request is then processed. No paperwork is necessary.
Faculty members may also request a change if they feel it is desirable that a particular advisee be reassigned to another advisor. A call or note to Deb in the Undergraduate Advising Center requesting this change is sufficient.
A change of a student’s major usually necessitates an advisor change. Students changing majors may request a particular member of the new department as advisor. They may do this by inserting the advisor’s name on the Change of Major/Option form. In some cases the previous advisor may be maintained even though the change of major has occurred. This decision should be mutually agreed upon by the advisor and student.
What happens when I am on sabbatical?
When an advisor is on a one-semester sabbatical, the department should determine who will be advising the faculty member’s advisees. Some departments determine the department chair will advise all the advisees, and some departments divide the advisees up among various faculty advisors. Once this is determined, the advisor should notify his/her advisees of the person the student should see during the semester of sabbatical.
When an advisor is on a full-year sabbatical, the Undergraduate Advising Center, in communication with the advisor, officially reassigns (changes in the computer system) the advisors’ advisees to other faculty advisors. (Some advisors, even though on sabbatical, are going to be around campus and choose to still advise their advisees, so no reassignment is necessary.) The students are notified by e-mail of the change. When the advisor returns from sabbatical, the students are notified that the original advisor is back from sabbatical and asked if they want to change back to that advisor, or stay with the current advisor.
- Student’s name, identification number, local and home addresses, phone numbers;
- Intended major, minor, and career interests;
- Copy of transfer credit evaluation forms;
- Copy of transcripts and mid-semester grade reports, if applicable;
- Copy of all forms processed by student, such as student request forms;
- Academic Probation Advisory;
- Notes on conferences held with student
FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)
Advisors should be aware that a federal law, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, and amended in 1998, establishes certain rights for students with regard to the student’s education record. In brief, the Act provides students the right to inspect their personal education records (with some exceptions), the opportunity to contest the contents of their records, and protection from unauthorized disclosure of their education records to third parties outside the University. Basically, the university is not permitted to disclose personally identifiable information from the student’s education record without the prior written consent of the student, or only under acceptable disclosure provisions in FERPA.
The Student Handbook has further information.
- Scenario:You receive a phone call from an advisee’s mother inquiring about how her daughter is doing at PSU, whether she is attending classes, what her grades are, her current academic status, etc. What can you tell her?Answer: It is possible to discuss some things with the parent if it is in relation to general policies or procedures rather than directly related to the student. The best suggestion would be for the parent and student to set up an appointment with you to come to campus to meet and discuss whatever the student wishes to talk about. Additionally, it would be ideal to have your advisee give you written consent to speak to his/her parents.
- Scenario: A young man, describing himself as the boyfriend of one of our students, comes to an administrative office. He says he has left his wallet in a student’s car and needs desperately to find her. He asks for her class schedule so that he can locate her.Answer: No! You should refer the individual to University Police.
- Scenario:Parents appear at a departmental office and ask for the names and office numbers of their son’s advisor and instructors.Answer: No—They should be advised to call their student, and the student may take his parents to the various offices, if he chooses to do so.
- Scenario: A student approaches a professor and tells her that he thinks an error has been made in determining his semester grade. He demands to see his attendance record, class grades, and evaluative comments in the professor’s grade book.Answer: Student may see the records, but the other student’s records must be blocked out. However, it is not required that you show the student.
- Scenario: A father appears at the office and demands to change his daughter’s major.Answer: No, students must personally make any changes.
- Scenario: A priest appears at an office. He says he needs to notify one of our students of a tragedy in the student’s family. He asks for the student’s campus address, telephone number and class schedule—and a campus map.Answer: University Police should be notified so an officer can get the student.
Student Identification Numbers
Student identification numbers are not part of the directory information which is permitted to be released without the student’s prior consent, so faculty members must never post information which includes the student ID number or any part of the student ID number nor to give or make accessible to a student any document which includes another student’s ID number.
Implications for Advisors
Academic advisors have a need for access to their advisees’ education records and so may access such documents as their transcripts. Advisors, however, have the same responsibilities as other officers of the University not to release such information to third parties without prior written consent of advisees. This includes advisees’ parents.
Before providing a parent with information about an advisee’s academic record, the student must have given you written release. However, it is often possible to talk with parents without releasing information from the education record. The parent may want to know about general policies or the implications of information the parent has already been given by the student.
The advising file is generally a desk file accessible only to the advisor. Hence it would not be open to access by the advisee.
The Academic Catalog includes a list of all degree requirements for each major plus all other academic rules and regulations the student must follow to earn a degree. Students may choose to follow the edition of the Catalog in effect when they first matriculate or any edition published after their matriculation. They may not choose an earlier edition of the catalog. One exception is specified by the Seven-Year Catalog Policy. This states that the Catalog used to determine graduation requirements may not be older than seven years at the time of the student’s graduation. Students may follow different catalogs for their major requirements and their minor requirements. Readmitted students receive a memo from the Undergraduate Studies Office (and their advisors receive a copy) telling them the oldest Catalog they may use for graduation purposes. This will be the Catalog of original admission if that will be less than seven years old at the time the degree will be completed (unless the student is a teacher certification candidate—teacher certification candidates who readmit must use the newest catalog at the time of readmission).
Schedule of Classes
Each semester the Registrar’s Office provides the Schedule of Classes online just in advance of the initial registration period (in March for Fall semester and October for Spring semester).
The General Education requirements shared by all bachelor’s degree programs at Plymouth are listed in the Catalog which the student is following. The following outlines the General Education program for students entering Fall 2005 and after.
An important reminder: Students enrolled at Plymouth State prior to Fall 2005 are required to follow the general education program under which they entered. Only students entering PSU Fall 2005 and after will follow the revised General Education program. Therefore, if a student who entered PSU prior to Fall 2005 chooses to follow the 2005-2006 or beyond catalog, they must still follow the general education program under which they entered Plymouth.
GENERAL EDUCATION PROGRAM
(For Students Entering Fall 2005 and After)
The following relates the basic composition of the program for students enrolled beginning Fall 2005.
|IS1111||First-Year Seminar: Critical Thinking||3|
|M||Math Foundations (MA1500 or higher)||3|
- IS1111 First-Year Seminar: Critical Thinking must be completed the first semester at PSU.
- EN1200 Composition and Math Foundations must be completed during the first year.
- Students who transfer 24 or more credits toPlymouthStateare not required to take IS1111 First-Year Seminar: Critical Thinking.
|Self and Society||6|
|Past and Present||6|
Writing in the Disciplines**
Quantitative Reasoning in the Disciplines**
Technology in the Disciplines**
* These Connections courses may be double-counted with a major, minor, or any other general education requirement.
** These Connections courses are three-credit experiences taken as part of the major, so add no additional credits to those required for the major.
Student Information Available Online
The Registrar’s and Undergraduate Studies Offices maintain a number of computerized databases available to advisors and students. The system is entirely menu driven and easy to use. Students can access the same general information.
Access to academic information you may need is available by logging on to your myPlymouth account and clicking on Services. Additional information and access to student forms may be obtained at the Registrar’s homepage. Online services advisors find useful include:
- Class Search. This provides up-to-the-moment information on what is being offered in a particular term, how many seats are available in each course and can be searched in a number of different ways.
- Course Rosters. This provides an up-to-date listing of who is enrolled in your class.
- Advisor Menu. There is a wealth of information provided in this menu, including:
- Student unofficial transcripts;
- My Advisees: a list of your advisees with student id, name, campus address, e-mail address, class, credits earned, major, minor, web reg pin number, date and time for registration activity; and a click-on button to e-mail all your advisees at once.
- Class List. This provides a detailed or summary list of students enrolled in a particular class.
- Grades. This is where you enter grades for the students in your classes.
- Student Query. Student query creates a customized population of students.
- Help! Clicking on the HELP button, and scrolling down to the section on Banner Self Service will bring a listing of frequently asked questions with answers.
Registration is a two-step procedure. Students first engage in schedule planning. During this phase students look at Class Schedule Search, consult with their advisor and construct a preferred schedule for the coming semester and a list of second-choice courses. Once the schedule is planned and approved by the advisor, students are ready for the second step in the procedure: WebRegistration. Listed in Banner on the student’s registration information is a Web Reg Pin number. Once the student and advisor have determined an appropriate schedule, the advisor gives the student the Web Reg Pin number, and the student may then go on-line, at their appointed time or after, to register for courses.
For continuing students Initial Registration is held about a month before the end of the previous semester (in April for fall semester or in late October/early November for spring semester). The two weeks preceding online appointments is designated as the period during which students are to meet with the advisor for schedule planning. Most advisors find that some students appear a week or more earlier than this, however, and that others wait until registration has begun. Many advisors schedule extra office hours during the schedule planning period. Some advisors send reminders to their advisees as schedule planning approaches.
Registration information for each advisee is available online to the advisor before these designated weeks. Students with financial holds should be sent to Student Account Services, where often the conversation itself is enough to remove the hold.
The information online also includes the student’s appointment time for WebReg registration. A seniority system determines the order of appointments with a few exceptions: students with certain learning disabilities, by invitation from the PASS Office, are allowed to register early through the PASS Office; students participating in a varsity sport in that semester; students on the President’s and Dean’s Lists and Plymouth Scholars register before others. Because classes do fill during initial registration, students are well advised to register during their appointed time. However, students are not excused from classes to register.
Entering students go through a process analogous to Initial Registration at New Student Orientation, either in June or the day preceding the new semester. They meet with representatives of their major department (or if undeclared, with the University Studies Department and volunteer faculty advisors) for schedule planning and registration.
The Advisor’s Role in Schedule Planning
Ultimately it is the student who is responsible for scheduling the classes that are needed to fulfill graduation requirements. However, advisors are responsible for verifying that the advisee has made appropriate choices. Advisors are expected to provide accurate information and good counsel and are expected to help students keep track of what graduation requirements remain. Advisors should make sure that each course a student selects will fit into the academic program and that the students have the proper prerequisites for the courses they have selected.
Advising styles vary and some advisors choose to play a more directive role than others. In general, younger students need more direction than more advanced students. A goal of the advising process should be to help students develop toward taking more and more responsibility for their own schedule planning as they advance through their program.
Many advisors ask students to bring a draft of a possible schedule to the advising meeting and review this before providing the registration information. Some advisors like to have a preliminary meeting during each Initial Registration period to review the advisees’ progress through the program and discuss a general plan for the coming semester and then a second meeting during which the specific schedule is reviewed.
Long-term schedule planning is a critical part of the advising process for students with declared majors. The best time for long-term planning is as soon as the major is declared. The Catalog specifies all the requirements of the major. The advisor and student need to make a semester-by-semester plan for how these will be fulfilled in order for graduation to occur on time. Many courses are not offered each semester; some are available only on alternate years. Most majors include some series of courses that must be taken in order. These are the sorts of matters that are considered in long-term planning. Each should keep a copy. The initial investment of time required for this sort of planning is well compensated by time saved in future semesters.
Degree Planning: In an attempt to help students be on track for graduating in a timely manner, students who have reached junior status receive a degree review from the Undergraduate Advising Center outlining outstanding coursework. A copy is also sent to the student’s academic advisor. The student’s major, minor and discipline average calculations are also included in the review. Additionally, students who come to the office to meet are told about any outstanding paperwork that needs processing (i.e., student request for course substitution, change of catalog form, minor form, undergraduate degree request, etc.).
Adding or Dropping a Course
Students may add or drop full-semester, first half, or first quarter courses until the end of the seventh calendar day of the semester. Internships, practica, individual enrollment courses, independent study courses, second half, fourth quarter, performance study and auditioned courses may be added or dropped until the 10th Friday after the first day of classes. Adding or dropping a course does not require the signature of the instructor. Courses dropped within the drop period will be removed from the transcript.
Late adds are allowed with the signature of the instructor, but a fee of $50 per course will be assessed. Late adds after the term ends will require a fee of $100 per course.
Students may withdraw from full-semester, first half, first quarter courses any time after the end of the Drop period until the 10th Friday after the first day of classes. Students may withdraw from internships, practica, individual enrollment courses, independent study, second half, fourth quarter, performance study and auditioned courses from the tenth Friday after the first day of classes until the 14th Friday after the first day of classes. The instructor must sign the course withdrawal form. A grade of W (Withdrawal) will be recorded on the transcript. Withdrawal (W) grades do not contribute to the student’s grade point average.
After the withdrawal period has ended, students may petition for withdrawal from a course only under extenuating circumstances such as, but not limited to the following:
- documented learning disability for which evidence has been produced after the withdrawal period has ended
- documented medical circumstances arising after the withdrawal period has ended
- care of family during an emergency arising after the withdrawal period has ended
- military duty, where activation has occurred after the withdrawal period has ended
- jury duty
- transfer credit which is verified only after the withdrawal period has ended
The petition is to be presented to the Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies and must include an explanation of the extenuating circumstances, whatever documentation is available and a course withdrawal form signed by the instructor, indicating a grade of W is to be assigned.
Note: Students are strongly encouraged to discuss the impact dropping a course may have on their academic and/or financial status with their advisor and/or Student Account Services and Financial Aid Office. If dropping a course or courses will drop a student to below full-time status, a student’s eligibility for financial aid, on-campus housing and intercollegiate athletics, as well as eligibility for loan deferments, insurance and the like may be affected.
Declaration or Change of Majors and/or Options
To declare or change the major or option within a major, a student must process the Declaration or Change of Academic Major and/or Option form available online. Once the student submits the online form, the new department chair (or designee) then reviews and approves, if agreed, before the form is then submitted electronically to the Registrar’s Office for processing. A change of major often includes a change of advisor and the form provides the new department chair with a space to recommend who the new advisor should be.
Declaration or Change of Minors and/or Options
The Declaration of Minor form available at the Registrar’s Office in Speare Building or on the Registrar’s Web site and is processed at their office once complete. It requires the signature of the advisor and a representative of the department or group sponsoring the minor. Students should be encouraged to declare their minors as soon as they have decided to do so. Many students delay doing the paperwork. Unless departments know how many minors they have, it is difficult to plan sufficient course sections to accommodate them.
Dropping an Option or Minor
Students who wish to drop a declared option or minor need to fill out a half-sheet form called “Request to Remove an Academic Minor or Option,” available at the Registrar’s Office in Speare Building or on the Registrar’s Web site. Once the student has filled out the form, it is turned into the Registrar’s Office for processing. No additional signature, other than the students’, is required.
Grade Point Average (GPA) Calculation
Graduation, academic standing, and certain academic honors are all dependent on various grade point averages: semester grade point average, cumulative grade point average, discipline grade point average or major grade point average. The Catalog explains how semester GPA is calculated by converting the letter grades F to A to the 4.00 scale used by many colleges and universities. Semester GPA is the average point grade per credit in all courses in a semester graded on this scale (Grades of P, NP, W do not affect GPA). Cumulative GPA is the average grade point for all such courses taken at Plymouth. (Plymouth accepts transfer credits from other colleges and universities, but does not transfer in grades, so GPA is always based only on courses taken at PSU.) Discipline grade point average is the average grade point for all courses taken with a certain discipline code (i.e., Political Science majors must have a 2.5 average in all Political Science (PO) courses.)
In 1997, the Faculty agreed to a common definition of major GPA to go into effect beginning with the class of 1998:
Grade point average in the major will be based on: all specific courses (except EN 1200) listed as required, any other courses elected beyond the required minimum number from an identified group, plus any others in the central discipline which are elected.
Plymouth allows students to repeat courses in which grades of C- or lower are earned. When a course is repeated, the new grade replaces the old in calculation of the cumulative GPA (even in the unfortunate case where the new grade is lower!). Students in academic difficulty are routinely advised to repeat courses in which low grades were earned—since the old grades drop out of the calculation, the cumulative GPA can be raised much faster than it can by taking new courses.
Students with Academic Advisories
Plymouth requires all new students (first-year and transfers bringing in fewer than 24 credits) to take IS1111 First Year Seminar: Critical Thinking during the first semester. The University also requires all new students (first year and transfer) to complete two other of the basic skills requirements of the General Education program: EN1200 Composition and Math Foundations, by the end of the second semester. Students should be advised to enroll in the course(s) each semester until the requirement is fulfilled.
Students in Academic Difficulty
Students are required to maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.00 (C average) in order to be in good academic standing. Any time the cumulative GPA falls below 2.00, the student will fall into one of three categories that make up Plymouth’s Academic Warning, Probation, and Severance system. The GPA which causes a student to fall into one of these categories depends on the number of credits that student has attempted. As the number of credits attempted gets higher, it becomes harder to raise the cumulative GPA; thus the minimum GPA needed to avoid probation or severance rises. Students on Academic Probation are given Academic Probation guidelines that limit the number of credits they can take in the following semester to 13 and recommend specific courses to be repeated. A copy of the probation contract is e-mailed to the advisor. Advisors should strongly encourage their advisees to repeat courses in the next upcoming semester, as this is the fastest way to improve their gpa. Students many times do not realize what impact earning a grade of C- or below has on their overall performance, so sometimes choose not to repeat a course. When you show students the difference in what they need to earn for semester grades by repeating a course as opposed to taking all new courses, they are sometimes amazed at the difference. Of course, you should discuss with the student whether it is viable to retake a course. For instance, if the student has already repeated a course, earning a grade of F the first time taking it, and earning a grade of D the next time, it is probably not advisable for the student to take it for a third time. (Remember that whatever grade is earned in the repeat course affects the gpa, so if the student first earns a grade of D and then earns a grade of F in repeating the course, the F is now what counts in the gpa calculation.) If, however, the student earns a grade of D the first time, a discussion should evolve around why a grade of D was earned. If the student indicates that not attending class was most likely a major factor, and says that probably taking it again could earn at least a C, it is beneficial to then repeat the class. Students in the First Severance category, unless Reinstated on Probation, are allowed to take a maximum of eight credits through the Office of Continuing Education, as a part-time, non-matriculated student at Plymouth in the next upcoming semester. These students need to raise their grade point average out of the Severance range before being readmitted. Students in the Second Severance category may take courses through the Office of Continuing Education to help raise their gpa to a minimum 2.0, so to be eligible for readmission in two years. Students in the Third Severance category may take courses through the Office of Continuing Education for the purpose of lifelong learning, but are not eligible to ever earn an undergraduate degree at PSU. Should you have questions concerning students in academic difficulty, please contact the Undergraduate Advising Center.
Students with Learning Disabilities
Students who have documented learning disabilities or who suspect they may have learning disabilities should be referred to Plymouth Academic Support Services (PASS). Counselors are available to work with students with documented disabilities. These counselors are trained to judge whether such students are entitled to special accommodations for testing (such as individualized or extended test taking in the PASS Office) or learning, and if so, PASS helps arrange these. One accommodation that is made for students with certain kinds of learning disabilities is early registration. These students register with the PASS Office a few days prior to the start of initial registration and hence may need to see their advisors for schedule planning as much as a week ahead of other advisees.
Advising transfer students presents special challenges. In order to do so effectively, advisors need to understand the processes by which transfer credits are accepted by Plymouth and applied in place of Plymouth courses to the student’s degree requirements. The Undergraduate Studies Office oversees both processes.
Acceptance of Transfer Credit
Plymouth accepts transfer credit from regionally accredited, degree-granting institutions for courses, which are appropriate to the Plymouth curriculum, and for which grades of C (not C- or CD) or above were earned. Only the credit is transferred, not the grades. Hence a student’s grade point average at Plymouth is based only on grades earned at Plymouth. A maximum of 90 credits from regionally accredited degree-granting institutions will be accepted toward the baccalaureate degree.
Credits accepted do not necessarily apply to fulfilling any of the transfer student’s major or general education requirements. Such credits may be used as free electives, but many transfer students find they have transferred in more free elective credits than their Plymouth program requires. Advisors may have to help students realize that this frustration is a cost of transferring; program requirements in different schools are often quite different.
Application of Transfer Credit
Once the transfer student has been admitted to Plymouth, the Admissions Office forwards the student’s transcript(s) to the Office of Undergraduate Studies to initiate the application of transfer credit process. All courses that the student has taken at the other institution(s) are listed on a Transfer Course Evaluation form. The form (sometimes after consultation with the appropriate department) indicates whether each course is acceptable. It is also indicated on the form whether a course satisfies one of Plymouth’s General Education requirements and whether the basic skills of english and mathematics have been met.
In making these judgments they rely heavily on the Transfer Course database maintained by the Undergraduate Studies Office. (As explained earlier, this database is a record of all courses that have in the past been reviewed for acceptance and applied to General Education or major requirements.) This database is also used to indicate that a particular course will be applied as a substitute for a required course in the student’s major.
Having made these initial assessments, the form is then sent to the student’s major department for further consideration. The chair of the department or designee decides whether any additional transfer courses can be applied to specific major requirements. (For undecided students this step in the process is deferred until a major is declared. When transfer students change to a new major, this step is repeated for the new major.)
At registration for their first semester at Plymouth, the transfer student receives an initial copy of the Transfer Course Evaluation form, and if the student has a declared major, a Curriculum Planning Guide on which all applications are indicated. This Planning Guide shows exactly what requirements are fulfilled and what remain. Thus, it is an important guide for students and advisors.
Often the process of evaluation is not complete at the time of registration, however, and around the middle of the first semester at Plymouth (in time for initial registration for the second semester) the students are sent final copies of the Transfer Course Evaluation form and Curriculum Planning Guide. Copies of these final forms also go to the student’s advisor and should be kept in the advising folder as they are of critical importance in schedule planning. Students may not receive credit for a Plymouth course equivalent to one which has been accepted for transfer credit, and hence it is just as important that transfer students and their advisors know what requirements have been fulfilled by transfer credit as that they know what requirements remain.
Many transfer students do not seem to realize that decisions about application of transfer credit can be appealed using a Student Request form. Appeals of application to General Education requirements are made to the Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies and appeals of application to major requirements to the chair of the major department and Undergraduate Studies. Transfer students are well advised to pursue this process, since quite often when a course was not applied, it was because the course description was insufficient to make clear that the course matches the Plymouth requirement. In such cases, if the student can provide more information about the transfer source (e.g., a syllabus) the appeal may be successful.
Transferring Credits Earned after Matriculation at Plymouth
Quite often students take courses at other institutions after enrolling at Plymouth. Many students, for example, take summer courses at other colleges or universities. Some students study abroad for a semester. Some students complete most of their degree at Plymouth, but take their final few requirements elsewhere and transfer these back.
In cases of this sort, the student must complete a Transfer Credit Approval form for each course. The student must sign this form. Transfer Credit Approval Forms are available from the Undergraduate Studies Office in Speare Building 208. If the course to be taken is in the Transfer Course database, no further signatures are needed for the course to be applied as the database indicates. If, however, the course is not in the database (perhaps only because no one has ever transferred it in before), the student takes the form to the individual who oversees the program to which the student would like to apply the course (i.e., the appropriate department chair if the student wants to use the course as part of the major or the minor, or the Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies, if the student wants the course to fulfill a General Education requirement.) Typically this evaluator will want to see at least a course description to make the judgment, so the student should provide whatever information is available about the course.
Students, especially those in academic difficulty, often wonder whether they can improve their GPAs by taking courses at another college or university. Generally, this cannot be done, since as explained above Plymouth does not transfer grades, only credits. There is one exception, however. If the student has earned the grade of F in a Plymouth course and takes an equivalent course elsewhere, then transferring in the equivalent course will remove the F from the Plymouth GPA. Note that only a failing grade can be removed in this way; grades of D- and above are passing, and students can not after the fact transfer in courses equivalent to ones for which passing grades at PSU have been earned.
In order to be confident that the transfer course will be acceptable and applicable, the student should complete the Transfer Credit Approval Form before taking the transfer course. The completed form is held in the Undergraduate Studies Office until the student arranges for the transfer institution to send an official transcript directly to their office. Assuming that transcript shows a grade of C or higher, the application is then made and the information entered on the student’s Plymouth transcript.
Once students have earned 48 credits, they become part of the graduation review process. A letter and Cover Sheet is e-mailed to them from the Undergraduate Advising Center telling them how the Undergraduate Advising Center may assist them and their academic advisor in:
reviewing remaining degree requirements;
- calculating major, discipline, and minor gpa averages;
- processing pertinent paperwork;
- course planning for their remaining semesters; and
- serving as a referral for available resources to help them achieve their goals.
Steps Junior students and advisors should be taking include:
Step 1: Upon receiving letter notification, they should set up a meeting with you to review outstanding course requirements, grade point average requirements, and to set up a plan for completing their degree.
Step 2: If the student and/or you the advisor feel you would like the student to meet with the Undergraduate Advising Center to review information sent to them, the student should be directed to stop by Mary Lyon 034 or call 535-3065 to set up an appointment.
Step 3: Students should file any outstanding paperwork, such as Change or Declaration of Major, Option or Minor forms; and any necessary Student Requests requesting substitutions in coursework.
Step 4: Once a plan has been established, the student should file their Undergraduate Degree Request. This form asks for their name, telephone number, date of completion, major, option and minor information, as well as how they would like their name to appear on their diploma and to where it should be sent. They must file the Undergraduate Degree Request form by December 1 of the May or Summer they are planning to graduate; or October 1 if they plan to graduate in December. However, they may file it any time prior to this date, so the sooner the better.
Step 5: Course grades should be monitored. If they are experiencing difficulty in achieving the required major, discipline and/or cumulative grade point averages, it is critical that these be evaluated at the end of each semester. Doing so will help keep them on track toward achieving the requirements for graduation. Remember…earning grades below C are lessening the chance that they will achieve the minimum 2.0 gpa requirements. Some majors have higher gpa requirements, so monitoring grades is essential.
- Complete all course requirements as outlined in the University Catalog for their program, including major courses, minor courses (if applicable), and general education coursework.
- Be sure they have met the total number of credits required for their degree program. The minimum number of credits to graduate is 120; however, some programs have a higher credit requirement.
- Be sure they have met the major average, discipline average (if applicable), minor average (if applicable), and cumulative grade point average for their degree program. Every major, discipline, and minor requires a minimum 2.00 average, but some require a higher average.
- Be sure they have filed all appropriate paperwork.
- Are they completing a major and/or option in their major, but not filed the Academic Major and/or Option Declaration or Change form?
- Is the Academic Catalog they are following the one in which they are actually declared? For instance, are they listed with the Registrar’s Office as following the 2009-2010 Catalog, but actually following the 2011-2012 Catalog? If so, they need to submit a Request to Change Catalog form to the Registrar’s Office in Speare Building.
- Are they completing an academic minor, but not filed the Academic Minor form?
- Did they file an Academic Minor form, but now are not going to complete the minor? If this is the case, they need to submit a Request to Remove an Academic Minor or Option form with the Registrar’s Office in Speare Building.
- If they are substituting a different course for a course required in their major or minor, have they filed a Student Request form?
- Have they taken a course at another institution, but haven’t filled out a Transfer Credit Approval form, or had an official transcript sent to Plymouth so the course appears on their Plymouth State University transcript?
- Students must take care of any financial obligations, or their diploma cannot be sent to them. Do they have an outstanding library book or fine? Do they have any unpaid parking tickets?
Be sure they have filed their Undergraduate Degree Request for the time period in which they are completing their degree. The form may be obtained in the Registrar’s Office in Speare Building, or on-line at www.plymouth.edu/registrar/forms.
If students are currently enrolled as degree-seeking students and have earned a minimum of 90 credits by October 1 of the year preceding the Commencement Ceremony, they are automatically eligible to “walk,” and will be notified of such. They will receive directions on how to file for commencement participation during the fall semester. If students have less than 90 credits earned as of October 1 and wish to “walk,” they must submit a written request with a copy of their plan, which shows completion no later than the fall semester following the commencement ceremony, to the Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies for permission to participate in the commencement ceremony. The letter should include the following:
- Their credit situation: how many credits they currently have earned, what they are currently enrolled in for courses, and how and when they plan to complete their remaining coursework.
- They will be contacted regarding the decision. If approved, they will be given directions on how to file for commencement participation.
There are two options for Interdisciplinary Studies majors: Multi-Field Studies and Thematic Studies. They are described in the Academic Catalog. A student considering this major should be referred to meet with a member of the Interdisciplinary Studies Council. Students may also contact the Office of Undergraduate Studies in Speare 208 with questions and to request an application.
After that initial meeting, the student contacts an appropriate advisor to help the student define the focus of the major and select appropriate courses. The student submits an application for the major which, once approved, will become the student’s interdisciplinary contract. Applications are due the first day of the month, September through December, and February through May, where they are reviewed by the Interdisciplinary Studies Council.