Academic Advice

Each individual has strengths, challenges, skills, interests, and aspirations. We have resources at Whitman to help you assess your strengths and challenges, sharpen your skills, explore your interests, and support your aspirations. Take advantage of the wealth of experience and advice from faculty, staff, and students during your time at Whitman to help you clarify and achieve your goals.

Academic Advising

Ultimately, the responsibility to be well-informed and to make personally satisfying choices belongs to you. Your academic adviser, however, is one of many individuals on campus who will be happy to assist you in developing an academic plan, creating realistic goals, and gaining a clear understanding of the academic requirements to graduate.

Role of the Academic Adviser

  • Assistance with course selection

Discussing your interests and goals, reviewing graduation requirements, and assessing appropriate course levels based on competence.

  • Assistance with course load

Assisting you to assess your academic preparation, study skills, and the demands of the courses involved.

  • Assistance with academic problems during the semester

Examples of problems that might impact your course work include inadequate high school preparation, heavy course load, problems with study skills/time management, personal problems, changes in your interests or goals, or family pressure. Deficiency slips, failure to attend class, and missing or late assignments or tests are often warning signs of a problem that might require consultation with your adviser.

  • Referral to campus resources

Although your adviser might not know the answer to every question, he or she will be able to recommend other campus resources who can help.

  • A different perspective

Faculty members can provide you with a valuable perspective on their own field, and on a Whitman education based on years of experience in academia.

When Should You See Your Academic Adviser?


  • Meet with your adviser in person as scheduled during registration periods.
  • Meet with your adviser every time you make a change in your registration (i.e. drop, add, P-D-F, or withdraw from a class).
  • Be prepared – Your adviser can’t help you if you don’t help yourself. Be familiar with the catalog, your academic evaluation, and other official documents.
  • Hold up your end of the relationship – your adviser isn’t a mind reader – be sure to give him or her enough information to be a good adviser.
  • It is very important to talk with your adviser in person if you:
    • receive a deficiency slip;
    • are disappointed or concerned by the grades you are receiving in any of your classes;
    • need additional campus resources, but don’t know where to turn.

Don’t be embarrassed. Your academic adviser is here to help.

Other Suggestions

  • Remember that a faculty member doesn’t have to be listed as your official adviser in order to give good advice. Feel free to consult with any member of the faculty. For example, if you are interested in medicine and your adviser is a philosopher, you might get excellent general advice from your adviser, but may still want to consult with members of the pre-med committee about the specific requirements for that field.
  • Drop in on your adviser during his or her scheduled office hours to say hello, touch base, or invite him or her to lunch. Faculty members are people, too.

If you have questions about advising or cannot find your adviser, contact the Academic Resource Center, Memorial 325.

Changing Your Adviser

All students have a pre-major adviser until they declare a major, at which time they choose a major adviser. If at any point you would like to change your pre-major adviser, contact Julia Dunn, Director of Academic Resources, Memorial 327.

Student Academic Advisers

Student Academic Advisers (SAs) are sophomore and junior students who are selected for their solid academic and personal accomplishments. They complete extensive training in peer advising, create academic programs and hold weekly “duty hours” to assist students. SAs live in first-year student sections and are involved in residence hall activities. The primary job of the SA is to serve as an academic tour guide. This involves acquainting first-year students with the academic programs, opportunities, and expectations at Whitman. Each first-year student is assigned to a SA, and will meet with him or her individually, and as a section during Opening Week. Once registration is over and you are comfortably settled into a set of classes that suit your interests and goals, your SA will provide information on a wide range of academic issues.

If you have questions about when to P-D-F a class, how to find out more about studying for physics, where to find a tutor in economics, what to expect from your first blue book exam, how to improve your time management, how to determine your learning preference(s), or other academically related skills, your SA can help you discover the answer or put you in touch with someone who can. In addition, many SAs are willing to read and comment on papers for Encounters, organize study groups or assist with complicated math and science problems.

Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns

(and answers from the Fall 2013 Student Academic Advising Staff)

How do I juggle academics, sports, clubs, and STILL have a social life?

Take a deep breath. It’s easier than you might think! Get a time-manager sheet from your Student Academic Adviser (SA) or the Academic Resource Center (ARC). Sketch out your days, saving specific times for specific activities (e.g. class, studying, club meetings, etc.). Let yourself explore as many extracurricular activities as you want, but if you find yourself struggling to get everything done, don't be afraid to let one go. Be sure to save time for enough sleep and try not to procrastinate! If you need more help with managing your time, visit the ARC or ask your friendly neighborhood SA!

- Emma Neslund and Sarah Blacher

How do I interact with my professors?

Make sure to be respectful and call your professors “Professor” or “Doctor” unless they tell you otherwise. They've worked hard to earn their degrees, and they appreciate this sign of respect. Don’t be afraid to interact with professors both inside and outside of class. It can be scary to talk to them at first, or ask questions, or go into office hours, but professors love that! Keep in mind that their time is valuable, and you should take advantage of the time they give you. Whitman professors, however, are some of the most accessible and dedicated in the country, and they want to get to know you.

- Jack Percival, Marlee Raible, Emma Altman

How is the learning process in college different than in high school?

The biggest difference between high school and college academics is that in college, you’re expected to take charge of your own learning. Different classes cater to different learning styles. Some are discussion-based; some rely on text books, others on primary resources; some professors give a lot of tests, while others prefer assigning essays. The trick is to learn how you learn and find techniques that will help you absorb material better inside and outside of the classroom. Resources like the Academic Resource Center (ARC) and your Student Academic Adviser (SA)

can be invaluable in getting tips and tricks that cater to your needs. Simple tricks like learning note-taking strategies can make a world of difference. The freedom and responsibility to take charge of your own academics in college can be intimidating at first, but you’ll find it actually makes learning more enjoyable and often even easier once you find your personal learning style.

- Joel Ponce and Leda Zakarison

How do I learn to study?

One of the hardest things about college is refining your study habits. Determine where and when you study best. This might be in the infamous Penrose Library “quiet room” in the early morning, or an academic building late at night, or your room in the afternoon. Your courses are going to be a lot harder than they were in high school, so you will need to study further in advance than the night before a test, and avoid starting papers the night before they are due. You won't be as productive if you feel overwhelmed and sleep deprived. Find out what works for you and don’t be afraid to change your study habits if they aren’t working. Plan ahead, take breaks, get lots of sleep, and breathe.

- Jack Percival, Marlee Raible, Emma Altman

I’m so scared for college exams! Help?!

First of all, you wouldn’t be here if Whitman didn’t think you were capable of college-level academics. Professors aren’t expecting you to do thesis-level work in your Sociology 101 class. The point of tests, papers, and other evaluations is to demonstrate what you’ve learned in your classes, not to trick you or to be impossible. Exams and papers aren’t the end of the world. They exist to help you be aware of how you can improve – they’re a learning experience in themselves. That being said, your exams won’t be easy. Never fear! There are many resources on campus to help you prepare and succeed, like the Academic Resource Center (ARC), your Student Academic Advisers (SAs), your professors, and your classmates! Everyone at Whitman is on your side, and all your peers are experiencing the same academic rigor you are. Take a deep breath – you are capable and prepared!

- Joel Ponce and Leda Zakarison

When/how do I decide on a major?

You must declare your major by the end of sophomore year. During freshman year, you should NOT fret or solely focus on your major. Take classes you are interested in or try to complete distribution requirements; you may find your future major in a department you didn’t originally know much about. Don’t worry, you will find what interests you. You want to choose a major you love, will continue to love, or are really interested in.

- Ali Holmes and Brian Glickman

How should I go about planning my class schedule?

Have fun choosing your classes! The course catalogue is a great place to get excited about all of the courses offered at Whitman. Try to keep balance in mind while planning your schedule. Think about taking classes that interest you and create a challenging and diverse schedule. Do not worry if you haven’t decided on a major yet; there are distribution requirements to get started on and plenty of time to make that decision! As you may know, you will automatically be enrolled in Encounters. This class is a great bonding experience for the freshman class, as almost all Whitman students have read the plethora of valuable literature that you will be reading together this year. Keep in mind the class time that works best for you; if you’re not a morning person, an 8 a.m. might not be a good choice for you!

- Zach Calo and Nicole Hodgkinson

How do I choose my classes? How does registration work?

First of all, go through the course catalog. Pick any classes that interest you and add them to your CLEo wishlist. Be in contact with your SA, who can help you narrow down your list or give you class suggestions if you're totally lost. Your SA can also help you set up possible schedules to discuss with your pre-major adviser. When you do meet with your pre-major adviser, take their advice seriously and be sure to get their signature or consent to register. Next, work on prioritizing your classes – your SA can help you resolve class conflicts and balance your schedule. Make sure you have back-up classes in case you don’t get your first choices. Before you register, check your time on CLEo and get there early! Arriving early gives you time to talk to professors about classes. When you actually go to register, be flexible, don't worry, and take a deep breath – everything will work out!

- Alex Hulse and Arden Robinette

What resources are available for students seeking academic or personal assistance?

Whitman offers a wide range of resources available to students making the transition to college. Seeking academic support? There are many places to begin your search! First, talk with your Student Academic Adviser (SA) or visit the Academic Resource Center (ARC); both are available to provide academic assistance and to guide you to find whatever other support you may need. When you arrive on campus this fall, you will be meeting with your pre-major adviser. Your adviser will prove a great resource in registration as well as in future academic planning. Are specific classes giving you trouble? Your professors’ office hours are a great time to express your concerns and receive personalized feedback. From our experience, communicating any concerns has been vital to success!

- Morrow Toomey and Austin Biehl

Glossary of Academic Terms

Academic Honesty

Academic honesty is crucial to the integrity of the program of learning in a college; it is the foundation upon which students build their individual body of academic work. All new students will discuss the college’s expectations for academic honesty with the Director of Academic Resources during Opening Week, and will be given an explanatory sheet of what constitutes academic dishonesty. Students will sign a statement acknowledging that they understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. If you are unsure about how to cite your sources, seek assistance from your professor, your adviser, the Writing Center or the Academic Resource Center.

Academic Probation

If you earn a semester grade-point average below 1.7 or a cumulative GPA below 2.0 (1.7 during the first semester of your first year), you will be placed on academic probation. This is a serious situation that can result in your being dismissed from the college if you do not make adequate and timely academic progress. Usually, students are allowed no more than two semesters of academic probation before being dropped for low scholarship. In rare cases, academic performance is so poor that students are dismissed from the college after the fall semester of their first year. Despite the seriousness of the situation, however, many students have been able to restore themselves to good academic standing and pursue successful academic careers here at Whitman and in graduate school. Typically, this requires hard work, careful assessment of the factors which led to the problem, and a willingness to work with the various college resources available to assist you. If you are on probation, you should consult with your faculty adviser and the Director of Academic Resources.

Academic Warning

A student who receives an academic warning from the Board of Review must correct the problem in the next semester. Transfer work may be used to address an Academic Warning due to credit deficiency, providing that the student completes the Request for Approval of Transfer Credit form prior to registering for coursework at another institution. It is important for you to work with your academic adviser, the Academic Resource Center, the Writing Center, and other resources on campus to ensure your academic performance improves during the semester. Further information about academic standards can be found in the college catalog.


You can add a class to your schedule during the first two weeks of the semester via the Web. You must obtain your adviser’s consent to do so. If you want to add a class during the second week of the semester, you also will need to get consent from the instructor of record who teaches the class you want to add.

Board of Review

The Board of Review is composed of three faculty members who consider student petitions for exceptions to academic policies. You must petition the Board of Review if you want to add, drop, or withdraw from a course after the published deadline, change the time of a final exam, take more than 18 academic credits, or seek a variance or exception to any college policy. Petition forms are available in the Registrar’s office (Memorial 212 or online at The Registrar or your adviser can give you further information about when it is necessary or appropriate to file a petition. The Board of Review will approve petitions for exceptions to college regulations when adequate cause is demonstrated.

Deferred Grade

The Board of Review, at the request of the course instructor, grants deferred grades in special circumstances. This option may be used when academic circumstances beyond the student’s control (e.g. unavailable lab equipment, delay in obtaining off-campus resources) prevent the completion of a course or project. If a deferred grade is granted, the student receives a grade of “X” until the final grade is submitted.

Degree Progress

In order to remain in good standing, you need to meet the following four criteria for degree progress: earn a minimum of 24 credits in any two consecutive semesters, successfully complete General Studies 145/146 during your first two semesters (see the catalog for further explanation of this requirement), and maintain a cumulative and major grade-point average of at least 2.0.


You can drop a class without any record in your transcript through the sixth week of classes online or in person with your adviser’s consent. You do not need the instructor’s consent to drop a class, although it would be wise to tell the instructor so he or she won’t wonder why you have stopped attending class.


If a circumstance beyond your control (illness, family tragedy, etc.) prevents you from completing all of the work in your courses by the end of the semester, you may consult with the Dean of Students to see if an incomplete would be appropriate. There is a more extensive discussion of incompletes in the college catalog. The Dean of Students or the Board of Review must authorize all incompletes.

Midterm Deficiencies

Faculty members are obligated to submit deficiency notifications for students who are earning D or F grades in their coursework at the midsemester. If you receive a midterm deficiency notice, you should schedule an appointment with the instructor and with your adviser in order to discuss the reasons for your deficiency and the best ways to address the situation. The Academic Resource Center staff will also schedule an appointment to meet with you and assist with creating a plan to finish the semester successfully.


During the 10th week of the semester, if desired, you will have an opportunity to submit a form to the Registrar’s Office indicating that you wish to be graded on a P-D-F basis in one or more of your classes. If you register for a course on a P-D-F basis, your transcript will show a P if the grade you earn in the course is a C- or better; if you receive a grade lower than C- (e.g. D+, D, D-, or F) that grade will be recorded on your transcript and applied towards your cumulative grade-point average. Although the P-D-F option can be beneficial in certain circumstances, there are implications involved with its use. Please ask the staff in the Academic Resource Center to help if you have questions. Before you register for a course on a P-D-F basis, you should read the section of the Whitman catalog titled “P-D-F Grade Options” carefully. You also must consult your academic adviser and obtain his or her signature. You may not P-D-F the Encounters class or classes fulfilling distribution areas.


If you decide to drop a class after the sixth week but before the end of the 10th week of classes, you will receive a grade of W. The W on your transcript indicates that you were registered in the course but decided not to continue in the middle of the semester. The W does not indicate how well or poorly you were doing at the time you decided to drop the course. Withdrawal can be a useful option if you find yourself in an excessively heavy course load, if you discover you don’t have a solid preparation or you lose interest in a particular class. It also can be an appropriate response to unexpected circumstances such as illness or family problems. As always, you should consult with your adviser and obtain his or her consent.