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.
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 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 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.
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 205.
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 207.
Student Academic Advisers
Student Academic Advisers (SAs) are sophomore and junior students who are selected for their solid academic and personal accomplishments, then given extensive training in peer advising. 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.
Top Ten Questions and Concerns
(and answers from the Fall 2012 Student Academic Advising Staff)
Academics: What are the different academic expectations in college compared to high school?
In college, you will be expected to complete higher quantities and quality of work; you will be responsible for managing your own time with less guidance than you may have received from your high school teachers, and you will be expected to conduct more scholarly research and write more nuanced papers. Don’t worry, though, this doesn’t mean you are on your own. Your professors are available at their office hours, by appointment, and through email to answer questions. There are many resources available on campus to help you, including the ARC, your pre-major advisor, and your SA.
— Halley McCormick and Madison Munn
Classes: How do I pick my classes, fulfill distribution, and how many credits should I take?
A good approach to picking classes is to browse the course catalog and identify courses that appear interesting to you. When picking classes for your final schedule, aim to pick approximately three classes in different subject areas (with back-ups!). You will automatically be assigned to an Encounters section. As a first-year, any class you take will likely satisfy some sort of distribution. If you intend to go into the sciences, it is advisable that you take General Chemistry and Calculus. Most first-year students take 15-16 credits, which usually includes four classes plus an activity credit.
— Zane MacPhee and Abby Sloan
Majors: How do I make the decision?
First, remember that you don’t have to declare until the end of your sophomore year, so you have a lot of time to decide. Take a variety of classes, but remember that certain majors have a lot of pre-requisites, so plan ahead and talk to your SA and/or your adviser. Don’t hesitate to follow an unusual interest to see if you want to major in that subject. Most students do not know what they want to major in as First-Years, so it is perfectly normal to take a while to decide, and you can always change your mind.
— Miriam Moran and Grant Rommel
Learning: How can I go about finding my learning preferences (i.e. study habits, note-taking, ect.?)
Try different things! Use class lectures as an opportunity to figure out what keeps you engaged and helps you remember--it may be drawing diagrams, taking copious notes, color-coding, or just listening to your professor. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or your study habits aren’t working, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your SA (Student Academic Advisor) or the ARC (Academic Resource Center)! They can provide you with tools and tips to help you be successful--from supplying graphic organizers to setting you up with a tutor.
— Emily Krause and Gabie Brosas
Professors: What is the best way to meet with/talk to my professors?
Professors have office hours designed for meeting with and talking to students, posted outside their offices. If you cannot make it at those times, professors are happy to schedule an appointment that works for you. If all else fails, they are easily reached by email. And don’t be shy … They want to get to know you.
— Ruth Hwang and Brian Lewis
Registration: How does registration work?
To start out, consult the course catalog and your SA in order to come up with a preliminary list of classes which you might be interested in taking. Next, attend the appointment with your pre-major advisor: you need his or her signature in order to proceed with the registration process (plus, he or she may very well be able to provide helpful hints regarding what classes to choose). You will be assigned a time at which to register at Reid Campus Center. Get there early! Finally, when your time is called, Whitman College Technology Services (WCTS) will be at hand to help you with your actual registration. Remember, keep several class options open in case one (or more) of your top choices has already reached its capacity. Whatever happens, keep calm--it will all work out in the end!
— Dylan Martin and Matthias Needham
Time management: How do I balance my time between social and academic engagements?
Have a plan and stick with it. The easiest way to budget both social and academic time is to create a schedule which designates time for each activity. This schedule can take the form of a calendar, a weekly planner, even a sticky note! The difficult part is determining how much time will be needed for each activity. Be sure to make realistic assessment of how long your assignments will take. Keep in mind that individual assignments in college can require much more time than individual assignments in high school. Some classes may only have four assignments for the whole semester. Expect these to be time-intensive projects. Remember, you can always overestimate. On the other hand, be realistic about how long you can work for without a break. Finally, be sure to create separate spaces for your social and academic engagements. Don’t try to socialize and do academics at the same time; it doesn’t work.
— David Wilson and Yonah Biers-Ariel
Resources: What are my resources if I need help in a class or other areas of my life (e.g. stress management.)
There are a myriad of formal and informal resources on campus. For academic assistance, you can visit the Writing Center (where you can get help with essays), the Academic Resource Center, the Language Learning Center (where you can also meet with native speakers for foreign language help), and contact departments that hold group tutoring sessions. SAs (Student Academic Advisors) and professors are also accessible and willing to help--they often have office hours and are very friendly. The library is open all day, every day. The RAs, Peer Listeners, and the Counseling Center form a strong support system to help you deal with stress. The gym and various quiet spots on campus can be great outlets.
— Lindsey Holdren and Mary Christensen
Studying: When and where should I study?
We would recommend studying at the best times that work for you. While specific times of day may vary from person to person, earlier is generally better than later. Procrastination will invariably lead to stress. Regarding location, the library is a fantastic place to go; there are oodles of cozy nooks and comfy spots, each with its own specific study ambience. There are also study tables in Olin and the Hall of Science, each with tutors on hand if you need the extra help. And of course, don’t forget the study lounges in your residence hall!
— Dylan Martin and Matthias Needham
We would not have admitted you to Whitman if we didn’t think you could be successful in this environment. While we fully expect your total experience at Whitman to stretch you as a student and as a person, we believe you are up to the challenge. Expect to work hard and use the resources available.
Glossary of Academic Terms
Academic honesty is crucial to the integrity of the program of learning in a college. Falsification, misrepresentation of another’s work as one’s own (such as cheating on examinations, reports, or quizzes), plagiarism from the work of others, or the presentation of substantially similar work for different courses (unless authorized to do so), is academic dishonesty and is a serious offense. Knowingly helping other students cheat or plagiarize is also considered academic dishonesty.
Plagiarism occurs when one, intentionally or unintentionally, uses another’s words, ideas, or data without proper acknowledgment. All new students will discuss academic dishonesty with the Director of Academic Resource during Opening Week, and will be given an explanatory sheet of what constitutes academic dishonesty early in their career at Whitman. 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.
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.
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 professor who teaches the class you are adding.
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 208). 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.
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.
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.
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 slip, 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, or if you discover you don’t have a solid preparation or 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 signature.