Institutions such as Whitman College often use very specific terms and phrases that may make sense once you've been here a few years, but can be overwhelming and confusing for new community members. The following terms and definitions are provided in order to explain some of the academic terms that you are likely to encounter during your time at Whitman.

If you have any additional questions, or have a suggestion for a phrase we should add to this list, please let us know!

Academic honesty is integral to scholarship, and is a shared value in academia. Academic honesty means that you need to take responsibility and ownership of your work, and also give recognition to the work of others.


Falsification, misrepresentation of another's work as your own (such as cheating on examinations, reports, or quizzes), plagiarism from the work of others, or turning in substantially similar work for different courses (unless this has been pre-approved), are academic dishonesty and are violations of the College's shared values. Knowingly helping other students cheat or plagiarize is also considered academic dishonesty. Plagiarism is when someone, intentionally or unintentionally, uses another person's words, ideas, or data without proper acknowledgment. All students attend a presentation about academic dishonesty during orientation and sign a statement acknowledging that they understand what constitutes academic dishonesty.

A student given academic probation is no longer in good academic standing and may be suspended or dismissed form the College if their performance fails to meet the minimum requires for good standing, or fails to demonstrate sufficient progress toward that goal. Usually, students are allowed no more than two semesters of academic probation, after which they may be dismissed from the College. If you are on probation, you should consult with your faculty adviser and will work one-on-one with Janet Mallen, Assistant Director of Academic Resources: Student Success, in order to plan and navigate a return to good academic standing. Further information about Academic Standards can be found in the College Catalog.

A student with a grade-point average between 1.7 and 1.99 at the end of the first semester of their first year, or a student who does not complete at least 24 credits in their previous two semesters at Whitman (when applicable) may receive a letter of academic warning. This notice is a heads-up; if a student does not earn grades high enough to earn a 2.0 cumulative GPA at the end of the second semester or complete transfer credits at another institution in order to reach the 24-credit mark, they will be placed on academic probation. Further information about Academic Standards can be found in the College Catalog.

You can add a course to your schedule during the first two weeks of the semester. You will need to complete online registration and obtain your faculty adviser's electronic approval. You also will need to get course consent from the professor who teaches the class you are adding. It's important to keep in mind that adding a class late, if you have not been attending the class, can make it harder to keep up with course material, so be thoughtful when considering a late add. 

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 deadlines, change the time of a final exam, or seek a variance or exception to any college policy. Petition forms are available in the Registrar's Office (Memorial 212) or the Dean of Student's Office (Memorial 325). Staff members in the ARC or Registrar's office, or your academic adviser, can give you further information about when it is necessary or appropriate to file a petition and can also help you organize a strong petition. 

You can drop a class without any record on your transcript through the sixth week of classes. You will be able to withdraw from a class via the Web with your faculty adviser's electronic approval. You do not need the instructor's approval to drop a class, although it would be polite to tell the instructor so he or she won't wonder why you have stopped attending class.

In order to remain in good standing, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • earn a grade point average (GPA) of at least 1.700 each semester
  • earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 during the second semester of the first year and subsequently after that
  • earn a minimum of 24 credits in any two consecutive semesters
  • successfully complete General Studies 145/146 during your first two semesters (see the College Catalog for further information on this requirement), and
  • maintain a minimum cumulative GPA  of 2.000 in your area of major study, or in all areas of major stody for combined majors. 

If certain circumstances beyond your control (illness, family emergency, etc.) prevent 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 determine if an incomplete would be appropriate. The criteria for qualifying for an incomplete are that a student must have completed at least 50% of the work in a given course, and that the remaining work is feasible for the student to complete. It is the student's responsibility to make arrangements with their faculty member to turn in completed work within the allowable time frame. More information about incompletes can be found in the College Catalog, and by visiting with Bridget Jacobson in the Dean of Students Office

Faculty members are expected to submit midterm deficiency notices (commonly known as D slips) for students who are incurring D or F grades in their coursework at the midsemester. If you receive a D 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. Academic Resource Center staff will schedule an appointment to meet with you if you receive more than one D slip.

During the 10th week of the semester, 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 counted in your cumulative grade-point average. Although the P-D-F option can be very beneficial in certain circumstances, there are complications involved with its use. 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 must also consult your faculty adviser and obtain his or her approval. You may not P-D-F the Core 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 can also 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.