- Course Change Period
- Year-Long Courses
- Grading System
- Eligibility for and Completion of Majors
- Early Concentration Rule
- Course Load
- Approved Reduced Course Load
- Pass/Fail Option
- Fifth Course Option
- Withdrawing from a Course
- Extensions of Deadlines
- Failing a Course and Deficiencies
- Separation for Low Scholarship
- Withdrawal from the College in Good Standing
- Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities
- Dean’s List
- Phi Beta Kappa Society
- Awarding of Degrees
- Graduation with Distinction (Latin Honors)
- Winter Study Project
Williams College does not administer a general system of required classroom attendance. The College expects students to make full use of their educational opportunities by regular class attendance and to assume the academic risks incurred by absences.
Instructors may set such standards of attendance as they deem necessary for the satisfactory conduct of their courses.
Students who fail to meet these standards may be warned by the instructor and notice sent to the Dean that continued absence could result in their being dropped from the course. A failing grade will be assigned to any regularly graded course dropped after the designated course change period. Students who do not attend the first-class meeting in a semester course or Winter Study Project may be required to withdraw by the instructor. Attendance is required at announced tests and final examinations unless the student is specifically excused by the instructor or the Dean’s Office.
Course Change Period
Course changes may be made during a designated period at the beginning of each semester. No course changes may be made after that period except with the approval of the Committee on Academic Standing, after consultation with the Dean’s Office. During Winter Study, a second Winter Study Project may be added if the instructor approves but the original Project may not be dropped. A late fee of $5 per day may be assessed for each course change accepted after the announced deadline.
Year-long courses are designated by an odd number and an even number joined by a hyphen; the work of the two semesters constitutes an integral, indivisible course. Therefore, if a student does not pass the second half of a year-long course, they forfeit credit for the first half and incur a deficiency as a result of the forfeiture. Students who register for a year course are required to do both semesters of that course within the same academic year.
Williams uses the following system of grades: A = excellent; B = good; C = fair; D = passing; E = failing. These letters, with plus and minus value, have the following numerical equivalents in calculating grade averages:
A+ = 4.33
A = 4.00
A- = 3.67
B+ = 3.33
B = 3.00
B- = 2.67
C+ = 2.33
C = 2.00
C- = 1.67
D+ = 1.33
D = 1.00
D- = 0.67
E = 0 results in a course deficiency
A student receives credit for a course by obtaining a grade of at least D-.
First-Year Student Unsatisfactory Grade Notifications
In the middle of each semester, instructors report to the Registrar those first-year students whose grades at that time are unsatisfactory. The students and their academic advisors receive these notices as a matter of routine.
Eligibility for and Completion of Majors
To be eligible for any major, students must have received grades of C- or better in each course in the major taken in the first two years of college and Pass on any Winter Study Project taken in the major department or program. A senior may enter a major only upon the approval of the department chair and the Committee on Academic Standing.
All semester courses in the major must be taken on an A-E graded basis, unless a course is the first in the major; in that case, it can be taken pass-fail. In rare instances, and only with the permission of the relevant chair, students may be allowed to count a second pass-fail course for the major. In addition to passing each major course and, where required, a major Winter Study Project, the student must maintain an average in the major of 1.67 or higher. Seniors who have an average below 1.67 in the major field normally will not be allowed to continue. A senior who receives a grade of E in the first semester of a required major course may be dropped from the College at mid-year. A student who falls below these standards may continue in the major only with the approval of the Committee on Academic Standing.
A senior major exercise is not required by every department but is by some. All departments requiring such an exercise specify it as such in the description of their major programs, and all students in those departments must complete the exercise satisfactorily.
Early Concentration Rule
During the first two years of study, students are limited in the number of courses they may take in one department or subject each semester as follows:
- First-year students may take no more than one course with the same course prefix, nor more than two in one department, in a semester.
- Sophomores may take no more than two courses with the same course prefix, nor more than three in one department, in a semester.
- Sophomores may take no more than three courses with the same course prefix, nor more than four in one department, during the full year.
- A student may take no more than a total of five courses with the same course prefix, nor more than eight in one department, during the first two years.
Any exception to the above early concentration rule may be requested by a petition to the Committee on Academic Standing (CAS) filed at the time of registration.
Students are required to complete four courses each semester.
Approved Reduced Course Load
If a student with a disability believes that they are unable to pursue a full course of study, the student may petition the Disabilities and Accommodations Advisory Committee for permission to pursue a reduced course load. Such a petition must be accompanied by a professional evaluation that addresses the student’s inability to maintain a full course of study and discusses the rationale for a reduced course load. Upon consideration of a student’s petition and supporting documentation, the Disabilities and Accommodations Advisory Committee makes a recommendation to the Committee on Academic Standing, which renders decisions. Such cases are considered on an individual basis and may be initiated at any time during the student’s tenure at Williams.
A reduced course load permits students with documented need based on a disability to take three rather than four courses each semester. Students approved for a reduced course load must still complete all academic requirements of the college (including passing 32 courses, completing a major, and completing all of the distribution requirements) in order to graduate.
Academic rules of the college as they apply to students on approved reduced (three) course load:
- Minimum academic standards for an upperclass student on a reduced course load are three grades of C- or better, OR two grades of C- or better and a Pass each semester, and at least Perfunctory Pass on the Winter Study Project. The minimum academic standards for a first-year student on a reduced course load are two grades of C- or better and no failures each semester, and at least Perfunctory Pass on the Winter Study Project. The Committee on Academic Standing may require a student to withdraw from the college for a period of time for failure to meet these minimum standards.
- Students may take a fourth course as an extra course. This course may be taken pass/fail or for a grade, and will count toward the 32 course requirement.
- Students on a reduced course load should confer with the Associate Registrar and with Dr. Wallace, Director of Accessible Education, at least once each year to make plans for completing the degree. Since the student will complete fewer than 32 Williams courses in eight semesters, the student will need to either take summer courses elsewhere or take additional semesters at Williams in order to complete their graduation requirements. Note, however, that only Williams courses can be used for completing distribution requirements.
- If a student wishes to take summer courses elsewhere, they must be pre-approved by the Associate Registrar and must be taken at an accredited four-year institution and be in a field appropriate to the liberal arts.
- If a student wishes to take courses elsewhere that count towards the requirements of their major, those courses will need to be approved by the chair in their major department or program.
- If a student receives financial aid, that aid can be extended if the reduced course load requires additional semesters to complete 32 courses.
- The college requires all students to take a full course load. This means that students on a reduced course load must be enrolled in a minimum of three courses each semester. Students who come to the end of a semester having completed 30 or 31 courses, and choose to complete those remaining courses by petitioning to take an additional semester at Williams will be expected to be enrolled in three courses that final semester.
- As is the case for all students, students are permitted to withdraw from one course in the first year and one additional course during the remaining semesters at Williams, so long as the requirements for withdrawing from a course are met. If the student withdraws from a course, the deficiency must be made up in either the following summer or the next semester.
- Students on reduced course load who plan to study away should be sure to let both Dr. Wallace and the study away advisor know of their intention to take a reduced course load while away. Many study away programs permit students to take a three course load if they have been approved for that load by their home institution, but some programs are fully integrated such that taking only three courses is not possible without disrupting the academic integrity of the program.
- If a student is approved for a reduced course load without a specific ending date, Dr. Wallace will review the necessity of continuing on reduced load at the beginning of each term. He may contact the student to request updated academic or medical information if needed to determine the appropriateness of continuing the reduced course load accommodation.
Students may take up to 3 courses on a pass/fail basis (but no more than one in any given semester). Students may designate a course pass/fail at any point after drop/add up to the tenth week of the semester. Once a course has been designated pass/fail, however, this designation cannot be changed. Students must achieve a minimum grade of D- in a pass/fail course to receive a “P”. An “F” in a pass/fail course will be recorded as an “E” on students’ records and will count toward the GPA, but a “P” will not.
Courses taken pass/fail cannot subsequently be used to fulfill distributional requirements (divisional, WI, DPE, QFR). No course counting toward a major, certificate, or concentration can be taken pass/fail unless this course is the first one taken toward that credential. (In rare circumstances, chairs of programs or departments may grant exceptions to this rule.)
Students may designate a fifth course as one of their pass/fail options, similarly by the tenth week of the semester. Courses taken pass/fail as part of a four-course load or as a fifth course to make up a course deficiency will count toward graduation; courses taken pass/fail as an extra course will not count toward graduation.
By default, any course is available for students to enroll on a graded or pass/fail basis. Instructors have the option of designating any of their courses not eligible for the pass/fail option.
Fifth Course Option
Except in the case of the unbalanced course program described above, a student may, by the end of drop/add, enroll in a fifth course that must be designated as an extra graded course. An extra course may be dropped any time up to the sixth week of the semester. If a student chooses to continue in the course and the course is available for the pass/fail option, they must decide by the tenth week whether to complete the course on an A-E graded basis or change the course to pass/fail. An extra course graded “Pass” may not be used to fulfill distribution or major, concentration, or certificate requirements (under rare circumstances, the chair of the relevant program or department may grant an exception to this rule) or to accelerate graduation, but may be used to make up a deficiency from a prior semester as one of the 32 semester courses required to complete the degree. An extra course completed as a fifth A-E graded course may be used to fulfill distribution or major, concentration, or certificate requirements or to make up a deficiency incurred in a prior term, but not to accelerate graduation. The grade received will be included in the calculation of the student’s cumulative grade-point average.
By default, any course (except a tutorial) is available for students to enroll as a Fifth Course. Instructors have the option of designating any of their courses not eligible for the fifth course option.
Withdrawing from a Course
First-year and first-semester transfer students may be permitted to withdraw from one course (incurring a deficiency but no grade penalty) as late as the tenth week of the semester. Upperclass students also may withdraw from a course under the same conditions once in subsequent years. A withdrawal, recorded on the transcript as a “W,” is granted only with the approval of the instructor and a dean and only if there is complete agreement between the instructor and the dean that, despite conscientious effort to do the work, continuation in the course would be detrimental to the overall educational interest or health of the student. The deficiency thereby incurred must be removed in the normal manner. See Deficiencies for more information.
Extensions of Deadlines
Deadlines for course work are set by the instructor with the following limitations:
- for courses with final exams, the latest that written work may be due is 5:00 p.m. on the last day of reading period.
- for courses without final exams, the latest that written work may be due is 5:00 pm. on the third-to-last day of the exam period.
- If work is due before these deadlines, the instructor may grant an extension up to these deadlines solely at their discretion. Short extensions beyond these deadlines may be granted by a dean but only with the concurrence of the instructor. No extensions will be granted beyond the examination period except in the case of serious illness.
- Instructors may require students who have missed announced quizzes or hour tests to present satisfactory explanations to a dean before they are permitted to make up the exercises.
- If a student is absent from a final examination, a make-up examination may be given only with the permission of a dean and at a time determined by the dean.
Failing a Course and Deficiencies
When a student falls behind in course credits because of a failure or course withdrawal, they have a deficiency. Deficiencies can be made up only by courses taken after the deficiencies have been incurred. Thus, for example, Advanced Placement credits may not be used to make up deficiencies.
A deficiency incurred in the fall term must be made up before the start of the following academic year. A deficiency incurred in the spring semester must be made up prior to the start of the following spring semester. A student may, in consultation with the Dean’s Office, petition the Committee on Academic Standing with an alternate plan.
A student must make up a deficiency in one of these ways:
- obtain a grade of at least C- in a summer school course, approved in advance by the Registrar, at a regionally accredited four-year college or university; (the grade will not, however, be included in the calculation of the student’s cumulative grade point average)
- pass an extra course, either on a pass/fail or on an A-E graded basis, at Williams in the semester following the withdrawal or failure.
- in the case of a first-semester failure of a year-long course, obtain a grade of at least a C- in the work of the second semester of that course. The failure for the first semester will, however, remain on the student’s record and will be included in the cumulative grade point average. If a failure occurs in the second semester of a full-year course, credit for passing the first semester may be retained only upon the recommendation of the department concerned and with the approval of the Committee on Academic Standing.
A senior who incurs a failure in the first semester in a required major course may be dropped from the College at midyear.
Separation for Low Scholarship
It is the policy of Williams College not to permit a student to remain in residence after it has become evident that they are either unable or unwilling to maintain reasonable standards of academic achievement. At the end of each term, the Committee on Academic Standing reviews all academic records that fail to meet the following minimum academic requirements:
For first-year students: Three grades of C- or better and no failures each semester, and at least Perfunctory Pass on the Winter Study Project
For upperclass students: Four grades of C- or better, OR three grades of C- or better and a Pass each semester, and at least Perfunctory Pass on the Winter Study Project
Students whose records fail to meet these minimum academic requirements or whose records otherwise fail to show adequate progress may receive an academic reminder, be placed on academic probation, or be required to resign.
Students who are required to resign from the College for academic reasons are normally not permitted to return for at least one year from the date of their resignation. A student who has been required to resign from the College may petition the Committee on Academic Standing through the Dean for reinstatement on two conditions only: all deficiencies must have been made up and a letter submitted to the Committee that offers convincing evidence that the student is ready and able to complete work toward a degree at Williams without further interruption.
When required to resign, students must vacate their rooms promptly. Financial aid students must also see the Director of Financial Aid before leaving to discuss loan repayment and renewal of aid in the event of readmission.
A student who fails to meet minimum academic standards in their final semester at Williams may be required by the Committee on Academic Standing to meet them by earning grades of at least C- elsewhere before the B.A. will be awarded. If such work is required, it must be completed within three years unless stipulated otherwise, and the courses must be approved in advance by the Registrar.
Withdrawal from the College in Good Standing
Students may request personal leaves of absence from a dean and, if granted, withdraw from the College. Such time away, often as a period of reassessment and self evaluation, can prove to be beneficial educationally. A withdrawal in good standing may be granted for not less than one semester and not more than three years. Students who withdraw in good standing are readmitted with the approval of the Dean’s Office and are expected to complete the degree without further interruption.
Students may request permission from a dean to withdraw at any time. If a student is granted a personal leave of absence after the semester begins, but before the end of the drop/add period, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal as the day before the term began. If a personal leave is granted after the end of the drop/add period, but before the end of the eighth week of the semester, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal, but the semester will not count toward the maximum of eight allowed to complete the degree. If a personal withdrawal is allowed after the eighth week of the semester, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal and the courses in progress, each with a W; the semester will normally count toward the maximum of eight allowed to complete the degree and the student will incur deficiencies that must be made up before returning to the College.
Payment refund or credit in the event of withdrawal is described in the Williams College Refund Policy.
Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities
A student is eligible to represent the College in any athletic, dramatic, literary, or musical event and be in the student government, or other organization as a member, substitute, or officer, unless they are declared ineligible:
1) by the Dean;
2) by vote of the Discipline Committee; or
3) by vote of the Committee on Academic Standing because of a dangerously low record.
The Student Honor Committee may recommend to the Dean loss of eligibility as a penalty for a violation of the Honor Code.
All students who attain a semester average of 3.50 or higher in a program of four or more courses taken on an A-E graded basis are placed on the Dean’s List for that semester. (Note: students with three courses taken on an A-E graded basis and one pass/fail course are not eligible for the Dean’s List).
Phi Beta Kappa Society
Students of the highest academic standing are eligible for election to membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Society in accordance with the following rules:
1) The requirements for election to membership shall be a grade point average of 3.3 and Honors or Pass in all required Winter Study Projects. There shall be two elections of new members for each class, at the end of the junior and senior years.
2) At the end of the junior year, all students in the highest five percent of the class, ranked by cumulative grade point average, shall be eligible for election provided they have met the requirements and have completed enough courses to be considered candidates for the B.A. degree in the following year. A student who leaves Williams at the end of the junior year to attend graduate school may be elected under the above procedures.
At the end of the senior year, all students not yet elected and in the highest 12.5 per cent of the class, ranked by cumulative grade point average, shall be eligible for election provided they have met the requirements.
3) Students shall be eligible for election only if they have been students at Williams College for at least two years.
4) Honorary members may be elected from distinguished alumni of at least twenty years’ standing. No more than one such member shall be elected each year.
5) Any student who shall have gained their rank by unfair means or who in the judgment of the Dean of the College is not of good moral character is ineligible to election.
6) The name of a member elect shall be entered on the roll only after they have accepted the election and has paid to the Treasurer the regular entrance fee.
7) Any undergraduate member who withdraws from the College before graduation or who falls short of the minimum Phi Beta Kappa scholastic standing may, upon a two-thirds vote of the members present at the annual meeting, be deprived of membership in the society.
8) Any undergraduate member who is expelled from the College shall be deprived of membership in the Society.
9) While connected with Williams College as an officer of instruction or administration, any graduate of Williams College who is a member of another chapter of Phi Beta Kappa shall be considered a regular member of the Williams chapter.
10) While connected with Williams College as professor, associate professor or assistant professor, or an officer of administration, any member of another chapter of Phi Beta Kappa shall have all the privileges of the Williams chapter, including holding office and voting. While connected with Williams College, any other officer of instruction or administration who is a member of another chapter shall have all the privileges of the Williams chapter, except holding office and voting.
Awarding of Degrees
By vote of the Trustees, the degree of Bachelor of Arts is conferred at Commencement upon students who have completed the requirements as to courses and grades to the satisfaction of the Faculty. The right to a degree may, however, be forfeited by misconduct at any time prior to the conferring of the degree. No degree in absentia will be conferred except by special vote of the Trustees on petition presented to the Dean. Diplomas will not be authorized for students who have not paid College charges or have not returned all books belonging to the library.
Graduation with Distinction (Latin Honors)
The Faculty will recommend to the Trustees that the degree of Bachelor of Arts with distinction (Latin Honors) be conferred upon those members of the graduating class who have passed all Winter Study Projects and obtained a four-year average in the top:
35% of the graduating class – Bachelor of Arts cum laude or higher
15% of the graduating class – Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude or higher
2% of the graduating class – Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude
Winter Study Project
Students must pass a Winter Study Project in each of their four years. Winter Study Projects are graded Pass, Perfunctory Pass, or Fail. All work for Winter Study Projects must be submitted by the last day of the Winter Study Program; work may be accepted after this date only with the permission of a dean. Students who fail their Winter Study Projects or receive a second Perfunctory Pass will be placed on academic probation by the Committee on Academic Standing and will be required to make up the deficiency. Students who fail through gross neglect of work will normally be required to resign.