Start and End of Term Planning

This information will help you plan for the start and end of term. Included are FAQs, as well as important policies and deadlines that should be considered throughout the duration of the term.

Start of Term

Please understand and communicate the following information to students—include in your syllabi when appropriate. There should be transparency about expectations and an understanding of the resources and options available if difficulties arise.

If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact the Registrar’s Office.

  • Students appreciate when faculty clearly communicate expectations about the nature and timing of required work—this helps them manage their course workloads.

    On the first day of class students should receive the course syllabus, and if there are any revisions, an updated copy should follow as soon as possible. Please include the dates of in-term exams and list any field trips or other special activities. If you are planning more than one field-trip, please contact the chair of the Calendar & Schedule Committee for approval.

    Students should receive periodic evaluation of their work during the semester. The evaluation can be in many forms: papers, quizzes, tests, graded laboratory reports, etc.

    In courses designed primarily for first-year students, some substantial part of a course's graded work should be scheduled and evaluated before mid-semester advisories are due.

  • Please make it clear to students at the start of the semester if the pass/fail option applies to your course, and that exceptions will not be allowed.

    Faculty-approved pass/fail legislation mandates that if a course is designated as pass/fail, that option is made available to all students in a given course and should not be offered to individual students selectively or midway through the semester.

    If you are unsure of a pass/fail status, check the catalog.

    A pass/fail designation can't be changed after pre-registration.

  • Williams' attendance policy stipulates that instructors can drop anyone who misses the first class meeting. It also allows for faculty to establish their own attendance policies.

    Because many faculty factor attendance into the calculation of final grades, it is recommended that you explain your attendance policy clearly and specifically (via syllabus and in-class discussion). Ask students to talk to you about any conflicts as early as possible, and never less than a week beforehand.

    Students who repeatedly miss class are often experiencing a variety of academic and personal problems. If a student is repeatedly missing classes, please notify the Dean's Office so they can offer the student help and advice.

  • The Chaplains’ Office maintains a list of major religious holidays. Please avoid scheduling required classes or exercises on those days. Massachusetts law states that students who cannot meet course requirements at the appointed time because they are observing religious holidays must be provided an opportunity to make up the work—unless it creates "an unreasonable burden" on the school and the faculty.

    "BUT MY RIDE IS LEAVING . . ."

    Students are expected to attend classes even on days when there is an unusually strong desire to skip, e.g., the last day before spring break.

    Students will not be excused (by instructors or deans) from classes or exams to accommodate early departures from campus. It may be helpful to know this message can be found on the Registrar's Office final exams page and also when a student signs into Williams Student Records to view their exam information.

  • Occasionally, the Center for Academic Resources will ask faculty members to modify course procedures in order to accommodate students with accessibility requirements.

    In most cases, these modifications are very minor, such as the provision of a note-taker or extended time on an exam. In the case of extended exam time, you will be given ample notice so that arrangements can be made.

    Contact G.L. Wallace, Director of Accessible Education if you need advice or more information on this topic.

  • The Center for Academic Resources houses a number of services and programs designed to support students’ academic and intellectual engagement and to help them take full advantage of the curriculum:

    • accessible education support and information
    • Peer Academic Support Network (individual tutoring, Economics Resource Center, Math & Science Resource Center)
    • Quantitative Skills Program
    • Writing Workshop

    If you feel a student needs assistance, please refer them to the Center for Academic Resources for more information.

  • During registration in the fall, all Williams students agree to abide by the Honor Code. The Honor Code covers all aspects of academic honesty, and the Honor Committee reviews violations of the Honor Code. The Honor Code website is a helpful resource that includes information about the Honor Code, procedures, definitions of plagiarism, and more.

    Your syllabi should include an explanation of how the Honor Code applies to all aspects of evaluated work in your course, especially if you assign collaborative projects of any kind. In addition, please include a sentence like the following on your syllabi:

    "If you are uncertain how the Honor Code applies to your work in this course, please ask me."

    If you have reason to believe that a student has committed a breach of academic honesty, contact the faculty chair of the Honor Committee. Please contact the faculty chair before speaking to the student.

  • COVID-19 addendum: Students attending Williams during the academic year 2020-2021 have until the end of the last day of classes to withdraw from a course.


    As late as the 10th week of the semester, a student may withdraw from a course:

    • once during their first year and
    • once again during their upper class years.

    The withdrawal is granted only when both you and a dean determine 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.

    Medical Withdrawals

    Due to the confidential subject matter, medical withdrawals from courses do not require instructor approval. A dean may, at their discretion, and with a recommendation from a health care provider, withdraw a student from a course for medical reasons at any time during the semester. In this case, you will be notified by a dean.

    A student will incur a deficiency for a sanctioned withdrawal, but no grade penalty. A withdrawal is recorded on the transcript as a “W."

End of Term

It’s advisable to plan ahead: final exam options and other end-of-term deadlines and policies.

  • Final exams may be given only in the period set aside for them at the end of the semester, and not during the semester itself or during the reading period.

    The Registrar's Office contacts faculty in early September for final exam information. Once the exam type and schedule is finalized, changes may not be made.

    If you wish to have an exception please contact Kath Dunlop, Registrar. Any other special arrangements for final exams, e.g., a final exam with both take-home and in-class components, also should be discussed in advance.

    Scheduling hour exams during the last week of classes is strongly discouraged. Exams that week make it difficult for students to comply with the faculty’s deadlines for the submission of final papers.

    Please refer to Final Exams for more details about:

    • student accommodations
    • final exam schedule
    • exam types
    • deadlines
    • hardships
  • You may set deadlines for course work with the following limitations:

    • For courses with final exams, the latest that written work may be due is 5:00 pm 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, you may grant an extension up to these deadlines solely at your discretion.

    Short extensions beyond these deadlines may only be granted by a dean, as long as you are in agreement.

    If students contact you requesting extensions beyond the deadlines listed above:

    • contact a dean to confirm an extended deadline if you think it's appropriate before discussing the matter with the student, or
    • deny the request outright.
  • A notation of "Incomplete" may only be entered on the final grade roster with the permission of the Dean's Office.

    Faculty should work directly with the Dean's Office if a student is in academic difficulty at the end of the semester. Faculty members should not enter into private arrangements with students for completion of work at the end of the term.

    Incompletes are rarely granted and are reserved for extremely serious emergencies. In such cases, a dean, the instructor, and the student agree to defer due dates for papers and exams until a specified time after the end of the semester.

  • Students benefit from receiving instructors’ comments on final papers or exams. You are encouraged to articulate your policy regarding final work, for example:

    • giving students the option to pick up final work at your office, or
    • meeting with students in person to discuss their final work.
  • By faculty vote, course grades must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office:

    • within four days after the final exam in a course;
    • or if there is no exam, within four days after the last day of classes;
    • or within four days after final written work was due, whichever is later.

    The reason for this tight schedule may not be obvious. At the end of every term, the Committee on Academic Standing (CAS) meets to review the records of students in academic difficulty; the CAS needs to have all grades in order to decide whether students with deficiencies will be required to resign, be placed on probation, or issued an academic warning.

    The CAS devotes part of their vacation time to this important work, which is often hampered by missing grades or other missing information, such as the required Unsatisfactory Grade form for "D" and "E" grades. Consideration of your colleagues' time is appreciated.