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Welcome to the parents, families and friends of our incoming College class from Paul Snigowski, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

In high school, a student's records are considered their parents' property as much as their own. In college, a students' records are considered the student's property. Penn's policy regarding student information is that students are adults, and the University generally will not share their academic and other records (apart from directory information) with third parties without their explicit consent. This is in accordance with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Though there are situations in which the University can choose to divulge information without a student's consent (for example, if they are listed as dependents on their parents' tax returns), for the most part, students must decide who has access to their academic record. They can indicate whether or not they wish their parents or others to see their educational records using the Privacy Settings screen on Penn InTouch.

By Dr. Alice Kelley, Former Associate Director of Academic Advising and Assistant Dean for Advising

When my younger son was entering MIT, I found myself attending a parent orientation as a mother rather than as an academic advisor, and I’ll never forget the first thing the Dean said as he faced our proud, but anxious group: “I need to warn you,” he intoned solemnly, “that fully fifty percent of your sons and daughters will be in the bottom half of their class!” We were silent a moment, and then laughed nervously, realizing that what he said was self-evident, though it obviously hadn’t struck any of us before. But he faced us then with an issue that every Ivy League parent and student will need to confront: straight A’s are no longer the norm for a student entering a place like Penn and, in fact, are very rare. C’s show up often on transcripts here, and failure is possible. So it is well to recognize that both you and your student will have a new set of expectations to meet and manage over the next few years.

How can you help your student as they face the fact that everyone at Penn has come to the University with similar academic success, but often different gifts and degrees of preparation?

  • Remember that your student may be even more nervous than you are about mastering Penn work. Most first-year Penn students have never had to ask for help and many will be hesitant to let you know that they are having trouble for fear that you will be angry or disappointed.
  • Try not to insist that your student follow one non-negotiable path when courses toward that goal continue to lead to poor grades. To get a sense of jobs held by students graduating with different majors, see First Jobs & Grad Schools by Major to see how students in different fields enter the working world with triumph.
  • Help your student find their special gifts. Remember that Penn has a number of resources to provide aid before a small problem grows large.
  • And, should your student emerge at the end of the first semester with grades that disappoint both of you, try to be helpful rather than fierce. A small blot on the transcript is not death. Students get into graduate and professional schools and find career success even if they get off to a rocky start.

We know that each of our students will be able to make Penn work academically for them, once they get the hang of things and find their areas of strength, and that their parents can be an invaluable support in the process.

Support for academic skills

Students will be responsible to know and adhere to the College's policies and procedures. A general listing can be found in the Policies and Procedures section of this site and in the pdf published for their specific class.

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College students will choose courses, declare a major and define career goals. They will examine their performance in different courses, identify their skills and those they wish to develop and decide what really matters to them. Janet Tighe, Dean of First-Year Students and Director of Academic Advising will introduce the network of academic advisors available to help.

Additional Resources

In addition to their network of academic advisors, students have a broad range of resources available to help them thrive and succeed.

The College Curriculum

The College of Arts and Sciences curriculum provides an academic framework for becoming an educated and successful citizen of the 21st century. Its flexible structure is designed to inspire curiosity and frame opportunities while drawing the student toward two distinct goals: general education across the wide range of the arts and sciences and specialized education in a major.

The curriculum is made up of three components:

Academic Options

College Students are encouraged to extend their learning beyond the classroom and the basic curriculum.

The following will give you a sense of what happens when during the next four years,

Incoming students will receive two emails from the College Office through May and June:

Welcome from the Deans introduces students to the steps they will need to take for academic advising and planning through Compass, the primary guide for incoming students throughout the summer.

Contains contact information for peer and pre-major advisors. Advising sessions begin in mid-June and continue through the summer.

Students should:

  • Have a discussion with their pre-major advisor during the first few weeks of the semester and again during Advance Registration in October and November, to discuss course selection for the upcoming semester. Incoming first-year students will be on registration hold, which keeps them from being able to participate in Advance Registration, until they meet with their advisor.
  • Let their pre-major advisor know of any problems they are having that are affecting their academic work.
  • Investigate study abroadresearch and other academic options.
  • Apply to become a peer advisor and help a new student entering Penn.

Students should:

  • See their pre-major advisor before Advance Registration in March and April to discuss courses for the fall semester. Incoming students are on registration hold for their first semester until they have an advising discussion with their advisor.
  • Investigate majors of interest. Start talking to faculty and students in their prospective majors. Attend one or more of the College’s Majors and More Dinners to learn about programs of interest. Attend classes in the major and get the student’s perspective through the Major Advising Program (MAP).
  • Investigate study abroadresearch and other academic options.

Students should:

  • Meet with their pre-major advisor to discuss progress toward finding and declaring a major and meeting the degree requirements during Advance Registration in October and November. This meeting is also an opportunity to explore options such as minors, research and study abroad. Until meeting with their advisor, Sophomores will be on registration hold which keeps them from being able to participate in Advance Registration.
  • Become completely familiar with the rules and requirements for their potential major. These are available on the department websites.
  • Investigate study abroadresearch and other academic options.
  • Apply to become a peer advisor and help the next incoming class.

Students should:

  • Meet with their pre-major advisor before declaring a major to discuss their plans during Advance Registration in March and April. The pre-major advisor will update the student’s academic planning worksheet and make it official. This must be done before the student goes to the major department to declare.
  • Go to the major department to declare. Departments have different processes for declaration. Check the department websites for more information. The major department will lift the registration hold during this process. Students should plan well in advance to make appropriate appointments with pre-major and major advising before the end of Advance Registration.
  • Investigate study abroadresearch and other academic options.
  • Check with Career Services and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships for information about internships.

Students should:

  • Review their academic planning worksheet to check that all requirements are fulfilled and appropriate progress is being made toward graduation, including the necessary number of College and overall credits.
  • Meet with an advisor in the College Office for help filling in the worksheet or for answers to any other academic questions or concerns.
  • Meet with their major advisor to confirm they are making progress in fulfilling major requirements.
  • Continue to explore academic options like study abroad and research.
  • Check with Career Services and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) for information about internships and graduate study.
  • Check with CURF if considering research or information on post-graduate fellowships and scholarships.
  • Consider sharing their major with underclassmen by becoming Major Advising Program (MAP) advisors.
  • Apply to become a peer advisor and help the next incoming class.

Students should:

From the end of junior year through to graduation, students should confirm that their Academic Planning Worksheet on Penn InTouch is updated and accurate. This includes meeting with the major advisor to be sure that the major section of the worksheet has been updated with all relevant courses. The College will conduct an audit of rising seniors’ worksheets during the summer and inform them by email of any missing requirements, as well as other graduation-related issues the students need to address.

Students should:

  • Meet with their major advisor to make sure all requirements for the major will be completed and to discuss future plans.
  • Review the academic planning worksheet to check their progress toward fulfilling requirements before the end of the Course Selection period. Seniors should have received an email from the College Office in early August outlining where things stand with their degree requirements.
  • Confirm that their intended graduation date and local address are correct on Penn InTouch.
  • Visit the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) if considering research or information on post-graduate fellowships and scholarships.
  • Consider applying for Senior Awards.
  • Check with Career Services for information about graduate study.
  • Consider sharing their major with underclassmen by becoming Major Advising Program (MAP) advisors.

Students should:

  • Meet with their major advisor to make sure that they will complete the major and to discuss their plans for the future.
  • Make sure to submit their Application for Graduation by the appointed deadline. The Application is on the web; a link to it is emailed to seniors early in the spring semester.
  • Before the end of the Course Selection period, confirm that they have the courses they need to graduate.
  • Visit the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) if considering research or information on post-graduate fellowships and scholarships.
  • Consider applying for Senior Awards.
  • Check with Career Services for information about graduate study.
  • Participate in the College Graduation Ceremony.