The Credit/No Credit First Semester
In the first semester of your first year at Swarthmore, final grades of CR (credit) or NC (non-credit) are the only officially recorded grades on the transcript. This is to allow you time to make the transition to college-level academic work. You should understand, however, that you will indeed be graded as usual within your courses. You will receive written evaluations and usually grade equivalents from your instructors, copies of which will be shared with your academic adviser and placed in your file. These are referred to as "shadow grades."
Be warned that poor "shadow" letter grades can shadow students in various situations, so it would be wrong to think they will not matter. "Shadow" grades are used internally at the College when you apply for a major and some other times.
Further, you might be asked for them externally -- while applying for an internship for example -- and you will likely feel obliged to comply with the request and provide them. (There is an easy way to do this within mySwarthmore.) The point is: "shadow" grades matter, even though they never appear on the official transcript of your grades.
You should try to find the right balance during your first semester—do not take every course you worry might not bring the highest grade later, just because this is a CR/NC semester, nor on the other extreme, take your studies too lightly.
The Committee on Academic Requirements and Review of Grades
The Committee on Academic Requirements (CAR) is a committee of faculty, advised by deans, that reviews the academic records of all students, each semester. In each semester, and particularly in the first semester, this review includes grades--in the case of first semester, first-year students, shadow grades--and feedback the Dean's Office receives from faculty and others during the course of the semester. Upon review, the CAR decides whether to:
- encourage a student to take greater advantage of the academic support resources;
- mandate certain forms of support, such as meeting with a dean regularly over the course of the next semester, making greater use of the Writing Associates program, etc.;
- place a student on academic probation, in which case parents are notified of our concerns, and given the shadow grades;
- or, in rare cases, require a student to withdraw for a semester when CAR feels that the student could greatly benefit from time away.
The goal of the review is to match each student with the appropriate resources to be as successful at Swarthmore as possible.