Frequently Asked Questions for 2020-21 Academic Year
Class Time Grid | Course Schedule | Courses | Credits | Deferral (New Students) | Degree Requirements | Enrollment | Grading | International Students and Americans Living Abroad | J-Term | Leave of Absence | Lotteries and Add/Drop | Off-Campus Study | On-Campus Experience | Registration | Spring Semester | Textbook Fund
- How long is the class day going to be?
The weekly class schedule is similar to the past schedule, but has 30-minute breaks between class periods and two lunch periods. Classes that used to start at 8:30 AM now begin at 8 AM. The new course periods provide time and space to transition between courses for on-campus experiences as well as breaks between remote sessions. Please see the class schedule website.
- Will students still have a weekend?
Yes. Classes take place Monday through Friday.
- When will the course schedule be announced?
The amended course schedule will be announced on July 28. Fall courses will be indicated as "remote" or "hybrid." J-term courses are all remote and will be indicated as such.
Hybrid courses have an in-person (on-campus) component, while remote courses do not. Both remote and hybrid courses are open to on- and off-campus students, and both can have synchronous components. As much detail as possible will be available on the schedule published July 28th.
Note: Only students who live in the campus residence halls can attend the in-person component of hybrid courses.
- Can students take courses at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and UPenn?
Bryn Mawr and Haverford courses can be taken remotely by following the normal approval process. UPenn course exchange might not be offered in the Fall 2020 semester (to be decided by UPenn). The Strath Haven visiting student program has been suspended for the Fall 2020 semester.
- Will lab courses be offered and what will they look like? (Especially for remote students?)
Yes, lab courses will be offered. Different departments may have different approaches; for information about a department of your interest, see their website first; information should be soon available.
- Will PE courses be offered and what will they look like? (Especially for remote students?)
Yes, PE courses will be offered. Please see this link for more information.
- Are classes happening in-person for the students on campus?
Hybrid courses have in-person components, which will depend on the discipline and subject. All courses, whether remote or hybrid, are available for remote students.
- Is there a cap on hybrid classes?
Currently, there is an expected cap of 20 students on in-person experiences to follow CDC guidance on physical distancing in classrooms and other campus spaces. Total enrollment of classes that are hybrid may have more than 20 students, but the in-person aspects of a hybrid class will only have 20 students total.
- How will classes work when some students are on campus and some are remote?
All courses, whether remote or hybrid, are available for remote students. Each hybrid course might be somewhat different; they may involve different synchronous sections depending on the students, and asynchronous activities and tasks.
- How will labs work when some students are on campus and some students are remote?
Different departments may have different approaches; for information about a department of your interest, see their website first; information should be soon available.
- How can finals at home be more equitable or doable?
Your professors are aware of this issue and are working on it.
- Can a student complete any remote course entirely asynchronously?
Most courses, either remote or hybrid, involve synchronous activities.
- Is 3-3.5 credits a hard cap/requirement in the fall semester?
3-3.5 is a normal course load and a strong recommendation, but students may take 4.0 credits in close consultation with their advisor. (There is no form for this process.)
- What are the minimum and maximum credit rules for the fall semester?
Students need to be enrolled in a minimum of 3.0 credits to be considered full-time; maximum is 4.0 credits (in consultation with their advisor).
- I was planning to take 5.0 credits in Fall 2020? What should I do?
In consultation with your advisor, you may take up to 4.0 credits in the fall and 1.0 credit in the J-term. At this point we suggest that all students who expect to be registered for either the fall or spring semester also register for a course during the J-term (1.0-1.5 credits). Any student who is enrolled in either or both the fall and spring semester is eligible to register for the J-term.
- Is it possible to take two credits in the fall semester and the third credit in the J term for a total of 3.0 credits?
No. College policy does not permit programs of fewer than 3.0 credits in the fall or spring semester (see catalog 7.7).
- I am an honors student. Am I allowed to take more than 3.0 credits in the fall semester?
Yes. Whether you are an honors student or not, 3.0-3.5 is a strong recommendation, but students may take up to 4.0 credits in close consultation with their advisor. There is no form for this process.
- Is there a deadline for new students to request a deferral?
Yes, July 12 when the survey form is due. Please consult the Admitted Students FAQ for more information about deferral requests.
- Is it possible for first-year students or new transfers to start in the J-term?
No, first-year students and new transfers may not begin in the J-term.
- Is it possible for a new student to start in the spring semester?
Yes, but instruction may be remote if only juniors and seniors are allowed to return to campus. Please contact the Admissions Office with any questions.
- Will taking a leave during senior year violate the senior year rule (7.6.1)?
Students may take a leave of absence between their last two semesters of full-time study, and they can even study elsewhere and follow the rules for transfer credit to transfer up to 2.0 credits toward the Swarthmore degree without violating the senior year rule. If you have further questions about the senior year rule, see catalog chapter 7.6.1 or contact Registrar Martin Warner.
- Will I be able to be a December finisher?
Yes, or a January finisher, if all your requirements can be completed by the end of the fall or January terms. Please see the Registrar’s December Finisher website.
- Can students who take a leave of absence for the fall semester enroll in the J-term? Can I start the academic year in the J-term?
Yes. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors may take a leave of absence for the fall semester and enroll in the J-term, as long as they enroll for spring semester as well.
If you are a new student with questions about being away in the Fall 2020 semester, you can consult the Admitted Students FAQ for more information about deferral requests or reach out to the Admissions Office. Leaves of absences are not available to first-semester, first-year students or new transfer students.
- Can I enroll for just one credit at BMC or Haverford College?
One of your credits might be a Bryn Mawr or Haverford course if it is approved according to our normal process for approving Tri-Co courses. Your overall enrollment must be a minimum of three credits in the fall. Keep in mind that during Fall 2020, Swarthmore students can only take remote courses at Bryn Mawr or Haverford through the Tri-Co consortium.
- What is the grading policy and grading scale for the fall semester?
Upon recommendation of the Council on Educational Policy, the College will return to a normal grading policy in the fall 2020 semester. Students will receive letter grades for work accomplished. First semester first-year students will receive Credit/No Credit for the fall 2020 semester and J-term. N.B. Credit/No Credit from the spring 2020 semester will not count towards the four optional Credit/No Credit. More information on the College's Credit/No Credit policy.
- Will the J-term be Credit/No Credit for first-year students?
Yes. Notations for first semester first-year students will be Credit/No Credit for the fall 2020 semester and J-term.
- What is the latest information for international students?
The International Student Center is currently working on a variety of responses to the Fall SEVP guidelines. We will provide updates as soon as possible. Any urgent questions should be directed to Assistant Dean and Director of International Student Programs Jennifer Marks-Gold.
This important Information for international students and Americans living abroad about transfer credit and study opportunities in your country of residence is available on the Off-Campus Study Office website.
- What is J-term going to look like?
Courses will meet four days a week with built-in breaks.
J-term days of instruction:
- Week 1: January 4-7
- Week 2: January 11-14
- Week 3: January 19-22 (note shift in class days for MLK Day)
- Week 4: January 25-28
January 29: All papers/projects due & all final exams
January 30-February 14: Winter Break II
- Is the J-term optional?
The J-term is an extension of the fall semester. Thus, students should clarify with their advisors the credit progress toward their degrees. A normal course load in the 2020-21 academic year will be 3-1-4. (For example, some students may wish to take 4-0-4; others may take 3.5-1.5-4. And still others may take 3-1-3, if they have enough credits to do so. While there is no penalty for not registering for the J-term, be sure this is the best course of action for you.)
Any student wishing to take a January course may do so — as long as they are enrolled in either the fall or spring semester — with one exception: first-year students and transfer students may not begin in January. They must either begin by enrolling in the fall semester, or in February when the spring semester begins, regardless of whether they will be on campus. January will not be billed separately but will be included as part of tuition for any student enrolled — regardless of presence on campus — in either fall or spring semesters.
- How will labs be handled during the J-term?
Each academic department will have its own answer to this question. Please consult the departmental websites.
- Is there a deadline to request a leave of absence? Are there penalties for late requests?
There is not a rush to decide about a leave of absence. We recommend deciding by early August, if possible. The financial withdrawal policy describes the financial implications of leave request timing. If you are not sure about a leave of absence by July 12, please indicate in the Fall 2020 Enrollment Questionnaire that you plan to enroll and then you can still take a leave in August if that ends up being the right decision for you. Please read the Taking Time Off website for more information.
- If I take a leave for Fall 2020, is it just for fall or is it for J-term too?
A Fall 2020 leave can be extended through J-term if you would like. J-term is optional, so if you take a fall leave you can either extend your leave through J-term, or seek return for the J-term so long as you are enrolled in the spring semester. Note: first-year students may not begin in January. If you are a first-year student, you must either begin by enrolling in the fall semester or in February when the spring semester begins, regardless of whether you will be on campus.
- What resources, if any, will Swarthmore provide if a student takes a leave of absence?
Students who take a voluntary leave of absence from the College may seek remote assistance with academic or career planning and will maintain access to their Swarthmore email account. Students who are on leave in Fall 2020 will not have access to campus facilities and services. For more information related to Leaves and Returns, please see the Taking Time Off website.
- Can I take a leave of absence and transfer in credits from courses that I take elsewhere?
For credits from domestic institutions: Yes, if the transfer credits are both pre- and finally approved. Please follow the transfer credit rules and pre-approval process in the same way as one might for a summer school class.
If you are an international student: Please consult this information on the Off-Campus Study Office website for the latest about the transfer credit process.
Credit limit for work done elsewhere while students are on leaves of absence during the 2020-21 academic year: Students on leaves of absence during the 2020-2021 academic year are limited to applying toward their Swarthmore degree no more than 2.0 approved Swarthmore credits for work done elsewhere (taken either in-person or remotely) while on leave. The faculty Council on Educational Policy recommended this limit to the faculty on July 30th and the faculty voted to approve this limit. If you were planning to secure more than 2.0 credits for work done elsewhere during a Fall 2020 leave, we would like to help you think through next steps; please email Martin Warner, Registrar, right away if this pertains to you. Keep in mind that Swarthmore credit for work done elsewhere must be pre-approved as well as finally validated for credit by an official transcript of grades and departmental final approval. For more information about the rules for transfer credit including information about the new portal, please see these instructions about Transfer Credit.
- What is the process for returning following a leave of absence?
Swarthmore has long had a "readmission" process. It is separate from the Admissions process and is not competitive. It is a supportive process designed to help students prepare for a successful return to study following a leave of absence. Students who have successfully completed the steps on-time have been readmitted. The College does not have a limit on the duration of a leave of absence. For more information, visit the Taking Time Off website.
- When will lotteries happen?
August 3-5 for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Advising for sophomores, juniors, and seniors takes place on August 11-14. Add/Drop for sophomores, juniors, and seniors begins on August 17 and ends on September 14 (with a brief pause between August 24-28 during the registration period for new and transfer students).
- Can I study abroad in Fall 2020?
The College must put the health and safety of students first. International students and Americans living abroad can find information on study opportunities in their country of residence on the Off-Campus Study website.
We encourage anyone interested in studying abroad to use this time to review your academic plans and consider how you might include study abroad in the future. Please consult the Off-Campus Study Office website for more information about the Fall 2020 semester.
- Can I defer my study abroad plans?
Yes, please let the Off-Campus Study Office know if you would like to defer your plans to Spring 2021 or Fall 2021. We will work with you if you would like to pursue this by transferring your application to the appropriate semester and will help in contacting your host study abroad program or university. In addition, as we are notified of opportunities that are developed by abroad programs, we will share them with you. Please direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Will students who live locally, either with their families/guardians or in off-campus apartments, be allowed to attend classes and participate in campus life, even if their cohort is not the one in residence?
No. On-campus experience and facilities are limited to students who reside in the residence halls.
- Are we registering for the J-term at the same time as fall term?
- Since online is asynchronous, can I take 2 classes scheduled for the same time?
You should not assume that a remote course is asynchronous. Most courses will have weekly meetings and sets of synchronous activities. Faculty are aware of time zone issues and will try to make as many adjustments as possible.
- Do I request add/drop for both the fall semester and J-term?
- When is the deadline for declaring optional CR/NC for sophomores, juniors, and seniors (including transfer students)?
End of the ninth week for the fall semester and end of the third week for the J-term. For more information, please refer to the CR/NC policy. (Note: Courses taken in the first-semester of the first-year are CR/NC.)
- When is the deadline for course withdrawal?
End of the ninth week for the fall semester and end of the third week for the J-term.
- Will there be re-registration based on the July 28 amended schedule?
No. Lotteries will be held based on pre-registration data. Please use the Add/Drop period to adjust your course registration.
- What will be the maximum course load for the spring semester? If I choose to take the fall term off, will I be able to take 4.0 credits in the spring?
Upon the recommendation of the Council on Educational Policy, the College will return to a normal four course credit load in the spring semester of 2021.
- What is the scope of the textbook fund?
The Textbook Affordability Program (TAP) will supply each registered Swarthmore student with $700 annual credit in the Swarthmore Campus & Community Store, to support the student's purchase of required course materials, including both print and digital formats. For more complete information on the program, see TAP Information for Students.