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About the 2020-21 Academic Year

Academic Calendar | Add/Drop | Class Time Grid | Courses | Credits | Degree Requirements | Enrollment | Grading | International Students & Americans Living Abroad | J-Term | Leave of Absence | Off-Campus Study | On-Campus Experience | Registration | Spring Semester | Textbook Fund

Academic Calendar

We have made adjustments to the academic calendar to accommodate our continued modified operations. View the fall academic calendar here.


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).

Class Time Grid

Classes take place Monday through Friday. The weekly class schedule is similar to the past schedule, now with 30-minute breaks between class periods and two lunch periods. Classes that used to start at 8:30 a.m. now begin at 8 a.m.. 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.


Bryn Mawr and Haverford College courses can be taken remotely by following the normal approval process. UPenn has suspended the course exchange program for the Fall 2020 semester. The Strath Haven visiting student program has been suspended for the Fall 2020 semester.

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.

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.

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.

Different departments may have different approaches to labs; for information about a department of your interest, see their website first.

Your professors are working to ensure that finals at home are equitable and doable. 


3-3.5 credits 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.)

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).

If you were planning on taking 5.0 credits in Fall 2020, you may take up to 4.0 credits in the fall and 1.0 credit in the J-term, in consultation with your advisor. 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. 

It is not possible to take two credits in Fall 2020 and a third in the J-term for a total of 3.0 credits. College policy does not permit programs of fewer than 3.0 credits in the fall or spring semester (see catalog 7.7).

If you are an Honors student, you are allowed to take more than 3.0 credits this fall. 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.

Degree Requirements

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.

You may be able to finish in December,  or even in  January, if all your requirements can be completed by the end of the fall or January terms. Please see the Registrar’s December Finisher website. 


It is not possible for first-year students and new transfers to begin in the J-term. It is possible for new students to start in the spring semester, but instruction may be remote if only juniors and seniors are allowed to return to campus. Please contact the Admissions Office with any questions.

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. 

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 3.0credits 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. 


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.

International Students & Americans Living Abroad

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.


Courses during the J-term will meet four days a week with built-in breaks, and the academic schedule can be found here.

Please note that all J-term courses will be taught remotely. 

J-term days of instruction will be as follows:

  • 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 28: All papers/projects due & all final exams

January 30-February 14: Winter Break II

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.

Each academic department will handle labs during the J-term in their own way. Please consult the departmental websites.

Leave of Absence

The financial withdrawal policy describes the financial implications of leave request timing. Please read the Taking Time Off website for more information.

J-term is optional, so if you take a fall leave, you can 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.

Off-Campus Study

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.

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

On-Campus Experience

On-campus experience and facilities are limited to students who reside in the residence halls.


Please register for the J-term at the same time as fall term; request add/drop for both at the same time as well.

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.

The deadline for declaring optional CR/NC for sophomores, juniors, and seniors (including transfer students) is the 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.)

The deadline for course withdrawl is the end of the ninth week for the fall semester and end of the third week for the J-term.

Spring Semester

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. 

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, please see TAP Information for Students.