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Note to new students and their parents: Students are advised in person and register for courses at Swarthmore during Orientation, not ahead of time. Please feel welcome to familiarize yourselves with our web pages about Registration and Requirements, but please wait to ask your questions when you come to campus in August. (We want to help you, but many of us are not available to do so until then.)

First Year Student Advising & Registration occurs during Fall Orientation August 25 to August 30, 2020.

Text Heavy alert:

This page uses lots of text, and few pictures. Please read the page carefully. Edit suggestions are welcome - send these to Martin Warner.

Academic Advice for New Students

SWATcademics Advising meeting: Here's the Scoop!
August 26, 2020, 10:30 AM at the LPAC

Presentations made at last year's meeting
Curriculum Map [pdf]
Registrar's Presentation [pdf]
Library Presentation


Karen Henry

Karen Henry
Dean of First Year Students

Tomoko SakomuraTomoko Sakomura
Assistant Vice President and Dean of Academic Success

Martin Warner

Martin Warner

Introduction and Learning Goals for reading this page

Swarthmore has a limited AP credit policy, see more.

Swarthmore does not award Swarthmore degree credit for college level courses done during the high school years (including college level courses done in "early college" programs), see more.

Learn about course planning and registration for new first-year students. Join us during Orientation in the LPAC, tentatively 10:30 am, Wednesday August 26, 2020. Please also read this web page about new student registration, advising, the first semester, etc.

Learning goals for the Wednesday 10:30 AM meeting and your reading of this web page: Introduce key supports: deans, SAMs, rules, tools and processes. Introduce the vocabulary and methods of advising and registration at Swarthmore, especially the "lottery" system and the "Credit/ No Credit" (CR/NC) semester. Introduce the graduation requirements and recommendations for the first semester and the first year of study.

Table of Contents for the rest of this web page:


New Student Registration at a Glance

A Day by day outline of new Student Registration

During the summer or by Wednesday Aug. 26, 2020

Explore the departmental home pages for all the departments or programs you are considering majoring in, minoring in, or otherwise intensively studying.

Explore the Catalog (also called the Bulletin). There are two reasons to read the catalog: the catalog is the authoritative source of academic rules, so look there for the academic rules. Preparing for registration, the catalog is also the list of all the courses that might ever be taught. Use it for course planning in general.

Review the Course Schedule, which lists the courses actually being offered this semester -- including days and times. Imagine how to use the schedule to plan which courses you will actually take.

In late August, consider your Foreign Language Requirement status - check it on mySwarthmore after August 15. Look this up in mySwarthmore, Degree Audit. If your Foreign Language Req. is "Met" then you are done with this requirement. If it says "Not Met" then follow this link and discuss with your advisor studying language.


Wednesday Aug. 26, 2020

Swatcademics: Come to the Wednesday, Aug. 26, 10:30 AM "Swatcademics" meeting in the LPAC (Lang Performing Arts Center) to learn about academics at Swarthmore.

Placement tests: On Wednesday August 26, take any remaining placement tests as appropriate. Read about placement tests over the summer on the "New Student "Forms" or this week in mySwarthmore.

Foreign Language Requirement: Check your Language requirement status on mySwarthmore, Student Main Menu, Degree Audit, Foreign Language Req. which is the first requirement listed on the Degree Audit. If your Foreign Language Req. is "Met" then you are done with this requirement. If it says "Not Met" then follow this link and discuss with your advisor studying language.

AP scores: Regarding your AP test scores (or other test scores) and their placement implications.  During Orientation: resolve placement.  Once classes start: sort out credit. See AP/IB credit rules

Registration is easy!  You can do it!  Please follow the recommendations on this web page, which has all the answers to all the questions Registrar Martin Warner has ever heard about new student registration.


Thursday Aug. 27, 2020

Advising & Course Selection

Consider your departmental placement test results. These are available on mySwarthmore or otherwise from the departments.

Select and list on the New Student Course Planning Form [pdf] 6 to 8 courses (including alternates) you would love to take plus several PE options -- knowing you will only take 4 academic courses plus PE.

In your course planning, avoid time conflicts -- this is your responsibility. The computer does not prevent time conflicts -- you have to. The flip side of the Course Planning Form can help with this.

Visit the Department Advising Fair 10:00-11:15 am in the Science Center (site map).

Go to your Advisor's Office at 11:15 to make an appointment to meet individually.

By appointment, meet with your Advisor, to plan courses and PE, including alternates for use on Friday, or Saturday or during Drop/Add


Friday aug. 28, 2020
11 - 12 noon

Computer Pre-Registration

Pre-register on mySwarthmore for your top choices of 4 courses plus PE or PE dance.

4.5 credit fairness limit during Pre-Reg -- you can add more during drop/add

For courses with a lab, register for the pairing of lecture and lab at the same time.

Departmental lotteries: For any one department, enter no more than one course that is likely to be lotteried. (See 'Understand the Lottery System' below)

First-come, First-served Courses: CHEM 010/010.HN labs, CHEM 032 labs, ECON 001, PHYS 003/003L labs, All PHED.

For more information about Biology, Chemistry and Physics/Astronomy, see the section below Special Instructions about Certain Subjects.

After Pre-Registration: Lotteries

Departments lottery any over-subscribed classes and sometimes add or change sections, sometimes shifting students from one section to another.

Patience during lotteries.

More about Lotteries


Saturday aug. 22, 2020
Registration Follow-up

11:00AM to 11:30 AM Meeting at the Science Center

  • Starts promptly at 11:00 am
  • If you were lotteried out of a course or otherwise need to make a change, bring the Course Planning Form to the Saturday meeting, and use an add/drop form as needed to make changes.
  • Be prompt! The meeting only lasts 30 minutes.
  • Special, one-time-only paper Add/Drop forms -- collect add signature, tell dropped department.
  • Paper forms will be available there.

Online alternative: If you can't make the meeting or otherwise as needed, use the Online Course Add e-form as part of the Drop-Add procedure.

After the Follow-Up meeting, get your books and other course materials. Try to do this as soon as possible over the next few days so you can move forward in the semester with this settled.


Classes Start THE week of August 31, 2020

First Class Meeting : You are required to attend the first class or laboratory meeting to confirm your enrollment.

Drop/Add is registration's great safety net. If needed, see your advisor and use the first week of Drop/Add to explore alternates.

After the Follow-up meeting, adds are done using eforms. Drops use mySwarthmore Registration Drop. More on add-drop.


Understand the Lottery System

Swarthmore uses what we call "lotteries" to manage course enrollment in the few classes that have enrollment limits. Lotteries are not just random. Department policies ensure that students get what they need, even if not their first choice.

The lottery system makes most pre-registrations equal, regardless of when during pre-registration you register; this is true for everything except the first-come, first-served courses and labs (listed in 'Registration at a Glance'). Lotteries are no reason to stress -- just be prepared to be flexible.

Departments each have their own different lottery rules and procedures, but in general, students should ...

Enter only one lottery per department.

  • Departments might limit students to only one lottery submission in their department per semester.
  • Rules for lotteries are not enforced automatically during online pre-registration, but are enforced by departments when they lottery courses (after pre-registration).
  • Departments that have specific Lottery Procedures usually list them under the "Courses" section of their departmental home pages. If you can't find them there, please ask the department directly.
  • Otherwise, departments use a random lottery.

Always have good alternates ready and be flexible enough to use them.

  • You can't always get your first choice, but as you progress through Swarthmore, you will find that the curriculum is flexible enough that if you remain flexible, you will get what you need.

After lotteries, many departments and professors keep a wait list of names of students who were lotteried. Wait-listed students may be given some preference to join the class if space opens in the class, but students in this situation should continue to express interest in joining the class.


Course Recommendations for First Year

Take introductory courses

  • Read the "Academic Program" link on departmental webpages to learn about introductory courses
  • Lower-numbered courses are much more likely to be appropriate for first-year students, but check the departmental page and the catalog to be sure

Take a variety of subjects in at least two divisions each semester

  • Over the year, take courses all three divisions

Take at least one Writing course [pdf]

  • Many Writing courses are introductory in nature
    • This is a good year to take them
  • Writing courses include an emphasis on teaching and learning writing
  • Approved Writing courses are labeled to help you find them
    • "Writing Course" in the catalog
    • "W" in the Course Schedule
  • Read more about the Writing Course Requirement

Take at least one PE unit per semester

  • Until your PE requirement is done
  • The requirement must be completed by the end of the sophomore year

Take one First-Year Seminar [pdf]

  • only available to first-year students
  • not required, but highly recommended

Explore prospective majors

  • Try to take 1 course per semester in each subject in which you might major

Consider an NSEP [pdf] - a science lab course

  • You only need one to graduate, but try to take it in the first year

Take Four Full Courses plus PE or PE Dance

  • Half credit courses are additional to the normal load of four

Beyond the first year...


Understand the CR/NC semester

Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) is Swarthmore's version of pass/fail.

"Credit" (CR) means pass. "No Credit" (NC) means fail. The reason we use "no credit" instead of fail is because for the graduation grade point average requirement of 2.0, NC does not count, but in every other respect (for example, graduate school admissions) NC counts as a fail/zero.

Ignore the bad advice, and follow the good advice for the Credit/No Credit semester...

The bad advice goes along these lines:

  • Take an over-load just to get those courses out of the way.
  • Take courses you don't want to get them out of the way.
  • Take hard courses without having to work hard on them.

The good advice goes along these lines:

  • Always value your time and learn all you can from your courses
  • Keep in mind there will be shadow letter grades, even in the CR/NC semester.
  • The CR/NC semester allows you to learn from your courses and also adjust to all the rest of college life without having to worry about getting A grades in all your courses. B grades are okay in the CR/NC semester.
  • Many of your first semester courses are preparation or pre-requisites for other courses you will want or need to take.  First semester courses deserve your good effort, regardless of the CR/NC grading.
  • Take an intellectual risk -- try a new subject
  • Take the recommended normal load of four courses.  Expect your courses to be harder than you've seen before.
  • Work hard in all your courses every semester.  If you have trouble, seek out the academic support resources available to improve your success.

First semester CR/NC is permanent on your official transcript

  • You will have access to your shadow letter grades, but first semester shadow letter grades are not ever "uncovered" the way other CR NC shadow grades can be prior to the deadline, see the full policy on CR NC.

More information about grades and shadow grades


Email is Official

Check it every weekday: Please check your email at least once every weekday

Read it: If you get an email from a professor, a dean, or the registrar, read it

  • Answer it: If one of them asks you a question, answer it

Use etiquette: "Dear Professor, ..."

  • Open with "Dear" and use the title "Professor" (or "Dean" etc.) as a sign of respect
  • Avoid "Hey"

Most official communication will be by email. Some is also by paper mail or other formats. You are responsible to read and as appropriate, reply, to all official communication.


New Student Registration in Detail

Thursday Advising and Course Selection

Consider your Placement Results

Mathematics and Statistics introductory courses require placement recommendations in order to pre-register for or take the class.

  • Students obtain their Math/Stat placement recommendation on mySwarthmore.

Other placement results are available from the specific departments

Placement versus Credit: before classes start, resolve placement, then after classes start, take up the matter of AP or other credit

  • Many departments don't finalize AP credit until January of your first year

10:00 am Departmental Advising Fair Thursday

  • Visit the Departmental Advising Fair on Thursday morning.
  • Obtain departmental information from professors in person.

11:15 am Meet and Greet your Advisor

  • Meet with your Advisor in a group meeting before lunch
  • Make an appointment to meet individually Thursday afternoon.

Prepare six to eight courses (including alternates) you would like to discuss with your Adviser, plus options for PE or PE Dance, knowing you'll only take four academic courses plus PE or PE Dance.

The key to happiness during Registration is having alternates at the ready.

Plan your week with the Weekly Schedule Card

You are responsible to avoid time conflicts. The computer will not prevent you from registering for a time conflict -- this is your responsibility.

List all courses of interest, including alternates, on the Course Planning Form [pdf].

  • You will get a Course Planning Form in your packet upon arrival, or you can print one.
  • Swarthmore's normal course naming short-hand is Subject & Number, such as "ENGL 009."
  • The 5-digit CRN (computer reference number) in the Course Schedule is helpful for computer registration, but is not used in the catalog or during person-to-person discussions.

Use the Schedule of Courses - online always updated

  • The Schedule of Courses PDF available from Academics/Registrar's Office/Course Information/Course Schedule PDF.
  • The search engine: TriCollege Course Guide
    • Select "Campus=Swarthmore"
    • Use Swarthmore's Department names (not Bryn Mawr's or Haverford's department names). For example, use "English Literature" (not "English") because the Swarthmore department is called "English Literature"

Understand mySwarthmore pre-registration

Understand we use paper drop-add forms at the Saturday "follow-up" meeting

Understand we use drop-add eforms starting Monday.

Thursday afternoon (or Friday morning): Meet Individually with your Advisor

  • Meet with your Academic Advisor, map out your Fall semester. Discuss courses and alternates and PE or PE Dance.
  • Select six to eight courses (including alternates) you would like to take, plus options for PE or PE Dance, knowing you'll only take four academic courses plus PE or PE Dance.
  • Students who do not get advised can have a "hold" placed on their pre-registration by their Academic Advisor. Students are informed by email of holds being placed, and can check for holds on the mySwarthmore web site. Students who discover they are withheld from pre-registration will probably miss pre-registration and need to register using paper on Saturday, or eforms starting Monday. If you miss pre-registration, you will have missed all lotteries.
  • Confirm your access to mySwarthmore. Any problem, ask ITS Client Services, or a friend.

Friday: Pre-Registration Online

Pre-register online 11:00 a.m. to noon on Friday. Use the mySwarthmore "registration" web site. Try to have a SAM nearby.

  • Be prompt. Pre-registration provides equal access to courses and lotteries regardless of when you pre-register with the exception of the "first-come, first-served" courses and labs listed in 'Registration at a Glance' above. Register for these first, but don't rush.
  • Maximizers: If you have first-come first served courses to register for, get ready a few minutes before 11:00am. Here is how to do it: You could login at 11:00am and after it lets you in click on registration, but it could take a minute or longer to actually get logged in – and a minute feels like a long time when you are waiting for your computer to respond. Alternatively, if you want to be supper prepared for the 11:00am opening of registration, LOGIN to mySwarthmore at about 10:55, and click to the registration link to get ready for it to actually become available at 11:00, and/but at 11:00am refresh your browser so your mySwarthmore session gets the exact time right. The refresh could take that same minute, so wait for it, but SAMs have assured me this is arguably the fastest way to get in. Once you are in, do your first come first served registrations. Get them done first, then loop back to finish your registration.
  • Students who need to be away from a computer through this time must obtain special approval (and the handout of instructions on how to get registered) from their coach or a dean.
  • Keep in mind that rules for lotteries are not enforced online, but will be enforced by departments. Read departmental web sites for lottery rules information.
  • If you miss pre-registration, you can still attend the Saturday Registration Follow-up meeting, but you will have missed all the lotteries. All departmental lotteries will be run off pre-registration.
  • Where to pre-register? Options include your dorm room, dorm computer clusters, or McCabe computer clusters. Help will be available at McCabe and many dorm computer clusters. Ask for help from a CA, a SAM (in a dorm), or a Public Area Consultant (at the library).

Pre-register for the 4 academic courses plus PE (or PE Dance) that you actually plan to take.

  • PE or PE Dance does not count in the 4.5 credit limit. Register for PE or PE Dance on top of your 4 academic courses.

4.5 Limit: The 4.5 credit limit during pre-registration is to ensure that every student has a fair chance at 4 courses. (Language courses are usually 1.5 credits.)

  • Pre-Registration Limit gets lifted for drop/add.

Manage your own time. The computer does not prevent time conflicts -- you have to manage your time.

One at a time or both parts at a time:

  • Add or drop one course, one lecture-and-lab combination, or one language-and-drill combination at a time. Most science courses have associated lectures and labs; most language courses have associated language and drill sections -- for these, add or drop both associated parts at the same time.
  • For most other courses, add or drop one course at a time.

Don't see a course on mySwarthmore? Some courses are excluded from first-year student registration. Ask the department about these courses.

Special instructions for the following subjects


Enroll for Biology 001 lecture AND your first choice laboratory section during web-registration on Friday. If the enrollment in any laboratory section exceeds 24 students, a random lottery will be held only for the over-enrolled laboratory sections. Students who are lotteried out of an over-enrolled lab section will be notified via email by 6 pm and will be placed on the waiting list for that section. First-year students who are on the waiting list for an over-enrolled laboratory section are encouraged to enroll *in person* in any other unfilled laboratory section at the Biology table at the follow-up registration meeting Saturday at 11 am, where sections will be filled on a "first-come, first-served" basis. Laboratory sections will meet during the first week of classes.

Students must apply to get into BIOL-SP (meets TTH 1:15-2:30) and concurrently enroll in introductory BIOL 001 (including a lab section).  If you are interested in the course, enroll in BIOL 001 and lab and SP during registration. Choose a lab section that does not conflict with the SP meeting times. Please complete the application, due by noon on Friday.


You will need to register for the CHEM 010/010.HN and CHEM 032 course and a lab section that fits into your schedule. When adding these on mySwarthmore they must be added together. CHEM 010 and 010.HN share the CHEM 010 labs.

Registration for labs will be "first-come, first-served" basis, you are advised to register early. Web-registration lab section assignments are tentative, students who will need to resolve conflicts with their lab assignment should come to the Chemistry/Biochemistry table at the follow-up registration meeting Saturday at 11 am.


Registration for PHYS 003/003L labs will be "first-come, first-served" basis, you are advised to register early. Web-registration assignments are tentative, students who will need to resolve conflicts with their lab assignment should contact the Physics/Astronomy dept during add/drop.

In General for all subjects:

Prerequisites: Students must be sure that they have fulfilled any pre-requisites for courses they wish to take, or obtained the permission of the instructor.

Auditing: New students should NOT audit in their first semester. See the catalog for other rules on auditing.

Friday afternoon after pre-registration: Patience during Lotteries

  • Departments "lottery" over-enrolled class lists after pre-registration. Most are done Friday evening by 8:00 pm, some Saturday morning, and rarely one or two might happen after the Saturday follow-up meeting.

Saturday: Follow-up Registration Meeting as needed

Most of you will simply get the courses you pre-register for. Normally two thirds of all first-years get all four courses they register for on Friday morning.

But if you got lotteried out of something, come to the Saturday: Follow-up Registration Meeting.

Don't be late!

  • Most lotteries are completely finished by Saturday at 10:00 a.m. After that time, you should consider registrations in mySwarthmore approved.
  • Keep in mind that classes and labs with supplemental registration may be late in announcing their lottery results, perhaps even doing so after the Saturday meeting.
  • The Saturday meeting is designed for students who did not get into 4 courses, but is available for any student who wants to attend to make a change.
  • If you do not need to go to the Saturday meeting, your Course Planning Form can be discarded.
  • The Registration Meeting starts at 11:00 am and finishes quickly! 
  • SAMs will be there to help. Thank you SAMs!
  • Look for Open First-year Seminars [pdf] list (online and on paper at the meeting). On Saturday the list will show which first-year seminars have openings after lotteries.
  • To Add a course, use a paper Add/Drop form -- available at the meeting -- to obtain instructor signature. First add any Computer Science or Economics courses, as some sections fill on a first come first served basis.
  • To Drop a course, indicate it on the paper Add/Drop form. Blank forms will be available at the meeting.
  • Hand in the paper Add/Drop forms at the Registrar's table.

If you can't make the Saturday follow-up meeting or otherwise as needed, there is an online alternative: Use the Online Course Add e-form as part of the Drop-Add procedure. The drop/add procedure including the online Course Add e-form will be available to first-years starting on Saturday.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday...

  • You are required to attend the first class or laboratory meeting to confirm your enrollment. All classes and laboratories meet the first week of classes. Contact the professor directly to ask that your seat be held if you can't make the first meeting.
  • Arrange for your course materials (textbooks) at the Swarthmore Campus and Community Store. You can shop for your personal course materials for your registered classes by going to the online store, then link on Course Materials, Find Textbooks, Swarthmore College Login, Login and Duo, press "Search Course Materials for your enrolled classes...", view course materials. More.
  • If you haven't done so yet, set up your Moodle account (linked from the Dash). Moodle is Swarthmore's course management systems, and are used by many courses to post syllabi, homework assignments, discussions, etc.
  • In the first week of classes, you are encouraged to check classes you were lotteried out of to see if seats have since become available.
  • Some course "shadowing" may be appropriate in the first week of classes, but not in the second, when most classes are well underway. Shadowing is attending a class of interest for which you are not registered. If space opens, ask to add the class.
  • Look again for the "Open First-Year Seminars" [pdf] list, showing which first-year seminars have openings and how many, this time after the Saturday meeting.
  • Remember that the liberal arts experience includes serendipitous discovery. Be open to it.
  • Full Time Enrollment Required: All students must register for at least 4.0 credits per semester, unless they have obtained special permission to do otherwise.
  • Read the Guidelines on Scheduling Conflicts Between Academics and Athletics.
  • If you need to drop or add, use mySwarthmore "registration" drop to drop, and "eforms" online form to add. More about drop/add.

Caution about Credits and Grades

... including Shadow Grades

  • Normal progress is four semester course credits per semester, plus PE until PE is done. Students that do not manage to complete and pass at straight C or better at least three credits per semester will have their records reviewed by the Committee on Academic Requirements and could be required to take an academic leave. Note that INC grades, Withdraw grades, or shadow grades of less than straight C do not satisfy this minimum expectation.
  • Students should also be mindful to maintain satisfactory progress toward fulfilling their degree. Normal progress is four semester course credits per semester. Over the semesters, at a minimum, students should earn 6 to 8 credits by the end of the first year, 14 to 16 credits by the end of the sophomore year, and 22 to 24 credits by the end of the junior year. Students not achieving satisfactory progress will have their records reviewed by the Committee on Academic Requirements and could be required to take an academic leave.

Financial notice:

Students who have not satisfied their financial obligations will not be permitted to attend classes, live in campus housing, have a meal plan, register via add/drop (or any other method) for any classes, enroll for the following semester, participate in the room lottery, obtain a transcript, or be permitted to be graduated.