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Academic Advising Handbook > Glossary of helpful terms and links

Academic Advising Handbook

Glossary of helpful terms and links

The Catalog and Faculty Code contain specific and detailed information regarding issues that arise in the advising process. In this section of the handbook, we highlight and clarify some of the more common definitions, questions and problems. Subjects are listed alphabetically.

Table of Contents

Academic Status Reports

Academic Status Reports are scholarship notices summarizing a student's general level of performance. They are given to all new students at the end of each semester. Students receiving these notices are asked to confer with their faculty adviser. Do not treat these casually–take time to talk with the student about their academic progress. If an advisee receives such a notice but does not come to talk with you, you should initiate contact. It may be helpful to ask Student Life for help with this. Often the students who need help are hesitant or embarrassed to ask.

Ad hoc Majors

Ad-hoc majors are are interdisciplinary majors between departments that do not have a standing committee. These programs generally take extra time to create and to supervise. In order to have an ad-hoc major approved, students must show that no standing major at the college accommodates their program. Students must obtain approval of the program from faculty in both departments. Tracking degree requirements is especially important for these students if their two majors are in different divisions. Although the Administration Committee has oversight responsibilities for interdivisional students, the committee relies on the advisers in each department to track these students carefully.

Class Standing

Students with fewer than 6 units of credit earned are classified as first-year; those who have 6 or more units and who have not filed an approved declaration of major form are classified as sophomores. Students are considered juniors when they have both declared a major and completed 13 or more units. Seniors have declared the major, passed the junior qualifying exam and are certified as ready to begin a thesis.


The annual commencement ceremony is held at the end of the academic year, and only those students who have completed all requirements (including PE and any transfer credit) are eligible to participate. Students who finish all of their requirements in fall graduate in January, and are eligible to participate in the following spring commencement.

Comments in IRIS

Used by faculty advisers, the Administration Committee, divisions, and Student Life, these must be submitted by instructors for each student receiving a grade of C- or below and for grades of Unofficial Withdrawal, Incomplete or Dismiss. Instructors who think any other grade merits comment, are encouraged to submit one. For example, a student may have received a satisfactory grade but there are clear areas of concern in the student's performance such as poor writing or sporadic attendance. Comments can also be written to reflect improved academic performance or to note strong work. Remember when writing comments that students have access to their comments. Faculty also write comments to commend good or improved work.

The adviser is responsible for addressing with the student any concerns raised in the instructor comments. It is important for the adviser to initiate this discussion, because students may be embarrassed or may not appreciate the importance of these comments. The adviser should note any patterns in academic difficulties (e.g., lack of preparation for class, non-attendance, difficulty with writing) and discuss these with the student. It is always advisable to refer the student to the course instructor for further information but this does not take the place of the a advising discussion.

More information on comments can be found on the Registrar's website.

Confidentiality of Records

In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), a student’s education record may be released only to the student, and to college officials who have a "legitimate educational interest" in the record. If parents and students have agreed that parents can have access to the student's grades, parents can order a grade report by submitting a written request to the Registrar’s Office and one will be provided. Parents will be notified of academic actions of probation, denial of registration and dismissal from the college if parents and students have agreed that such notification will be automatic. The student information page in IRIS includes a designator indicating whether information can be released to parents for each advisee.

Medical and psychiatric information and individual counseling records are considered confidential. This information cannot be shared without the student’s explicit written permission. However, the college may release information about a student in an emergency situation if the college believes in good faith that knowledge of the information will protect the health and safety of a student or others. 110 Personal information such as local and home address can only be released if it appears in the online directory. Students may prevent such information from appearing in the public online directory. A more complete discussion of FERPA is in the Guidebook and the complete college policy with respect to FERPA is available from the registrar.

Reed's complete policy regarding student records can be found here.

Course Numbering System

Courses are numbered using the following scheme:
100 level – no prerequisites, normally taken during the first year
200 level – introductory courses some with prerequisites, normally taken by sophomores, upper-class students, and qualified first year students
300 level – intended for students with a background in the discipline; these courses have prerequisites or require equivalent college experience
400 level – advanced courses with more than one prerequisite, normally taken by seniors
500 and 600 level – graduate courses, open only to students in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. Undergraduates may enroll in graduate courses for credit with permission of the instructor and the director of the program.

Courses that meet Group Requirements

Use the drop down menu in the Schedule of Classes to find specific courses that meet group requirements for each semester.

Courses without prerequisites

To assist with first year registration, use can find courses without prerequisites in the Schedule of Classes.  Just check the "no prerequisite" box for a complete list for each semester.

Emergency Contact

Students are asked to designate in IRIS whom the college should contact if an emergency arises. That information is stored in the student information system, accessible by staff in the Registrar's Office and Student Life. If you know of an emergency situation, please contact Student Life so that appropriate contacts can be made.

Financial Aid Considerations

There are often financial aid implications for decisions students make, such as taking a leave absence, reducing the course load in a semester, participating in study abroad, and calculating the number of semesters needed to complete the degree. Students who receive financial aid or who anticipate receiving aid, should consult with the financial aid office regularly

Financial Aid Eligibility

Students are expected to complete a minimum of three units with a 2.00 grade point average to remain eligible for financial aid. If a student does not complete the minimums required, they may be placed on financial aid warning. Failure to clear financial aid warning may result in the student becoming ineligible for federal, state, or institutional financial aid. Students with mitigating circumstances may petition to receive financial aid on a probationary basis for one semester. Students who do not meet the terms during the probationary semester, may submit another petition, along with an academic progress plan (developed in consultation with their adviser).

Grades, Access to

Students may review their grades with the instructor or their faculty adviser. The Student Life deans may furnish grades when faculty are not available. Students are not sent regular grade reports, because of the college's commitment to encouraging students to study for the knowledge to be gained, rather than for the grade earned. Grades of C- or lower are reported to the student by the registrar's office after each progress or grade review. Federal law requires that the student record be made available to the student on written request, so students can request copies of their academic record in the registrar's office.

Grades, Change of

After the deadline for submission of grades, all changes of grade (other than resolution of incompletes) must be approved by the Administration Committee. Work completed after the last day of final examinations in a semester is not a sanctioned justification for changing a grade, except when a petition for this has received approval from the Administration Committee. Such approval is rarely given.

Guidebook to Reed

The Guidebook provides comprehensive information about academic and student life policies and procedures. Advisers should refer students to this publication for quick references regarding the most commonly asked questions:

Harassment Policy

Reed’s commitment to “maintaining environments that enable a free and diverse community in which students, faculty, and staff can live, learn, work and express themselves” is articulated in the Discriminatory Harassment and Sexual Misconduct policy. It is especially important for faculty advisers to understand their responsibility for reporting incidents of alleged harassment. All members of the community are expected to understand the definitions, processes, and responsibilities for maintaining a safe and welcoming environment.

Independent Study

Independent study gives the student an opportunity to work closely with an instructor on a subject not currently offered at the college. It is ordinarily limited to juniors and seniors, and up to four units of independent study may be applied to the degree; usually no more than one unit per semester will be approved. Independent study courses may not be used to fulfill any group distribution requirements.

Students registering for an independent study course must receive the approval of the instructor. The division must then review and approve any independent study proposal before registration can be completed.

International Baccalaureate

Similar to Advanced Placement, these are examinations students take in high school, following an advanced curriculum. Students may be granted credit for a successful grade in an examination in those fields approved by the faculty for credit. See Advanced Placement (above) for credit and applicability limitations.

Junior Standing

Students are advanced to junior standing when they have completed at least 13 units and have formally declared a major. By the end of the third week of each semester, departments must review the records of declared majors who have reached junior standing and advise them whether any program changes are required. All upper-class students must have a member of their major department as their official faculty adviser. Students filing for an ad hoc major must have two faculty advisers, one from each department.

PE Requirement

Six quarters of PE are required for graduation. PE is not calculated in unit totals, the GPA, or course load. Only one PE credit can be earned in each quarter (half of a semester). This requirement is not waived, except in extraordinary cases when ongoing documented health problems interfere with a student’s ability to complete PE. Students may receive up to two credits in self-directed classes: off-campus PE, meditation, and swim fitness, or in Community Engagement. The remaining four credits must be completed in instructional classes.  See the catalog description.

Residence Requirement

Residence is the minimum time a student must spend at Reed in order to graduate. Students must spend 2 full years at Reed and earn a minimum of 15 units. Participation in Reed-sponsored offcampus programs does not count as residence credit. Courses taken at another school for transfer while still a Reed student do not count as residence credit. Requirements for senior year residency are listed below.

Student Course Load

The typical load ranges from 3 to 4-1/2 units per semester, excluding PE. Thirty units are required for graduation, so completion in four years calls for an average of 7.5 units to be completed each year. A small deficiency in one year can be made up fairly easily. If a pattern of deficiency continues, the student must plan either to take courses in summer or to enroll in additional semesters to complete degree requirements. Exclusive of PE, a full-time student carries a minimum of 3 units per semester and pays full tuition; a part-time student carries fewer than 3 units per semester (considered an underload) and pays tuition on a per-unit basis. Special approval is needed to be a part-time student, to be charged reduced tuition, or to enroll in an overload (more than 4 1/2 units). See also "overload" and "underload."

Transfer Credit: New Students

Transfer students sometimes find it confusing to learn how their previous work applies to Reed requirements and course equivalents. Questions of interpretation should be directed to the Registrar's Office, which consults with departments to establish equivalents and waivers.

• U.S. schools – transfer credit is allowed for work done at regionally accredited colleges and universities if the student earns a grade of C- or better. The courses cannot have been taught at the high school or used for high school graduation credit; the courses must be regular college level courses, in subjects and at a level applicable to the Reed degree and must be courses that are consistent with the Reed curriculum.

• Foreign schools – credentials are evaluated in accordance with the recommendations of AACRAO and are subject to faculty review after the student arrives on campus.

More information on transfer credit can be found here.

Transfer Credit: Continuing Students

Students who wish to complete courses elsewhere should complete a request for transfer credit approval before enrolling in courses they wish to transfer.

• U.S. schools – allowed on the same basis as entering students, provided that the student completes the approval process.

• Foreign schools – if study abroad is completed in a Reed-approved program, or in a branch of a regularly accredited American school, credit is allowed as indicated in U.S. schools. If study abroad is done individually or through an unaccredited organization, there is a more complicated process and transfer credit is not guaranteed. 

More information on transfer credit can be found here.

Unofficial Withdrawal (UW)

An Unofficial Withdrawal may be recorded at 8-weeks for students who registered for a course but who have not been attending class. It warns students to drop the course or risk receiving a failing grade. UW may be recorded at the end of the semester only if a UW was recorded at the 8-week evaluation period. It may not be recorded for a student who received a different grade during the semester, because that indicates that the student participated in the work of the course for at least a portion of the semester.

Vacation Breaks

Students are not to be expected to use vacation periods to prepare for exams, special reports, etc., in the week immediately following the break.


During registration, when a course has reached capacity, students may place themselves on a waitlist. When space becomes available, the next student on the list will be notified by email and given a period of tie (typically 48 hours) to register for the open spot via SOLAR. Once classes begin, students can only be added from the waitlist by permission of the instructor.  The instructor sets an Enrollment Override in IRIS that allows a student to add the course, section or lab via SOLAR.

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