Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook

Academic Standards and Regulations

Statement of Student Responsibility

The College’s Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook is available online to every Bowdoin student at catalogue.bowdoin.edu. Also, students have access to their academic records on Polaris, the College’s student information system. In all cases, the student bears ultimate responsibility for reading and following the academic policies and regulations of the College and for notifying the Office of the Registrar of any problems in their records.

Information about Courses and Grades

Course Credit

Most Bowdoin courses earn one full credit, which is equal to four semester hours, and are considered to have equal weight toward degree requirements. A few courses, such as music performance courses, generally earn one-half credit each. In accordance with federal regulations, Bowdoin courses that count for one credit typically meet for fifteen-week semesters and three hours a week, with the expectation that a minimum of nine additional hours a week will be spent in lab, discussion group, film viewing, or preparatory work.

Course Load

All students at Bowdoin are full-time students and, in order to make normal progress toward the degree, are expected to register for no fewer than four credits each semester.

  • Students may not take fewer than three credits per semester without approval from the Recording Committee.
  • Students may not take more than five credits without approval from their academic advisor(s) and dean.
  • First-year students may not take fewer than four credits per semester without the approval of both their academic advisor and the dean of first-year students.
  • Students may not take more than four credits while on academic probation without approval from the Recording Committee.

Seniors may be required to take one course per semester in their major department, at the department’s discretion. Students should note that if they choose to take three courses, they may not elect Credit/D/Fail for any of them, as per the Credit/D/Fail policy. Taking courses Credit/D/Fail may impact a student’s ability to qualify for awards such as the Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars.

Bowdoin College also admits a small number of special students each year. These students may follow alternative policies guiding course load and other rules. Please contact the Office of Admissions or the Office of the Registrar for more information.

No extra tuition charge is levied upon students who register for more than four credits, and, by the same token, no reduction in tuition is granted to students who choose to register for fewer than four credits during any of their eight semesters at Bowdoin. A student may be granted a tuition reduction for taking fewer than three credits only if a ninth semester is required to complete the degree and they have previously been a full-time Bowdoin student for eight semesters. All such appeals should be made in writing to the dean for student affairs and the head of finance and administration after a ninth semester of enrollment has been approved due to extenuating circumstances by the Recording Committee, and Office of Student Aid, if applicable.

Attendance and Examinations

Students are expected to attend the first meeting of any course in which they are registered. Students who do not attend the first meeting may be dropped from the course at the discretion of the instructor, but only if the course was officially full before the first day of the semester. The Office of the Registrar maintains the list of full courses. Regular class attendance is expected and individual instructors may establish specific attendance requirements. At the beginning of each semester, instructors will make clear to students the attendance regulations of each course. If expectations are unclear, students should seek clarification from their instructors.

Attendance at examinations is mandatory. An absence from any examination, be it an hour examination or a final examination, may result in a grade of F. In the event of illness or other unavoidable cause of absence from examinations, instructors should expect to hear directly from students regarding their absence. In certain circumstances, if students are unable to communicate with faculty directly, faculty may receive notice from the Office of the Dean of Students. Students bear ultimate responsibility for arranging make-up or substitute coursework. In unusual cases (family and personal emergencies, illness, etc.), examinations may be rescheduled by agreement of the course instructor and a dean.

College final examinations are held at the close of each semester and must be given according to the schedule determined each semester by the Office of the Registrar. Extra classes may only be scheduled during Reading Period with permission from the dean for academic affairs. All testing activity is prohibited during Reading Period including but not limited to take-home exams, final exams, and hour exams.

All academic work, except for final examinations, final papers, final lab reports, and final projects, is due on or before the last day of classes; although instructors may set earlier deadlines, they may not set later deadlines. All final academic work, including final examinations, final papers, final lab reports, and final projects, is due at or before 5:00 p.m. on the last day of the final examination period; although instructors may set earlier deadlines, they may not set later deadlines. In all cases, students should consult their course syllabi for specific deadlines for individual courses. The deadline for submitting final, approved honors projects to the library is determined by the College.

Athletics and other extracurricular activities do not exempt students from the normal policies governing attendance at classes and examinations. When conflicts arise, students should immediately discuss possible alternatives with course instructors. At times, however, students may find themselves having to make serious choices about educational priorities.

A student with three one-hour examinations in one day or three final examinations in two days may reschedule one for a day mutually agreeable to the student and the instructor. To initiate this change during final exams only, students must obtain an Examination Rescheduling Form from the Office of the Registrar at least two weeks in advance of the conflicting exams. For in-class examinations taking place during the semester, students should make arrangements directly with the faculty members. Other changes may be made for emergencies or for educational desirability, but only with the approval of the Office of the Dean of Students.

In recognition of Bowdoin’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive student body and the variety of religions observed and practiced by our students, faculty are encouraged to avoid conflicts between in-class examinations and other significant academic work and major religious holidays. The calendar below was developed in collaboration with the director of religious and spiritual life and includes major observances of the officially recognized religious groups at Bowdoin.

Students are expected to declare their intention to observe religious holidays at the beginning of the semester, and to work with an instructor when there is a conflict with a scheduled examination, paper, or project due date and a significant religious holiday observed by the student so that, when warranted, alternative arrangements for completing the work may be made.

Students or faculty who have any questions regarding how best to balance the academic calendar alongside religious observances are encouraged to consult with the director of religious and spiritual life.

Date Event
September 6–8, Mon.–Wed. Rosh Hashanah, begins at sundown on Sept. 6 and concludes at sundown on Sept. 8
September 15–16, Wed.–Thurs. Yom Kippur, begins at sundown on Sept. 15 and concludes at sundown on Sept. 16
November 4, Thurs. Diwali
April 2–May 1, Sat.–Sun. Ramadan, begins at first light on April 2 and concludes at last light on May 1
April 15, Fri. Good Friday
April 15–22, Fri.–Fri. Passover, begins at sundown on April 15 and concludes at sundown on April 22
April 17, Sun. Easter
April 12–May 12, Mon.–Tues. Ramadan, begins at first light on April 12 and concludes at last light on May 12
May 2–3, Mon.–Tues. Eid-al-Fitr, begins at sundown on May 2 and concludes at sundown on May 3

Course Registration and Course Changes

Students register for courses each semester by obtaining their academic advisor’s approval of their course requests and submitting them by the deadline specified by the Office of the Registrar. An advisor’s release of the “Advisor Hold” in Polaris indicates that the advisor and student have discussed the student’s course selections. Since most courses have maximum and minimum registration limits as well as registration priorities, students cannot assume they will be registered for their top-choice courses. Consequently, students should participate in all available “rounds” of registration to have their alternate course choices considered and to make adjustments to their schedules. For more information on advising, please see here.

Registration for continuing students occurs at the end of the prior semester, generally about six weeks before final examinations. Registration for first-year and transfer students occurs during orientation. Students who are studying away are strongly encouraged to register at the same time as students who are on campus; the Office of the Registrar provides registration instructions and information at bowdoin.edu/registrar and sends registration instructions to students at their Bowdoin email addresses. Registration in courses is complete only when students submit the Enrollment Form, which must be submitted by the end of the first week of classes. This form verifies that a student is on campus and attending classes. A student who does not submit the Enrollment Form may be removed from all classes and barred from using many of the services of the College including but not limited to dining services, library services, and fitness services. Enrollment Forms submitted late are subject to a $50 fine. Any student who registers initially for courses after the first week of classes must pay a $50 late fee.

Students may adjust their course schedules by participating in the course add/drop process. Instructions for this process are provided by the Office of the Registrar. An instructor will allow a student to add a course if the following three conditions have been met:

  1. the student has the necessary qualifications, including but not limited to the course prerequisites;
  2. the student and instructor have agreed on how missed class material and assignments will be managed; and
  3. there is room in the course or the instructor may choose to override the class enrollment limit and allow additional students to register.

Normally, no course may be added after the second week of classes. Students may drop courses without permission during the first two weeks of the semester. Students in their first semester at Bowdoin may drop courses in the third through the sixth weeks with the permission of their dean and advisor. Students in their second semester or later may drop a total of two courses in their Bowdoin career during weeks three through six of a semester with the permission of their academic advisor. This is a serious decision that can impact the completion of a student’s education and should only be made in extenuating circumstances. If a student has previously dropped two courses after the second week of the semester in their second semester or beyond, the student will need to petition the Recording Committee for subsequent requests to drop a course during that period. At no time may a student drop below three courses during any semester without permission from the Recording Committee. Any student who wants to add a course after the two-week deadline must also petition the Recording Committee. Generally, petitions are only approved if the student can show extreme personal or medical reasons for the lateness of the change. Any course dropped between the first week and end of the sixth week of the semester through Extended Drop will not appear on a student’s transcript; anything dropped by the Recording Committee will appear on the transcript with a grade of W (for Withdrew). In order to add a course late, a student must have been attending the course from the very beginning of the semester and have instructor permission. Documentation may be required. Course changes approved by the Recording Committee will require payment of a $50 late fee per change, unless the change is made for reasons outside the control of the student.

Students will not receive a grade for a course unless they have completed all steps to register for or add the course. Also, students will receive a failing grade for a course they stop attending unless all steps to drop the course have been completed before the deadline. Students are expected to monitor their records in Polaris (polaris.bowdoin.edu), the College’s student information system; this includes monitoring the courses for which they are registered. Students bear ultimate responsibility for completing the processes that provide the College with an accurate record of their course schedule.

Auditing courses is a privilege extended to students, employees of the College, and community members. Auditors must obtain permission from the course instructor before attending the first class and follow their guidelines regarding in-class participation. Auditors are generally not permitted in full courses and are not allowed to attend first-year seminars. The College reserves the right to restrict the number of courses audited by any one person and to limit the total number of auditors on campus at any particular time. Transcripts are not offered for audited courses.

Independent Study

With approval of a project director, normally a faculty member, a student may elect a course of independent study for which regular course credit will be given. A department will ordinarily approve one or two semesters of independent study. Where more than one semester’s credit is sought for a project, the project will be subject to review by the department at the end of the first semester. In special cases that have the support of the department, credit may be extended for additional semester courses beyond two.

There are normally two levels of independent study and each should be registered for using a separate registration form available on the website of the Office of the Registrar. A directed reading course designed to allow a student to explore a subject not currently offered within the curriculum shall be numbered 2970–2998. An independent study that will culminate in substantial and original research or in a fine arts, music, or creative writing project shall be numbered 4000–4028. If a student, in consultation with a department, intends to pursue honors, the student can register for an appropriate honors project course number, 4050–4079. If a department determines that a project does not meet the standards for honors, the course number(s) for one or two semesters of independent study will be changed to 4000–4028. Collaborative studies allow students to work in small groups guided by a member of the faculty. Intermediate collaborative studies are numbered 2999; advanced collaborative studies are numbered 4029. Independent and collaborative studies may not be taken on a Credit/D/Fail basis.

In independent study and honors courses that will continue beyond one semester, instructors have the option of submitting at the end of each semester, except the last, a grade of S (for Satisfactory) in place of a regular letter grade. An S grade must be converted to a regular letter grade by the end of the subsequent term. All independent study grades must be regular letter grades by the end of the project’s final semester.

Course Grades

Course grades are defined as follows:

  • A, the student has mastered the material of the course and has demonstrated exceptional critical skills and originality;
  • B, the student has demonstrated a thorough and above average understanding of the material of the course;
  • C, the student has demonstrated a thorough and satisfactory understanding of the material of the course;
  • D, the student has demonstrated a marginally satisfactory understanding of the basic material of the course (only a limited number of D grades may be counted toward the requirements for graduation); and
  • F, the student has not demonstrated a satisfactory understanding of the basic material of the course.
  • Plus (+) or minus (–) modifiers may be added to B and C grades; only the minus (–) modifier may be added to the A grade.

Courses that are dropped through the Recording Committee will be indicated with a W (for Withdrew) on the student’s transcript.

Faculty report grades to the Office of the Registrar at the close of the semester. Each student in each course must be given a grade by the grade submission deadline as established by the registrar. Grade reports are available to students in Polaris shortly after the grade submission deadline.

Once reported, no grade is changed (with the exception of clerical errors) without the approval of the Recording Committee. Recorded grades cannot be changed on the basis of additional student work without approval of the Recording Committee. If students are dissatisfied with a grade received in a course, they should discuss the problem with the instructor. If the problem cannot be resolved in this manner, the student should consult with the chair of the department and, if necessary, with an associate dean in the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs who will consult with the department as needed. The student may request a final review of the grade by the Recording Committee.

Most departments will not accept as prerequisites, or as satisfying the requirements of the major, courses for which a grade of D has been given. Questions should be referred directly to the department chair. Students who receive a grade of D or F in a course may retake the course. Both courses and both grades will appear on the transcript, but only one course credit will be given for successful completion of a given course. For grades recorded prior to Fall 2013, only the first grade earned in a repeated course is counted in a student’s GPA; beginning with grades recorded for Fall 2013, all grades earned in repeated courses are counted in a student’s GPA. Bowdoin does not round up semester or cumulative GPAs. Instead, GPAs are truncated to display the first three decimals.

Credit/D/Fail Option

A student may choose to take a limited number of courses with the Credit/D/Fail grading option, as opposed to earning regular letter grades. A course may be changed from letter grades to Credit/D/Fail or vice versa up until the end of the sixth week of classes using the process established by the Office of the Registrar. When a student chooses the Credit/D/Fail grading option, a grade of CR (Credit) is given if the student produces work at a level of C- or above, a grade of D is given if the student produces work at a D level, and a grade of F is given otherwise.

In any given semester, a student must be registered for a minimum of 4.0 total credits to elect the Credit/D/Fail grading option for a course. A student who has 5.0 or more credits in their semester course load may elect to take an additional course on a Credit/D/Fail basis. A student may elect the Credit/D/Fail grading option for up to four courses within the 32 credits required for graduation; courses in excess of the 32 credits required may be taken Credit/D/ Fail beginning with the semester following the one in which the 32 credits are completed and as long as the semester course load totals 4.0 credits or more. No more than two courses per semester can be taken Credit/D/Fail after the required 32 credits are earned. Courses that are only graded Credit/D/Fail (music ensemble and dance and theater performance courses, as examples) are not counted within these restrictions. Please note that taking courses Credit/D/ Fail may impact eligibility for the Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar award.

Most departments and programs require that all courses taken to satisfy requirements for the major or minor be taken for regular letter grades. Please see specific department and program requirements for details. Courses taken to satisfy the College’s first-year seminar requirement must be graded with regular letter grades, and courses satisfying distribution and division requirements must also be taken for regular letter grades (unless CR, D, and F are the only grades given for the course). An independent study, collaborative study, or honors project must be graded with regular letter grades.

A grade of CR (Credit) will not count toward a student’s GPA. A grade of D or F received on the Credit/D/Fail grading scale will count toward a student’s GPA, and it will count toward academic standing (probation, suspension, and dismissal).

Incompletes

The College expects students to complete all course requirements as established by instructors. In unavoidable circumstances (personal illness, family emergency, etc.) and with approval of the dean of students and the instructor, a grade of INC (Incomplete) may be recorded.

An Incomplete represents a formal agreement among the instructor, a dean, and the student for the submission of unfinished coursework under prescribed conditions. Students must initiate their request for an Incomplete on or before the final day of classes by contacting a dean. If the Incomplete Agreement Form has not been approved and received in the Office of the Registrar by the grade submission deadline and no other grade has been assigned, a grade of F will be recorded. If the Incomplete Agreement Form has been approved and signed by all necessary individuals, a date is set by which time all unfinished work must be submitted. In all cases, students are expected to finish outstanding coursework in a period of time roughly equivalent to the period of distraction from their academic commitments. The instructor should submit a final grade within two weeks of this date. If the agreed-upon work is not completed within the specified time limit, the Office of the Registrar will change the Incomplete to Fail or ask the instructor to give a grade based on work already completed. Extensions must be approved by the dean for student affairs. Any exceptions to these rules may require approval of the Recording Committee.

Comment and Failure Cards

Faculty communicate the progress of students in their classes periodically through Comment Cards. These written observations alert students, academic advisors, athletic coaches, and the deans in the Office of the Dean of Students to potential problems confronting students. They can also be used by faculty to highlight improvement or successes. Students should view Comment Cards as academic progress reports providing warnings or highlighting achievements. When a Comment Card provides a warning, the student should immediately seek out their instructor to discuss strategies for improvement. Academic advisors and deans can also be very helpful in developing strategies for improvement and identifying existing support services and resources, but it is the student’s responsibility to seek out each of these people. Not all course instructors utilize Comment Cards, so students should not rely on this form of communication as their only source of feedback regarding their progress or standing in a course.

At the end of each semester, instructors issue Failure Cards to students who fail courses. These notations provide precise reasons for a student’s failing grades. Students and academic advisors generally find these comments instructive as they plan future coursework.

Transcripts

The Office of the Registrar will furnish official transcripts upon receipt of a request through the National Student Clearinghouse that includes the student’s signature. There is no charge for transcripts unless it is requested that materials be sent by an overnight delivery service. Current students may access their unofficial academic history via Polaris.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) is a requirement for all Bowdoin students. Students are expected to make normal progress toward the degree, defined as achieving: the qualitative or GPA minimum standard; and the quantitative/pace or credits per semester standard. The College's minimum GPA for Academic Standing status and graduation is a cumulative 2.000 GPA. In addition to being subject to these standards, students receiving VA benefits must also maintain a 2.000 GPA to be eligible to continue to receive their VA benefits. Bowdoin expects all students to maintain an acceptable level of academic progress, therefore this Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy applies to all matriculated students. These standards have been developed in accordance with federal, state, and institutional regulations. The Recording/Action Committee meets twice each year to review the academic records of students who are not meeting these standards. Students are placed on academic probation, suspension, or dismissal according to the criteria below; students on academic probation or suspension are not considered to be in good academic standing.

At the close of each semester, once grades post, all students’ records will be assessed for academic and, if applicable, financial aid SAP. All students earning a cumulative or semester GPA of less than 2.000 will be reviewed, as well as those who have not met the quantitative measure outlined. In cases of repeated poor performance, a student may be dismissed from the College. In cases when a student’s academic standing changes, copies of correspondence with the student that outline the student’s final academic standing are sent to the student’s parent or guardian.

In cases where a student is also aided, the Office of Student Aid, the Office of the Registrar, and the Office of the Dean of Students will collaborate to ensure that student communication is coordinated through any aid warning and appeal processes. It is important to note that this policy and the College’s financial aid SAP necessarily share regulations. While these policies share details, they are implemented separately from one another to maintain the integrity of each process. For details about the financial aid components of the SAP policy, please reference the Admissions and Financial Aid section of the Catalogue and visit the Office of Student Aid website.

GPA or Qualitative Standard

All Bowdoin course grades are included in a student’s GPA; however, for the purposes of determining academic standing (good standing, academic probation, suspension, dismissal), first-semester grades may be omitted from the computation for sophomores, juniors, and seniors if that omission benefits the  student. The Office of the Registrar will perform the computation to determine if this is the case using the following standard: the cumulative GPA for the student at the time will be determined with and without the first semester grades. If it is higher without the first semester grades, that calculation will be used.  This will only occur for upperclass students’ GPA calculation and beyond. Students in their first semester at Bowdoin will have their first semester GPA viewed as a “semester GPA” rather than cumulative for the purposes of the academic SAP policy. 

The Office of the Dean of Students informs students of changes in academic standing according to the schedule below; students who have not met the minimum SAP requirement for aid will be notified by the director of student aid. For the purposes of determining internal academic standing only, the computation of required GPA for upperclass students omits first-semester grades if, and only if, this is advantageous to the student. The calculation is described above; SAP calculations for aid always include all semesters enrolled, as required by law. 

Academic Standing Criteria

Students are placed on academic probation, suspension, or academically dismissed according to the criteria below. The GPAs outlined below also prompt aid action when applicable.

For students in good academic standing: 

  • Academic Dismissal:
    • If the cumulative GPA is 1.000 or lower, or the student meets the conditions for a second academic suspension. 
  • Academic Suspension:
    • If the cumulative GPA is 1.001–1.499, or the semester GPA is 1.000 or lower. 
  • Academic Probation:
    • If the cumulative GPA is 1.500–1.999, or the semester GPA is 1.001–1.999. 
  • Good Standing:
    • If the cumulative GPA is greater than or equal to 2.000 and none of the other standards outlined above are met. 

For students on academic probation:

  • Academic Dismissal:
    • If cumulative or semester GPA is 1.000 or lower. 
  • Academic Suspension:
    • If cumulative and semester GPA are 1.001–1.999. 
  • Academic Probation:
    • If cumulative or semester GPA are 1.001–1.999. 
  • Good Standing:
    • If cumulative GPA is greater than or equal to 2.000 and none of the other standards outlined above are met.

​Academic Probation: Students are placed on academic probation for one semester upon returning from academic suspension. Students on academic probation will be assigned to work closely with their academic advisor and a dean from the Office of the Dean of Students.

  • Students must enroll in four full-credits graded with letter grades while on academic probation.
  • Students on academic probation normally are not eligible to study away.  

Quantitative Standard

The quantitative standard or pace is equivalent to the number of credits the student has successfully completed divided by the number of credits the student attempted. Students are expected to make normal progress toward the degree, defined as passing the equivalent of four full-credit courses each semester.  For purposes of the academic review at the end of each term, and counting academic terms in attendance only, medical leaves will not be taken into consideration. 

Any student who fails to register for a minimum of three credits and attend classes prior to the end of the first week of the term may be withdrawn from the College; this will count toward the student’s eight semesters in their aid calculation. Transfer credit and pre-matriculation credits count in this calculation for academic and aid pace. Please note that there is a different calculation of this standard for aid; please see this section of the Catalogue or here for details. To comply with the satisfactory academic progress policy, each candidate in the four-year program must successfully complete the following minimum number of course and unit credits:  

Semester Expected Credits Minimum Credits Pace
First semester 4 credits 2 credits 50 percent
Second semester 8 credits 6 credits 75 percent
Third semester 12 credits 10 credits 83 percent
Fourth semester 16 credits 14 credits 88 percent
Fifth semester 20 credits 18 credits 90 percent
Sixth semester 24 credits 22 credits 92 percent
Seventh semester 28 credits 26 credits 93 percent

Students not making normal progress may be asked to make up deficient credits in approved courses at another accredited institution of higher education.   

Academic Standing Appeals

Students who earn academic suspension or dismissal under the SAP policy have the option to appeal to the Recording/Action Committee. Each semester, in advance of the Recording Committee’s Action Meeting, students who are up for academic suspension and dismissal will be given the opportunity to write a petition explaining any extenuating circumstances that led to their academic deficiency and reasons why they should not be placed on suspension or dismissed. The committee will review these materials and the decision of the committee is final. This is a separate review from the student aid appeal. The Office of Student Aid, the Office of the Registrar, and the Office of the Dean of Students will ensure that students who are involved in one or both appeal processes are given clear, concise instructions. 

Notification Process 

Students not making Satisfactory Academic Progress toward their degree will receive correspondence via their Bowdoin email address. This correspondence includes the appeal process instructions for both the academic and aid processes when applicable. Students will be notified of all deadlines related to the appeal processes in this communication.  

Academic Standing Appeal Procedures 

Students have the right to appeal their academic standing by submitting a petition to the Recording Committee. Petitions should include information regarding the extenuating circumstances that led to the student’s deficiency in scholarship. Details can be found here and students should consult their dean when drafting a petition.

The Recording Committee and Student Petitions

The Recording Committee is a standing faculty committee of the College whose purpose is to address matters pertaining to the academic standing of individual students and to consider exceptions to the policies and procedures governing academic life. The committee meets regularly to consider individual student petitions and at the end of each semester to review the records of students who are subject to probation, suspension, or dismissal. Decisions of the committee are final.

Students who are seeking exceptions to academic regulations or curricular requirements must petition the Recording Committee. The petition form is available online. All petitions require the signature of a dean, and, depending on the nature of the request, some may require supporting documentation from a faculty member, doctor, or counselor. Students are notified of the outcome of their petitions by the secretary of the Recording Committee. Students should note that any courses dropped with Recording Committee permission will result in a W (for Withdrew) being recorded on the students’ transcripts. A grade of W does not factor into a student's GPA.

Transfer of Credit from Other Institutions

The Bowdoin degree certifies that a student has completed a course of study that meets standards established by the faculty. It is normally expected that all of a student’s coursework after matriculation will be completed either at Bowdoin or in an approved semester-long or yearlong off-campus study program. (More information about such programs can be found in the section on Off-Campus Study.)

Apart from taking courses at Bowdoin or in approved off-campus study programs, the College recognizes that there may be rare occasions when it would serve a student’s educational interests to take courses elsewhere for credit toward the Bowdoin degree. In such cases, the work done elsewhere should represent a standard of achievement comparable to what is expected at Bowdoin in a field of study characteristic of the liberal arts.

A student may transfer a cumulative total of no more than four credits from study in programs from two- or four-year accredited colleges/universities. The College does not grant credit for internships, work completed through domestic for-profit institutions, correspondence courses, bridge programs, programs such as HBX CORe, professional study, vocational study, or outdoor education or similar field-study areas if required assignments consist of only reports or reflective summaries. Beginning with courses taken in the Summer 2014 term forward, students may apply for transfer credit approval for online or hybrid courses. Credit is not granted for courses taken elsewhere during the academic year except in special circumstances and with the prior approval of the Recording Committee.

Students must get approval from both a department/program and the Office of the Registrar in advance of enrollment at another institution.  The online Application for Transfer of Credit requires the approval of the appropriate Bowdoin department chair; in order to make this determination, the department chair will need to see a course description and/or syllabus for each course. The application is then approved or denied by the Office of the Registrar. Students should not consider their application complete until both approvals are received.

In certain cases, students may be given conditional approval and be required to submit supporting documents, including the course syllabus and all papers and exams, after the course has been completed. The College may decline to grant credit if the course or the student’s work in the course does not satisfy Bowdoin academic standards. Credit is not awarded for courses in which the student has earned a grade below C- or for courses not graded with regular letter grades. Students are responsible for ensuring these regulations are met.

No credit will be awarded until an official transcript showing the number of credits or credit-hours and the grade(s) earned has been received from the other institution. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the official transcript is sent directly to the Office of the Registrar, and the transcript must arrive in a sealed envelope or as a certified PDF. Normally the transcript must be received and permission to transfer credit secured within one year following the term in which the course was taken. Credit may not be transferred if a longer time period has elapsed.

Transcripts of credit earned at other institutions that have been presented to Bowdoin College for admission or transfer of credit become part of the student’s permanent record, but are not issued, reissued, or copied for distribution. Course titles and grades for courses that were transferred from other institutions are not recorded on the Bowdoin transcript; only the institutional name and the credit are listed.

Students should be aware that credits earned elsewhere may not transfer on a one-to-one basis; some courses may be accorded less than a full Bowdoin credit. Students are advised to consult with the Office of the Registrar in advance to learn the basis on which transfer credit will be determined. For comparison purposes, students should know that one Bowdoin course is generally understood to be equal to three or four semester-hours or five or six quarter-hours.

For more details regarding the transfer credit process, please visit the Bowdoin website.

Pre-Matriculation Credit

Students may have the opportunity to enroll in college-level coursework prior to matriculating at Bowdoin. Bowdoin College will consider granting credit for pre-matriculation coursework, providing the following criteria have been met:

  1. the coursework must have been completed on a college campus at an accredited two- or four-year college/university in courses taught by college faculty;
  2. the coursework must have been completed in a class with matriculated college students;
  3. the courses may not have been used to satisfy any high-school graduation requirements; and
  4. the coursework must represent a standard of achievement comparable to what is expected at Bowdoin in a field of study characteristic of the liberal arts.

Bowdoin also recognizes Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and other international exams and may grant credit toward graduation requirements for them. Students should refer to the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate rules in effect at the time of their matriculation. Although students may apply more than four pre-matriculation credits to their academic records, a maximum of four pre-matriculation credits will be counted toward the thirty-two credits required for the Bowdoin degree from approved exams or other approved college/university courses.

Graduation

Students submit to the Office of the Registrar the Notice of Intent to Graduate in the fall of the academic year in which they intend to graduate. This required form is considered the official application for graduation. Submission of this form begins the final degree audit process and ensures that students receive all notices related to Commencement. Students will generally receive written notice by May 1 that they have been given preliminary clearance to graduate. Final clearance is determined after all academic work has been completed and final grades for the spring semester have been recorded.

Students may take part in only one Commencement, and they are expected to complete all degree requirements before they participate in graduation exercises. Speakers at Commencement and other students playing visible leadership roles in the ceremony must have completed all requirements for graduation. Students with two or fewer credits remaining and who can expect to complete all requirements by the end of the following August may be allowed to participate in Commencement but will not receive a diploma. In such cases, the degree will actually be conferred at the next conferral date following the completion of all requirements, and the diploma will be mailed to the student at that time. Bowdoin confers degrees three times a year: in May when degree requirements are completed in a spring semester, in October when degree requirements are completed in summer, and in December when degree requirements are completed in a fall semester.

The Award of Honors

General Honors

General honors (or Latin honors) are awarded with the degree on the basis of an average of all grades earned at Bowdoin, with a minimum of sixteen credits required for the computation. To compute the average, an A is assigned four points; a B, three points; a C, two points; a D, one point; and an F, zero points. Plus (+) or minus (–) modifiers add or subtract three-tenths of a point (0.3). Half-credit courses are weighted as one-half course. Credit grades (CR) are omitted from the computation, but a D or F grade received in a course taken on a Credit/D/ Fail basis does count. Beginning with grades recorded for Fall 2013, all grades earned in repeated courses are included a. The resulting grade point average (GPA) is not rounded but truncated to display the first three decimals. A degree summa cum laude is awarded to the top 2 percent of the graduating class as calculated by GPA; a degree magna cum laude is awarded to the top 8 percent of the graduating class as calculated by GPA; and a degree cum laude is awarded to the top 20 percent of the graduating class as calculated by GPA. It is Bowdoin’s policy not to disclose the GPA ranges that determine Latin Honors as they shift with each class.

In the case of a course taken at Bowdoin one or more times prior to Fall 2013, only the first grade is included.

Departmental Honors: The Honors Project

The degree with a level of honors in a major subject is awarded to students who have distinguished themselves in coursework in the subject and in an honors project. The award is made by the faculty upon recommendation of the department or program.

The honors project offers seniors the opportunity to engage in original work under the supervision of a faculty member in their major department or program. It allows qualified seniors to build a bridge from their coursework to advanced scholarship in their field of study through original, substantial, and sustained independent research. The honors project can be the culmination of a student’s academic experience at Bowdoin and offers an unparalleled chance for intellectual and personal development.

Students who have attained a specified level of academic achievement in their field of study by their senior year are encouraged to petition their department or program to pursue an honors project carried out under the supervision of a faculty advisor. The honors project usually takes place over the course of two semesters; some departments allow single-semester honors projects. The honors project results in a written thesis and/or oral defense, artistic performance, or showing, depending on the student’s field of study. Students receive a grade for each semester’s work on the honors project and may be awarded a level of honors in their department or program, as distinct from general honors. Honors projects cannot be collaborative.

The honors project process differs across departments and programs in terms of qualification criteria, requirements for completion, the level of honors awarded, and the use of honors project credits to fulfill major course requirements. Students must complete an honors project to be eligible for departmental or program honors. If a student, in consultation with a department, intends to pursue honors, the student will register for an appropriate honors project course number, 4050–4079. All written work accepted as fulfilling the requirements for departmental honors is to be deposited in the Bowdoin College Library. If students do not fulfill the requirements for completion of the honors project but carry out satisfactory work for an independent study, they will receive independent study credit for one or two semesters and the course number will be changed to 4000–4028.

Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars (Dean’s List)

Sarah and James Bowdoin scholarships, carrying no stipend, are awarded in the fall on the basis of work completed the previous academic year. The award is given to the top 20 percent of students, as calculated by grade point average (GPA). Eligible students are those who completed the equivalent of eight full-credit Bowdoin courses during the academic year, six credits of which were graded with regular letter grades and seven credits of which were graded with regular letter grades or non-elective Credit/D/Fail grades. In other words, among the eight required full-credit courses or the equivalent, a maximum of two credits may be graded Credit/D/Fail, but only one credit may be for a course(s) the student elected to take with the Credit/D/Fail grading option. Grades for courses taken in excess of eight credits are included in the GPA. For further information on the College’s method for computing GPA, consult the section on General Honors.

A book, bearing a replica of the early College bookplate serving to distinguish the James Bowdoin Collection in the library, is presented to every Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholar who has earned a GPA of 4.00.

Students who receive College honors have their names sent to their hometown newspaper by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. Students not wishing to have their names published should notify the office directly.

It is Bowdoin’s policy not to disclose the GPA ranges that determine Sarah and James Bowdoin Scholars, as they can shift.

Other Academic Regulations

There are four types of leave from the College: (1) personal leave of absence; (2) medical leave of absence, both voluntary and involuntary; (3) disciplinary suspension; and (4) academic suspension.

Personal Leave of Absence

Bowdoin recognizes that, from time to time, a student may derive educational and personal value from taking a personal leave of absence from their studies. Students contemplating personal leaves are strongly encouraged to consider carefully their individual situations, including progress toward degree completion and whether circumstances dictate that they should temporarily interrupt their course of study at Bowdoin. 

Students wishing to take a personal leave from Bowdoin may, with the approval of a dean, and in consultation with their academic advisor, interrupt their Bowdoin education and take a voluntary personal leave of absence to pursue other interests for one or two semesters. A personal leave of absence functions as a withdrawal from the College, during which time the student is not enrolled at the College. If a student intends to take a personal leave from the College, they should review associated information, meet with their dean, and complete the online Intent to Withdraw Form.

The conditions governing a personal leave of absence are as follows:

  1. Students must be in good academic and social standing at the end of the semester immediately prior to the start of the leave.
  2. Leaves typically begin at the start of a regular semester and may not extend beyond two semesters. Exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis by the dean of students.
  3. A personal leave may not be used in lieu of a voluntary medical leave.
  4. Leaves of absence, extensions, or terminations of leaves must have the approval of a dean.
  5. Students on personal leave are not considered enrolled at Bowdoin and are expected to leave the College community. 
  6. Students on leave may not transfer academic credit to Bowdoin for coursework taken while on leave.
  7. Students should be aware that taking a leave may affect their class standing.
  8. Students should be aware that taking a leave may have financial implications related to tuition reimbursement, financial aid, and repayment status of any student loans. Returning students retain financial aid eligibility if they meet applicable deadlines.
  9. While on leave, students are unable to compete in Bowdoin College athletic programs until after the last day of exams prior to the semester in which they are scheduled to return.
  10. While on leave, students may be ineligible to apply for certain campus opportunities or leadership positions. Examples include, but are not limited to, off-campus study, Residential Life, Conduct Review Board, Outing Club, Career Exploration and Development (CXD), and McKeen Center. Students should speak with individual offices to determine eligibility.
  11. Students who have not already completed the Off-Campus Study application process will not be permitted to study elsewhere during their leave and transfer credit back to Bowdoin.
  12. Once a request for a leave of absence is approved, the decision is binding.

Students on leave will be able to participate in course registration for the semester in which they are expected to return. Course registration instructions will be sent to their Bowdoin email. Students returning from leave will be able to participate in the selection of housing via a proxy process. 

Medical Leave of Absence

For a variety of reasons, students may find it beneficial to request a leave of absence to address a health condition. In limited circumstances, the College may deem it necessary to require a student to take a medical leave of absence. The medical leave status will continue until the student is prepared to return to the College and is re-enrolled by the Re-enrollment Committee. This policy outlines the circumstances of such leaves as well as various procedures and conditions, including re-enrollment criteria and processes and implications for the student in terms of academic, financial, insurance, and housing matters.

Voluntary Medical Leave

A student is encouraged to request a voluntary medical leave in the event that they believe that their physical and/or mental health concerns are significantly interfering with their ability to succeed at Bowdoin and/or that the demands of college life are interfering with recovery, treatment, or safety. A student who, in consultation with either the director of health services or director of counseling services, determines that they need to request a voluntary medical leave should contact their dean to discuss the terms of the leave as determined by the College. Whenever possible, students intending to go on a medical leave from the College should review associated information, meet with their dean, and complete the online Intent to Withdraw Form.

Involuntary Medical Leave

In unusual circumstances, the dean of students or their designee, in consultation with health services and/or counseling services professionals, may determine that a student needs to be placed on involuntary medical leave. In the event such a determination is made, the College will promptly convey that decision in writing to the student. Any student whose situation falls within the following categories may be subject to involuntary leave of absence:

  • presents a substantial risk of harm to self or others or is failing to carry out substantial self-care obligations; or
  • significantly disrupts the educational or other activities of the College community; or
  • is unable to participate meaningfully in educational activities; or
  • requires a level of care from the College community that exceeds the resources and staffing that the College can reasonably be expected to provide for the student’s well-being.

The involuntary leave determination will be based upon an individualized assessment, reflecting reasonable judgment that relies on current medical knowledge or on the best available objective evidence. The decision will reflect consideration of a number of factors, including the student’s ability to safely participate in the College’s programs, inclusive of the student’s ability to carry out substantial self-care obligations, and will examine whether the student is otherwise qualified, with or without reasonable accommodation, to effectively participate in the College community. The assessment will determine the student’s impact on the campus community; the nature, duration, and severity of any risk posed; the probability that a potential injury will actually occur; and whether reasonable modifications of policies, practices, or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk. In particularly urgent situations, the College may require the student to leave campus on an interim basis while it performs the assessment.

Return from Hospitalization

A student who is hospitalized as a result of a physical or mental health issue may wish to take a medical leave from Bowdoin to recover. If so, the student should follow the voluntary medical leave process set forth herein. In the event the student no longer requires a hospital setting and does not wish to take a medical leave, that student must be evaluated by Bowdoin for readiness to return to campus before the student may return. Note that, in some situations, the hospital may determine that the student is eligible for discharge; however, a separate administrative decision is to be made by Bowdoin with respect to whether or not that student may return to campus. It may be determined, upon such an individualized evaluation, that the student has recovered such that the student no longer requires a hospital setting but may still need more support than the student can receive in a residential college setting. In such situations, a required withdrawal from Bowdoin for medical reasons may be considered to allow for a more extended period of recuperation. In that situation, if the student is unwilling to take a voluntary medical leave, the involuntary medical leave process shall be followed as set forth herein.

Family Notification

The College reserves the right, consistent with applicable state and federal privacy laws, to notify a parent or guardian of their student’s status if circumstances warrant and if it is believed to be in the best interest of the student and the College community.

Appeal Procedure for Involuntary Medical Leave

If a student believes that the College’s decision to place them on an involuntary medical leave and/or the conditions the College may have placed upon the student’s return from an involuntary medical leave are unreasonable or that the procedures and/or information relied upon in making the decision were wrong or unfair, the student may appeal the decision. The appeal must be made in writing to the dean for students. Appeals should clearly state the specific grounds for appeal and should present relevant information to support the statements including medical/clinical evidence in support of their position. In such situations, the student may be required to sign a limited release to enable the dean for students or their designee to consult with the student’s health care provider on the involuntary leave decision and/or conditions placed upon the student’s return. Once notified of the involuntary medical leave, the student has five (5) business days to submit their appeal. The student may not remain on campus during the appeal period. If no timely appeal is submitted, the decision about the involuntary medical leave and any conditions imposed are final. The dean for students or their designee will respond in writing to the student’s written appeal within five (5) business days. The response will provide a conclusion as to whether or not the involuntary medical leave is appropriate upon a thorough review of the relevant facts and information. The dean for students reserves the right to request an assessment by an outside medical provider of the College’s choice and at the College’s expense when it is believed that the information available to the College so warrants. In such instances, a delay in the resolution of the appeal may be necessary.

The Re-enrollment Committee

Any student on leave from the College, including students on medical leave, personal leave, academic suspension, or disciplinary suspension, must request for re-enrollment before the student is permitted to return to Bowdoin.

Students who are eligible to apply for re-enrollment will be notified via their Bowdoin email account by the Office of the Dean of Students and provided instructions for re-enrollment. The Re-enrollment Committee—which is chaired by the dean of students or a designee, and includes representatives from the Office of Admissions, the Office of the Dean of Students, and the Office of Residential Life—reviews requests for re-enrollment twice annually. Letters requesting re-enrollment and supporting materials should be directed to the Office of the Dean of Students. 

Students seeking re-enrollment are notified of the outcome of their petitions by their dean. Students should be aware that, in addition to other applicable re-enrollment criteria, due to Bowdoin’s enrollment model, no student is guaranteed to be re-enrolled to the College within the timeframe they request. 

Students on any form of leave are typically not eligible to register for classes or make housing arrangements until they have been re-enrolled. Typically, a student will be able to participate in course registration for the semester in which they are expected to return upon approval of the request for re-enrollment. Course registration instructions will be sent to their Bowdoin email. Students will be able to participate in the selection of housing after re-enrollment.

Re-enrollment Criteria and Procedures

General Re-enrollment

A student who has been placed on a leave for academic performance, disciplinary, or medical reasons—whether voluntary or involuntary—must request re-enrollment before the student is allowed to return to Bowdoin College.

The student must send a letter to the Re-enrollment Committee in a timely manner, to the attention of the dean of students, requesting formal re-enrollment to the College. That letter must comply with the terms of the student’s leave contained in the letter confirming the student’s leave (which is typically from the Office of the Dean of Students or the Office of the Registrar). Once the Re-enrollment Committee has reached a decision, the student will be notified by their dean. The decision of the committee is final.

Re-enrollment Following Medical Leave

Where a student requests re-enrollment following a medical leave, or where the terms of a student’s leave otherwise require it, the student must also send to the director of health services and/or the director of counseling services and wellness programs a report from the student’s physician and/or health care provider. The report is expected to include discussion of the student’s current health status, course of treatment undergone during the leave, and the student’s compliance with any treatment plan, as well as any specific recommendations for the student and the College with respect to the student’s successful return to Bowdoin. The report will address the following: (a) the student’s readiness to return to the academic and cocurricular demands of college life; (b) the student’s readiness to live on campus; (c) the student’s ongoing treatment needs; (d) the student’s readiness to return to competitive sports, if the student is a collegiate athlete; and (e) any other suggestions that the health care provider deems appropriate.

The student’s health care provider submitting the report must be a licensed physician if the evaluation is regarding medical conditions and must be a licensed mental health provider if evaluating mental health conditions. Further, all providers must be unrelated to the student and must have a specialty and credentials appropriate for the condition(s) of concern. The student is responsible for any cost associated with the provider’s evaluation.

The Re-enrollment Committee will review the information provided by the student and evaluate the appropriateness of the student’s return. The committee may request further information from the student’s health care providers. In order to provide for such requests, the student will be asked to sign and return a limited release form so that those individuals at the College who are involved in evaluating the student’s return may consult with the student’s outside health care provider(s) limited to aiding the College in assessing the student’s readiness to return to campus life and if so, under what conditions. In addition, the director of health services and/or the director of counseling services and wellness programs may also choose to meet with the student as part of the evaluation. The College reserves the right to request an assessment by an outside medical provider, of the College’s choice at the College’s expense, when it believes the circumstances so warrant.  

In the event that the student is permitted to return to Bowdoin, the student will speak with their dean before returning in order to discuss the terms of the student’s re-enrollment, including, if appropriate, a discussion of a continuing treatment plan for the student. If such a plan is established and if the student does not follow the established plan, the College will have the right to revoke its decision to readmit the student and will have the right to require the student to resume their medical leave immediately.

Additional Considerations

Students should review associated information to receive further guidance on the implications of withdrawing from the College.

Academic Implications

Enrollment Status

While on leave, the student is not an enrolled student at Bowdoin College. The leave status will continue until the student returns from a personal leave or is readmitted by the Re-enrollment Committee. Students should be aware that they are expected to complete their degree in eight semesters of enrollment (semesters in which they earn grades). Ninth semesters are rarely permitted and only by petition to the Recording Committee.

Taking Courses at Other Institutions

The College strictly regulates the circumstances under which students on leave may transfer credits for courses taken during their leave.

In certain circumstances, the dean of students may approve a limited course load (one or two courses preapproved by the College). Students on a medical leave will typically not be permitted to take courses during leave. If a student on a medical leave seeks approval to take courses during their leave, the student must provide support, in writing, from the student’s health care provider. All requests for such course approval must be made in writing to the dean of students. Requests for transferring course credit for more than two courses are seldom granted and require prior approval of the Recording Committee.

In instances of suspensions for disciplinary or academic reasons, the student’s suspension letter will provide all pertinent details regarding coursework during the suspension, including whether the student has permission to take courses, whether the student is required to take courses, and any parameters regarding when the courses may be taken, among others.

In all cases, if a student enrolls as a degree-seeking student at another institution and later wishes to return to Bowdoin, they must apply through the admission process as a transfer student.

Off-Campus Study Applications

Students on personal leave are permitted to submit applications for off-campus study, but must comply with the deadlines for those programs. Questions should be directed to the Office of International Programs and Off-Campus Study.

Course Registration

Once a student has been readmitted to the College, they will be able to participate in course registration. Students must consult with their course instructors, advisor, and dean when choosing courses following leave.

Educational Record Reflection

The student’s transcript will not reflect their leave. In the event a leave occurs after the start of the semester, courses for that semester will be listed on the transcript with grades of “W” (Withdrew). A copy of the student’s leave approval letter will be retained in the Office of the Dean of Students. The handling of the student’s educational record is governed by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). For more information about FERPA and a student’s rights under the law, consult Student Privacy Rights Policies in the Student Handbook.

Financial Implications

Financial Aid Eligibility

Any student not in attendance for one or more terms, for voluntary or involuntary reasons, should be aware that their withdrawal from the College may affect any financial aid they are receiving and/or any federal loans borrowed while enrolled. The student is advised to consult with the Office of Student Aid to: 1) ensure that all aid forms and required documents have been submitted prior to leaving the College; 2) review any loan repayment obligations that may come due during the leave; and 3) understand the deadlines and form requirements for aid application for return to the College.

Tuition and Fee Refunds

Tuition and fee refunds for leaves taken during the course of a semester are made in accordance with the College’s refunds policy. For more information, consult the refunds section.

Tuition Insurance

Tuition insurance is available, but it must be purchased prior to the start of the semester. Questions should be directed to the Bursar’s Office.

Insurance Implications

Student Health Insurance

If the student is currently enrolled in the Bowdoin Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan, their coverage will continue as specified by the plan policy. If the student waived Bowdoin’s plan, they should consult their comparable plan for any exclusions or limitations. Questions should be directed to the student health insurance coordinator.

Housing Implications

On a case-by-case basis, the College, in consultation with the student’s health care providers, may determine that the returning student should not live on campus but is capable of attending classes. In addition, College housing may not be available to the student upon their return, due to space limitations. Once the student has been readmitted, they can discuss availability and options with the Office of Residential Life. Students on medical leave are ineligible to participate in the spring housing lottery. In the event that College housing is not available, the student may choose to live in housing in the local area. The Office of Residential Life maintains information on local area rental listings. Questions should be directed to the Office of Residential Life.

Presence on Campus

While a student is on medical leave, or suspension for disciplinary or academic reasons, they will not be permitted to visit campus without prior written permission of the dean of students or their designee. Permission will generally be granted for certain preapproved educational or health treatment purposes only.

Resignation

Students may resign from Bowdoin at any time. Resignation permanently and irrevocably terminates the student’s official relationship with the College. If a student were to desire at some future date to return to Bowdoin, the student would need to reapply to the College through the regular admissions process as a transfer student. Given the permanency of resignation, students are encouraged to discuss their plans thoroughly with advisors, parents, and a dean. In instances where students have been away from the College for multiple semesters, including where students are not on a formal leave or where a leave period has expired, they may be administratively resigned. Furthermore, a student who enrolls in another institution as a degree-seeking student will be administratively resigned.

A decision to resign should be submitted in writing using the online Intent to Withdraw Form. Students should also reference other associated information.

Upon resignation, tuition and fee refunds are made in accordance with the College’s refunds policy.

The Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook is current as of August 1, 2021. The Student Handbook may be updated more frequently after this date and is the authoritative source for information governing student life at Bowdoin.