Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook

Academic Standards and Regulations

Information about Courses

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 three hours a week, with the expectation that a minimum of nine additional hours a week will be spent in lab, discussion group, film viewings, 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.

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. Regular attendance at classes is expected and individual instructors may establish specific attendance expectations. 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 course work. In unusual cases (family and personal emergencies, illness, etc.), examinations may be rescheduled by agreement of the course instructor and a dean.

Final examinations of the College 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 specific courses. The deadline for submitting final, approved honors projects for 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 29–October 1, Sun.–Tues. Rosh Hashanah, begins at sundown on September 29 and concludes at sundown on October 1
October 8–9, Tues.–Wed. Yom Kippur, begins at sundown on Oct. 8 and concludes at sundown on Oct. 9
October 27, Sunday Diwali
April 8–16, Wed.–Thurs. Passover, begins at sundown on April 8 and concludes at sundown on April 16
April 10, Friday Good Friday
April 12, Sunday Easter
April 24–May 23, Fri.–Sat. Ramadan, begins at first light on April 24 and concludes at last light on May 23
May 24–26, Sat.–Tues. Eid-al-Fitr, begins at sundown on May 24

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;
  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 paper registration form under the appropriate course number. 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 course work 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 course work 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 course work.

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.

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.

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 course work 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 course work 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.

Deficiency in Scholarship

Students are expected to make normal progress toward the degree, defined as passing the equivalent of four full-credit courses each semester. Students not making normal progress may be asked to make up deficient credits in approved courses at another accredited institution of higher education. In addition, students are expected to meet the College’s standards of academic performance. The Recording Committee meets twice each year to review the academic records of students who are not meeting these standards. Students are placed on probation, suspension, or dismissal according to the criteria below; students on probation or suspension are not considered to be in good academic standing. 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 academic standing are sent to the student’s parent or guardian.

Academic Probation

Students are placed on academic probation for one semester if they:

  • receive one F or two Ds in any semester; or
  • receive one D while on academic probation; or
  • receive during their tenure at Bowdoin a total of four or five Ds or some equivalent combination of Fs and Ds where one F is equivalent to two Ds.

Note: Under some circumstances, a student may qualify for academic suspension. See Academic Suspension below.

Also, 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 are required to enroll in four full-credit courses graded with regular letter grades while on academic probation. Students on academic probation normally are not eligible to study away.

Academic Suspension

Students are placed on academic suspension if they:

  • receive two Fs, one F and two Ds, or four Ds in any semester; or
  • receive one F or two Ds while on academic probation; or
  • receive during their tenure at Bowdoin a total of six Ds or some equivalent combination of Fs and Ds where one F is equivalent to two Ds.

A student on suspension for academic deficiency normally is suspended for one year and may be asked to complete course work at another accredited four-year institution before being readmitted. Students are expected to earn grades of C- or better in these courses. Other conditions for readmission are set by the Recording Committee and stated in writing at the time of suspension. A suspended student must submit a letter requesting readmission. The Readmission Committee meets to consider these requests. A student who is readmitted is eligible for financial aid, according to demonstrated need, as long as the student adheres to the relevant financial aid deadlines. Once the student is readmitted, the Office of the Registrar will send course and registration information to the student’s Bowdoin email address unless an alternative email address has been provided. Students are ineligible for housing until after they have been readmitted, and there is no guarantee that College housing will be available at that time. While suspended, students are not permitted to visit campus without the written permission of the dean for student affairs. Generally, permission to visit campus is only granted for educational or health treatment purposes. Students are unable to participate in Bowdoin College athletic programs until they have been readmitted. Students are permitted to submit an application for Off-Campus Study (normal deadlines apply); however, they are not eligible to apply for resident assistant (RA), proctor, or house resident positions until readmitted.

Dismissal

Students will be subject to dismissal if they:

  • incur a second academic suspension; or
  • receive during their tenure at Bowdoin a total of seven or eight Ds (or some combination of Fs and Ds where one F is equivalent to two Ds), after having previously been placed on academic suspension; or
  • receive during their tenure at Bowdoin a total of nine Ds or some equivalent combination of Fs and Ds where one F is equivalent to two Ds.

In addition to being subject to the standards outlined above, students receiving VA benefits must also maintain a 1.000 GPA to be eligible to continue to receive their VA benefits.

Other Academic Regulations

Personal Leave of Absence

Students 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, complete the Intent to Withdraw Form, and return it to the Office of the Dean of Students.

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 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. Exceptions may be granted by the dean of students.
  6. Students on leave may not transfer academic credit to Bowdoin for course work taken while on leave without prior approval as set forth below.
  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.

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 and are free to visit campus occasionally without the dean’s permission unless otherwise notified. 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. Students on leave are typically permitted to submit applications for off-campus study and for student leadership positions for the upcoming semester—including RA, proctor, or house proctor positions—and normal deadlines apply. Students on a voluntary personal leave (and not for academic performance, disciplinary, or medical reasons) do not need to apply for readmission and are expected to return at the conclusion of their leave.

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 readmitted by the Readmission Committee. This policy outlines the circumstances of such leaves as well as various procedures and conditions, including readmission 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, complete the Intent to Withdraw Form, and return it to the Office of the Dean of Students.

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 student affairs. 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 student affairs 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 is final. The dean for student affairs 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 student affairs 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.

Readmission Criteria and Procedures

General Readmission

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

The student must send a letter to the Readmission Committee in a timely manner, to the attention of the dean of students, requesting formal readmission 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 Readmission Committee has reached a decision, the student will be notified by their dean. The decision of the committee is final.

Readmission Following Medical Leave

Where a student requests readmission 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 co-curricular 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 Readmission 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 readmission, 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 Readmission 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 course work 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.

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 course work after matriculation will be completed either at Bowdoin or in an approved semester- or year-long 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 summer school programs from four-year accredited colleges/universities. The College does not grant credit for work completed through two-year institutions, domestic for-profit institutions, correspondence courses, bridge programs, or abbreviated winter terms (“Jan Plans”) or their equivalent at other times of the year, or programs such as HBX CORe. The College does not grant credit for professional or vocational study at other institutions. 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 apply to the Office of the Registrar for permission to transfer credit in advance of enrollment at another institution. The 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.

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. 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 four semester-hours or six quarter-hours.

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

  1. the course work must have been completed on a college campus at an accredited four-year college/university in courses taught by college faculty;
  2. the course work 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 course work 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. Students may receive a maximum of four pre-matriculation credits toward 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. 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 May Commencement following the completion of all requirements, and the diploma will be mailed to the student at that time. Speakers at Commencement and other students playing visible leadership roles in the ceremony must have completed all requirements for graduation.

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 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, 2019. The Student Handbook may be updated more frequently after this date and is the authoritative source for information governing student life at Bowdoin.

The Recording Committee and Student Petitions

The Recording Committee is a standing 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 meets 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. Petition forms may be obtained from the Office of the Dean of Students or here. 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.

The Readmission Committee

The Readmission Committee is chaired by the dean of students and comprises the dean of students and assistant/associate deans of students, director of student aid, director of residential life, a representative from the Office of Admissions, and the THRIVE program director. The director of counseling services and wellness programs, the director of the health services, and the director of student aid serve as advisors to the committee. The committee meets to consider the petitions of students who are seeking to return from academic suspension, disciplinary suspension, and/or medical leave. Letters requesting readmission and supporting materials should be directed to the dean of students office. Students on academic suspension, disciplinary suspension, and/or medical leave are not eligible to register for classes or make housing arrangements until they have been readmitted. Students seeking readmission are notified of the outcome of their petitions by their dean.