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International Students and Scholars

Academic Glossary

Adjusting to college can be a confusing process for anyone, and especially for international students and U.S. students who live overseas. Unfamiliar academic terms, new educational concepts, and new words often confuse “internationals” when they arrive. This glossary or “dictionary” is designed to explain some of the academic terms used frequently in the process of advising and registration.

Liberal Arts

Lewis & Clark, like many other U.S. colleges and universities, is a liberal arts institution. This means that we believe that an “educated person” is one who is familiar with a broad range of academic areas—natural sciences and math (biology, chemistry, physics, calculus etc.)., international issues (history, economics, international affairs, political science, etc.), the arts (art, theater, music, etc.), languages and so forth.

The liberal arts concept is very different from that followed by most European and many Asian educational systems where students are encouraged to focus on a particular area of study. In the liberal arts system, students are encouraged to explore, to gain a broad-based education, to question, and to see how academic fields interrelate. In the U.S. students begin to focus on their major in the last two years of study.

Through the liberal arts system, Lewis & Clark encourages students to formulate independent thought by the acquisition of as much available knowledge as possible in their four years of higher education.

At Lewis & Clark some courses called “General Education” or “Gen Ed,” or “Core” courses are required. These include a two-semester course for first-year students titled “Exploration & Discovery” or “E&D,” and other courses involving the areas of International Studies, Natural Science/Math, Creative Arts, Foreign Languages, Quantitative Reasoning, Writing/Rhetoric, Bibliographic Instruction and Information/Electronic Competency, and Physical Education.

The Semester System

Lewis & Clark currently operates on the “semester system.” The semester system divides the year into two academic sessions - fall semester and spring semester, each lasting approximately fifteen weeks. Fall semester begins in late August or early September and continues through mid-December. Spring semester begins in mid-January and continues through early May. Most students attend only the fall and spring semesters, but some enroll in the optional summer semester to make up work or to graduate early.

Student Status

Under the current semester system, a full-time student must take a minimum of 12 credits per semester. However, to graduate on time, it is advisable for students to take 16-18 credits per semester. A student taking less than 12 credits is considered to be a part-time student (a violation of Department of Homeland Security rules for international students). Each class listed on the registration website has its value of credits adjacent to it. Most academic classes are four credits each, and most students at Lewis & Clark take four classes per semester plus a physical education (sports), music, or activity class.

Student status—freshman (first year), sophomore (second year), junior (third year), or senior (fourth year)—is determined by the amount of credits you earn. To make normal progress toward graduation it is advisable to take between 16 and 18 credits per semester, thus maintaining a 32 credit average per year.

Class Hours or Credits

The amount of course credit is usually determined by the amount of time spent in the classroom, the amount of homework required, and the difficulty of the course. Most courses at Lewis & Clark are 4 credits. PHIL 101 (Logic) , ECON 210 (Financial Analysis), PHYS 110 (Great Ideas in Physics), and SOAN 100 (Introduction to Sociology) are all 4 credit courses. If the course is worth four credits, a student can usually expect to be in class for three to four hours per week, and spend at least 8 hours on homework for the class. (We usually say that for each one hour in class, you need to study for three hours outside of class). U.S. students refer to their total class hours in many different ways but it all means the same thing. For example, students may say, “I’m taking “sixteen hours” or “sixteen semester hours” or “sixteen credits” or “sixteen credit hours.” All in all, this simply refers to the number of credits that the classes are worth academically.

Some courses are worth less than four credits. Some theater, music and physical education (sports) courses are like this. For example, PE/A 101 (Beginning Tennis), MUP 131 (Voice Class), and TH 107 (Ballet) are worth only one or two credits because they require less homework, meet less often, or are not as academically difficult.

To graduate from Lewis & Clark College a student needs to complete a minimum of 128 credits. This normally takes 4 years. If a student goes to summer school, the time required to graduate can be reduced.

A typical class schedule for an incoming freshman might look like this for the fall semester.

JAPANESE 101-02
(Beginning Japanese)
Meets M,W,Th, F
from 12:40 - 1:40
4 credits
PE/A 101-38
(Weight Training)
Meets T,Th
from 9:45 - 10:45
1 credit
EXPLORATION & DISCOVERY
(Core 106)
Meets M,W,F
from 1:50 - 2:50
4 credits
BIOLOGY 100-01
(Perspectives)
Meets M,W,F
from 10:20 - 11:20
4 credits
BIOLOGY 100-02
(Lab)
Meets T
from 3:30 - 6:00
0 credits
THEATER 113-02
(Acting 1:  Fundamentals)
Meets T,Th
from 1:50 - 3:20
4 credits
Total   17 credits

Therefore, this student has a total of 17 credits for the fall semester.

Prerequisites

Most upper division courses (courses numbered 200 or above) e.g. MATH 315 (Number Theory), or IA 430 (International Affairs Seminar) have certain prerequisites that must be completed before enrolling in the course. These prerequisites are designed to insure that all students enrolled in the class are at the same level of expertise, and have covered and are familiar with material that will be studied. These prerequisites are not designed to keep anyone out of a course.

For example, ECON 215 (Game Theory) has a prerequisite of ECON 100 (Principles of Economics). Therefore, before students can register for ECON 215, they must first pass ECON 100.

If there are recommended courses listed, then it is not mandatory for students to have completed them in order to enroll in the class; merely advisable.

Grading System

Most courses at Lewis & Clark are graded courses which mean that students receive A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, or F. The system for grading in each class is determined solely by the instructor and is not standardized. Most instructors provide information about grading with the course outline or syllabus. All students are thus given equal opportunity, and maximum time to obtain the best grade possible.

Some courses may be taken “credit / no credit” (“CR/NC”) which means that a student takes the class but does not receive a letter grade. If students pass the course, they receive the grade of “CR” which means “Credit.” If students do not pass the course, they receive a grade of “NC” which means “No Credit.” Grades of A, B, C, D, or F are not given in CR/NC courses and the results do not affect the students grade point average. Important to note: All “General Education” or “Core” courses must be taken for a grade.

To select a CR/NC designation, you must obtain the signature of the instructor (forms are available at the Registrar’s Office), and file the form within the first ten days of the term. Once this form is filed, it is impossible to change to a letter grade.

Adding / Dropping a Course

A student may “add” or “drop” a course within the first two weeks of the semester. Adding a course means registering for the course. Dropping a course means stopping the course. To add or drop a course, a student must get the proper form from the Registrar’s Office and turn it in. Courses that are dropped in the first two weeks of the semester are not recorded on the student’s transcript.

Withdrawal from a Course

If a student wishes to withdraw from a course for any reason, this may be done from the third through to the sixth week of the academic semester. Forms for withdrawal may be obtained at the Registrar’s Office, and require the signature of the instructor. It is important to check the Course Registration booklet for the dates that withdrawals are allowed during each term.

After the tenth week, withdrawal can be achieved in certain circumstances with the permission of the instructor.

If for any reason a student cannot complete the requirements of the course within the semester, an incomplete grade (“I”) may be issued, with the permission of the instructor. This allows the student to complete all the requirements at a later date, and thus still receive credit and a grade for the course. A grade of “incomplete” will change to an “F” if the work is not completed before the deadline.

Transcript

A transcript is the student’s academic record. It lists all courses and grades, including withdrawals, in a student’s academic history. The transcript also notes if a student has been on academic probation or suspended from the college. In the U.S. the transcript is examined by employers when the student applies for a job. The transcript is more important to U.S. students than the “diploma,” which is a ceremonial document.

Exploration & Discovery (Core 106 and Core 107)

Exploration and Discovery (“E&D”) is a required course for all first-year students. It is a two-semester course and enrollment is limited to twenty or fewer students in each section. E&D is taught by faculty members from many different departments and academic disciplines. In the fall semester, the academic content and curriculum are the same in each section of the course. In the spring semester, the content and curriculum vary depending on the professor and the section.

Combining occasional lectures with discussion sections, the course develops students’ skills in critical reading and writing, and effective speaking and listening.

Advisors

All Lewis & Clark College students—Americans as well as international students—are assigned an advisor, a professor, when they arrive on campus. The advisor’s duty is to help the student make intelligent decisions about class load, course selection, academic goals, meeting college requirements, and so forth. First-year students must have the signature of their advisor in order to register for classes.

Advisors are assigned carefully, not randomly, especially for international students. We try to pair advisors and advisees (students) who have a class together. Department chairs serve as advisors for transfer students.

Students may change their advisors at any time. It is easy to do so.

GPA (Grade Point Average)

GPA means grade point average. Employers look for students with a “good” or “high” GPA. Students want to have a “high GPA” and frequently ask their friends what GPA they have.]

In the U.S. system, the GPA range is listed below:

A = 4.0 C+ = 2.3 F = 0.0
A- = 3.7 C = 2.0  
B+ = 3.3 C-=1.7  
B = 3.0 D+ = 1.3  
B-= 2.7 D = 1.0  

A student who has a 4.0 GPA (average) is an excellent student. That student has an “A” average. To graduate from Lewis & Clark, a student must have a GPA of at least 2.0 or “C.”

Look at the example student record below:

History 110 4 credits X   B (3.0) = 12 points
Mathematics 131 4 credits X   A (4.0) = 16 points
Exploration & Discovery 4 credits X   B (3.0) = 12 points
Psychology 100 4 credits X   C (2.0) = 8 points
Total 16 credits     48 points

The student took four graded classes and passed all of them. He earned 16 credits toward graduation. If you multiply the number of credits (4) by the points of the grade (A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1), the student earned 48 points. To get the GPA, divide the points by the credits (48 divided by 16). The student will have a GPA of 3.0. That is the equivalent of a “B” average.