ice of the Registrar

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Frequently Asked Questions

Failure, Deficiencies and Withdrawing

Withdrawing from a Course

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Top of Page First-year and first-semester transfer students may be permitted to withdraw from one course (incurring a deficiency but no grade penalty) as late as the tenth week of the semester. Upperclassmen also may once in subsequent years withdraw from a course under the same conditions.

A withdrawal, recorded on the transcript as a "W," is granted only with the approval of the instructor and a dean and only if there is complete agreement between the instructor and the dean that, despite conscientious effort to do the work, continuation in the course would be detrimental to the overall educational interest or health of the student. The deficiency thereby incurred must be removed in the normal manner. (See Making Up Course Deficiencies below.)

Failing a Course

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Top of Page A student receives credit for a course by obtaining a grade of at least D minus. If the student fails a course, he or she must make up the deficiency. (See Making Up Course Deficiencies below.)

If a failure occurs in the first semester of a full-year, non-language course, the student may, with the consent of the instructor, continue the course and receive credit for the second semester only. If a failure occurs in the second semester of a full-year course, credit for passing the first semester may be retained only upon the recommendation of the department concerned and with the approval of the Committee on Academic Standing.

A senior who incurs a failure in the first semester in a required major course may be dropped from the College at midyear.

Making Up Course Deficiencies

Jump to Top of Page When a student falls behind in course credits because of a failure or course withdrawal, he or she has a deficiency. Deficiencies can be made up only by courses taken after the deficiencies have been incurred. Thus, for example, Advanced Placement credits may not be used to make up deficiencies.

A student must make up a deficiency in one of these ways:

  1. obtain a grade of at least C minus in a summer school course, approved in advance by the Registrar, at a regionally accredited four-year college or university; (The grade will not, however, appear on the Williams transcript or be included in the calculation of the student's cumulative grade point average.) (summer school form)
  2. pass an extra regularly graded course at Williams in the semester following the failure;
  3. in the case of a first-semester failure of a year-long language course, obtain a grade of at least C minus in the work of the second semester of that course. The failure for the first semester will, however, remain on the student's record and will be included in the cumulative gradepoint average.

A deficiency must normally be made up before the start of the following academic year, or in the case of a deficiency incurred in the spring semester, no later than the following fall semester. A student may petition the Committee on Academic Standing with an alternate plan.

Minimum Academic Standards

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It is the policy of Williams College not to permit a student to remain in residence after it has become evident that he or she is either unable or unwilling to maintain reasonable standards of academic achievement. At the end of each term, the Committee on Academic Standing reviews all academic records that fail to meet the following minimum academic requirements:

  • For first-year students: Three grades of C minus or better and no failures each semester, and at least Perfunctory Pass on the Winter Study Project
  • For upperclass students: Four grades of C minus or better each semester, and at least Perfunctory Pass on the Winter Study Project

Students whose records fail to meet these minimum academic requirements or whose records otherwise fail to show adequate progress may be placed on warning, academic probation, or required to resign.

Students who are required to resign from the College for academic reasons are normally not permitted to return for at least one year from the date of their resignation. A student who has been required to resign from the College may petition the Committee on Academic Standing through the Dean's Office for reinstatement on two conditions only: all deficiencies must have been made up and a letter submitted to the Committee that offers convincing evidence that the student is ready and able to complete work toward a degree at Williams without further interruption.

When required to resign, students must vacate their rooms promptly. Financial aid students must also see the Director of Financial Aid before leaving to discuss loan repayment and renewal of aid in the event of readmission.

A student who fails to meet minimum academic standards in his or her final semester at Williams may be required by the Committee on Academic Standing to meet them by earning grades of at least C minus elsewhere before the B.A. will be awarded. If such work is required, it must be completed within three years unless stipulated otherwise, and the courses must be approved in advance by the Registrar.

Withdrawal from the College in Good Standing

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Students may request personal leaves of absence from a dean and, if granted, withdraw from the College. Such time away, often as a period of reassessment and self evaluation, can prove to be educationally beneficial. A withdrawal in good standing may be granted for not less than one semester and not more than three years. Students who withdraw in good standing are readmitted with the approval of the Dean’s Office and are expected to complete the degree without further interruption.


Students may request permission from a dean to withdraw at any time. If a student is granted a personal leave of absence after the semester begins, but before the end of the drop/add period, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal as the day before the term began. If a personal leave is granted after the end of the drop/add period, but before the end of the eighth week of the semester, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal, but the semester will not count toward the maximum of eight allowed to complete the degree. If a personal withdrawal is allowed after the eighth week of the semester, the transcript will list the date of withdrawal and the courses in progress, each with a W; the semester will normally count toward the maximum of eight allowed to complete the degree and the student will incur deficiencies that must be made up before returning to the College.

Graduation Rate

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(See current College Bulletin..)


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