Frequently Asked Questions
- How many courses/credits will my son/daughter be taking this fall?
Most first-semester freshmen take five academic courses usually amounting to between 15-18 credits, depending on the credit value of the courses.
Some students add “non-academic” but credit-bearing activities (band, dance, choir, living/learning communities, e.g.) that add to the total number of credits and can make the course load seem larger than it actually is. So when analyzing, be sure to count the number of courses, not just the number of credits.
- What kinds of courses will a typical freshman take?
The courses will be a blend of:
- Courses we require of all freshmen (First-Year Seminar course is one example; “The Art of Thinking” is another; Math is also another);
- Courses appropriate for a student’s major and/or pre-professional interest.
- A Course or Courses for our Foundational Core requirements.
Students and parents can check Core and major requirements on the Registrar’s website.
- What does a “typical” first-semester schedule look like?
There are many variations, but for most freshmen, the schedule will be something like this:
- One of our FY 125 courses (First Year Seminar) OR our FLO 125 course (The Art of Thinking) (3 credits)
- A MATH COURSE (BY Math Department placement) (3 or 4 credits)
- A COURSE FOR INTENDED MAJOR/PROGRAM) (3 or 4 credits)
- A COURSE FOR INTENDED MAJOR or CORE (3/4 credits)
- A COURSE FOR MAJOR or CORE (3 credits)
- What are these two Freshman courses - FY 125 and FLO 125?
These two courses constitute an innovative direction in our freshman programming, and as a University, we are eager to begin our fifth full year with this unique curriculum. We hope the courses will challenge and excite our freshmen while introducing them right from the start to the realities of college-level work.
The FY 125 courses are developed and taught by selected faculty members in a variety of disciplines on topics that are innovative and pertinent to the lives of our students. These are classes of limited size (18 students per section), and since they reflect the interests and passions of our faculty, they should be exciting and eye-opening. The courses embrace the seminar format and call for a high level of participation from the students. The courses are also intended to develop writing, oral presentation, and research competencies.
Our FLO 125 course works to develop and enhance the logical thinking skills of our newest students, to allow them to enter into mature and well-thought out discussions with their faculty and peers, and to offer them a solid foundation for their written and oral assignments during freshman year and beyond.
Freshmen take one of these courses in the fall; the other in the spring of freshman year.
- How long are classes? When do they meet?
Most three-credit courses meet for 150 minutes per week—usually in two 75 minute sessions or three 50 minute sessions; four-credit courses typically include three 75 minute sessions; and science labs meet for three hours once per week. Some “block” classes meet once a week for 150 minutes.
Unlike in high school, college classes meet at times that are often spread out over a week. Our classes begin at 8:00 AM on Monday and end with 3:30 classes on Friday; we even have classes in the early evenings (5:00/5:10 PM classes). FRESHMEN FIT INTO ALL OF THESE TIME SLOTS. So there are often substantial gaps between classes along with some “light” days and some “heavy” days. Freshmen—and their parents—need to get used to this fundamental change, and new college students must learn to make effective use of the “gaps” and of some prime studying hours during the day.
- When will my son/daughter know about his/her fall 2017 class schedule?
On the second day of each June Orientation, advisors will meet individually with each incoming freshman to discuss the required courses and options for the fall. Each student will leave with a good idea of the courses he/she will take for the fall, but NOT the days and times. An actual schedule, complete with days and times, will arrive via mail in July.
- How do freshmen know which courses to select?
That’s where we come in as academic advisors. Each freshman will sit with an advisor, who has the student’s folder and other details from forms the student has completed while here. So we have a great deal of relevant information about a freshman’s academic interests that allows us to work individually with him/her to select the appropriate courses.
Academic Advisors also know our University Core requirements along with the requirements and suggested sequences for majors and pre-professional programs. This allows us to assist the student in selecting courses that fit his/her interests and academic capabilities.
Students leave with some explanatory paperwork, and students and parents can always refer to, as I said earlier, our Major Checksheets. We use them, and we encourage our students to do the same.
- How much choice does my son or daughter have in choosing his/her courses?
The level of choice varies depending on the kinds of courses and their importance to an individual student, but freshmen have less choice now than they will in later terms.
- We assign freshmen to their required first semester courses in Freshman Year Seminar/Art of Thinking, and Math--limited choice here;
- Freshman are asked, however, to express preferences for their Seminar topics, and we do our best to consider these requests.
- Students are assured of a spot in any course needed/appropriate for their major/intended major (a Communication Studies major will get CM 101; a Psych major will get PS 110; an Exercise Science major will get BI 111/113);
- For any remaining courses, students may be asked for their Foundational Core preferences and for alternatives BUT THERE IS LITTLE CHOICE OF A SPECIFIC COURSE HERE IN THE FOUNDATIONAL CORE.
- How are students placed in Math and Foreign Language?
MATH: Math Department’s placements are based on a student’s entering academic profile in Math (SATs, Grades, GPA, Rank in Class) along with the analysis of our SHU Math Placement Assessment, which freshmen complete on-line prior to Orientation. In addition, Math placement considers which Math course is appropriate for a particular major/pre-professional program. So a potential Business Major takes a different starting Math course (probably MA 106, 109, or 110) than a Biology major (probably MA 140 or 151). The placement considers capability as well as the student’s area of academic interest.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Freshmen who wish to continue a Foreign Language they have taken in HS must take the Foreign Language Placement Exam on-line prior to Orientation.
- What constitutes the Sacred Heart University Core Curriculum?
The Core Curriculum—known in some institutions as the General Education Requirements—consists of those courses/requirements that every SHU student must fulfill regardless of major/area of interest in order to earn a degree. Usually, students create their schedules each semester to blend courses for the Core Curriculum with courses for their major. Our Major Checksheets (Registrar’s Web Site) demonstrate the Core and its application to each of our majors, but here is a quick explanation of its three components.
A) The Foundational Core consists of TEN courses, THREE OF WHICH are almost always completed by the end of Freshman Year: (30-32 credits)
- FY 125, First Year Seminar (3 credits)
- FLO 125, The Art of Thinking (3 credits)
- MA___, A College-Level Math Course (3 or 4 credits)
In addition, our Foundational Core requires each student to take one course in each of the following seven areas: Many/most of these courses are also done in freshman year.
- Natural/Physical Science
- Theology/Religious Studies
- Social/Behavioral Science
B) Human Journey Seminars: Great Books in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition This consists of two seminar-style courses, usually started in the fall of sophomore year that focus on important works in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. (6 credits).
C) Thematic Liberal Arts: This component, also usually started in sophomore year, asks students to take three courses (one each from Humanities, Social Science, and Natural Science) that explore a specific theme from the perspective of each academic area. Currently our three themes are a) Freedom, Equality, and the Common Good; b) the Search for Beauty; and c) Wellness and Well Being. (9 credits)
- Can freshmen make changes in their fall schedules?
Prior to their initial semester, freshmen cannot make schedule changes on their own. Once schedules are developed, there is only limited opportunity for changing courses, days, and times. Our Registrar takes great pains to devise a schedule that fits each student’s needs, but there are only so many classes offered and a finite number of seats in each room. Of course, we will try to help any freshman with a legitimate need to adjust his/her schedule, but we are limited by course and room capacities. Once the semester begins, there is a brief—one week—period to Add/Drop classes. It’s NOT like high school where a student might change “levels” or teachers deep into the semester.
- Will my son or daughter have an Academic Advisor?
Absolutely, we are proud of our work advising freshmen, and we feel that the Freshman Academic Advisor should play an important and supportive role in each freshman’s first year in college. As he/she begins the first year at Sacred Heart, each freshman will have an academic advisor.
Each freshman will have as his/her freshman advisor a full-time faculty member from the College that houses his/her major area. So students in the College of Arts and Sciences will have a freshman advisor from that College, and the same applies to students in the Welch College of Business and our College of Health Professions.
Freshman Academic Advisors are poised to assist freshmen with the transition to the academic realities of college; to help with decisions about courses, majors, and programs; to monitor and support their academic progress; and to offer a concerned and informed person to contact and consult. It’s important that freshmen meet regularly outside of class with their academic advisor; so much depends on a new student’s willingness to take the initiative to seek out and work with his/her academic advisor. We’re there to help, and we hope that the relationship becomes a profitable one.
- Is there other academic support available?
A great deal of academic support is available for freshmen and for other students as well. The location for most of this support is our Jandrisevets Learning Center, The Center provides—at no charge—tutoring in all academic subjects and a support center for students with physical and/or learning disabilities. The Center also offers academic workshops (Study Skills, Time Management, Essay Writing, and Note-Taking, e.g.) throughout the year. Finally, the JLC, as students call it, also features on-line tutoring services in both English and Math. We strongly encourage our freshmen—and all of our students—to take advantage of this resource.
In addition to the JLC, many freshman courses feature CLAs (Classroom Learning Assistants), selected and trained upper class students, who work with the professor to offer tutoring, help organize study groups, and prepare students for exams and papers. And, of course, students should always feel free to go directly to the source—their professors—with any questions or concerns. And...don’t forget the academic advisor.
- Does Sacred Heart University accept credit for Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate courses, and/or for courses taken at other colleges?
We award Advanced Placement credit if a student has taken an AP Exam and scored a 4 or higher. The SHU faculty determines how that credit is applied to a student’s Sacred Heart record. We accept IB credit with an appropriate score only for IB HL courses. Students and their parents should be sure that the Official AP results—the College Grade Report—and any IB results have been sent to Sacred Heart.
We also award credit for college courses taken at another institution if the student has received a C or higher. Again, Sacred Heart decides how that credit will be applied and how it affects the courses a student must take at Sacred Heart.
In order to record credit, we must receive an Official Transcript from the college that awarded the credit—NOT from the high school. Contact the college Registrar and ask to have an Official Transcript (not a copy) sent to Sacred Heart. I suggest that you address it to our Registrar for crediting.
- Does Sacred Heart University have a general class attendance policy?
Sacred Heart does not have a University-wide attendance policy. Each individual professor, however, does have one (see his/her syllabus). Some are relatively liberal with their policies while others are quite strict, with clearly stated limits on missed classes. Students must be aware of each professor’s policy and of the consequences for violations. Students can fail—and have failed—courses for attendance reasons.
I must emphasize, however, that students should attend all of their classes—not some of them, not most of them, not just the ones they like, not just the easy ones or those that meet at the best times—but all of them. Class attendance is a major predictor of success, and perfect attendance is well within every student’s reach. If a professor allows a number of missed classes, students should use them for legitimate reasons, not to catch a few hours of sleep or to watch a favorite TV show. Too often a student will “use up” his/her permitted absences unwisely and then need to miss due to illness or some other legitimate reason.
While most professors are sensitive to reasonable excuses, there comes a point when a student has just missed too many classes to merit a passing grade. In short, students should do their best to attend all of their classes and avoid falling behind. And missing a class is not a reason/excuse for being unprepared for the next day’s work. It’s college!!!!!
Finally, if a student must miss a series of classes, he/she should contact my office (Assistant Dean, Arts & Sciences), and we’ll inform the professors. The student must, however, check with professors to make up any missed work.
- When do students receive grades?
Only a student’s final grades for each semester appear on his/her transcript. Unlike in high school, there are no quarterly report cards to review, sign, and discuss with your son or daughter; so I encourage parents and children to talk beforehand about when and how you will discuss “how things are going.” Although only the final grades “count,” Sacred Heart does issue Mid-Semester Advisory Grades, which indicate how a student is progressing at this point in the semester. These grades can be viewed on WebAdvisor. Any student who receives one or more mid-term grades below C will receive a Mid Term Warning email, which is also copied to his/her Academic Advisor for follow-up with appropriate support and referrals.
At any point during the semester, students doing poorly may receive an Academic Warning Notice e-mail, alerting them and their Advisors to a potential complication. Parents should be aware that students can access Final Grades, Mid-Semester Grades, Early Warnings, and other important information through our Web Advisor system. Learn about Web Advisor!!
- How do professors arrive at grades?
As with attendance policies, grading policies vary with individual professors. Some offer only two exams per semester while others offer multiple grading opportunities in the form of tests, quizzes, papers, oral presentations, etc. Some professors count things like class participation and attendance while others don’t. Professors detail their grading policies in their course syllabi; it is each student’s obligation (and it makes good sense as well) to know each professor’s policy—wise students keep—and consult--their syllabi!!!
The numerical point value for grades can be found on the Registrar’s website.
- Are there any grading benchmarks to be aware of?
Since the minimum graduating grade is 2.00 (a flat C average) that’s one to keep in mind for the long haul, but only as an absolute minimum. Let’s be positive first; to qualify for our Dean’s List, a student must achieve a 3.60 Grade Point Average or above in a particular semester (see our Catalog for additional requirements). At the other end of the spectrum, a first semester average below 1.80 places a freshman on Academic Probation, while a first semester average below 1.00 (a straight D average) can lead to immediate Dismissal. The standards rise as a student moves beyond his/her first semester, and our Undergraduate Catalog contains these standards and other important information.
- When will freshmen be choosing classes again?
Our semester runs from September to December, and students will be choosing and registering for spring 2018 classes in November 2017. It all moves very quickly.
- When must/should a freshman choose and declare a major?
There is no all-purpose answer to this question, but since it will be an important decision in each student’s academic life, we do ask our freshmen to begin thinking about a major right away. Some freshmen enter Sacred Heart firmly committed to a major; others are interested but uncertain; still others have no idea about a major at all. Each of these positions is valid and appropriate, and we are ready to work with them all. Each College will have a time line and process for students to declare their majors, so I will leave that to the Colleges themselves. Some freshmen declare after first semester; others after freshman year. If I had to offer a point at which a student “really must” have a major, it would be no later than the registration for his/her fourth college semester. At that point, a student is “running out of” Core classes; delaying beyond this point might cost students—and their families—time and money.
Except for during his/her first semester at Sacred Heart, once a student declares a major officially, he/she is assigned a new academic advisor in the chosen discipline. In the meantime, contact persons are available in each Department for freshmen who want to learn more about a major. Students and parents and anyone else can check the requirements for each major—and the suggested course sequences—on the Registrar’s website.
- What’s the biggest change from high school?
While college is intentionally more challenging than high school, the largest change by far is just in the way we do things in college. There is much more freedom—in every sense of the word—and correspondingly far more individual responsibility, academically and personally,-than in high school. Each student now has the primary responsibility for his/her success or lack thereof. I can’t emphasize that enough. While circumstances can certainly play a contributing role, a freshman’s habits, dedication, and attitude are the controlling factors in how well he/she does in college. The student is the key.
A college student must motivate him/herself, use his/her time wisely and productively, and regulate his/her life, for the most part, without the familiar support of family and friends. The need becomes clearest when you consider the amount of time a typical student spends outside of a college classroom—roughly 150 hours out of a 168 hour week. Experts tell us that a college student should be devoting two hours of work outside of class for every hour in class. So a student with 15 hours of in-class time should be spending somewhere near 30 hours outside of class on his/her academic work. Those who quickly establish priorities for those 150 hours and make wise choices invariably succeed; those who squander their time and choose unwisely frequently encounter trouble. There is plenty of work to do, and even the busiest freshman has time!! Unfortunately, freshmen can and do underestimate the amount of time and work needed outside the classroom. Remember; the object is to”get smart not just get by.”
Secondly, college is a performance-based environment where a student must achieve the goals of the courses and measure up to the standards set by the professors for success. It’s not just about putting in the time; it’s about achieving. It’s not just about being in a class; it’s about doing well enough to earn the grades that mark success.
In college, we also expect freshmen to “know stuff” on their own, not secret, hidden rules or policies, but relevant information about classes, exams, dates, requirements, etc. For example, freshmen need to learn quickly about our Web Advisor service, where they can access their schedules, room assignments, transcripts, and even their mid-term and final grades. Students actually register for courses through Web Advisor. Students also need to be alert to announcements and communications through our e-mail system and Blackboard. Each professor’s syllabus details important dates, policies, and assignments within an individual class. Our Student Handbook and our Catalog are both available online as are Checksheets for each major. The wise student, simply put, stays informed!!
We especially want our freshmen to discard the old “high school excuses.” “I didn’t know” or “I forgot” doesn’t work well in college—or in life as those of us who are a little older can testify. In short, this is an adult-oriented environment—not an extension of high school.
Young people away from home or out of their familiar surroundings need to become socially comfortable as well. Residential students are most likely sharing a room for the first time; our commuters, while still occupying familiar sleeping quarters, are, nonetheless, experiencing a large-scale change as well. There are new friends to meet and make, and adjusting to a new environment doesn’t always go smoothly at first. It takes time to “feel at home”—academically and socially. While the double-edged swords of Instant Messaging, Facebook, Twitter , Skype, and Instagram provide comforting and supportive contact with old friends, they can also complicate the process of embracing a new environment by allowing students to linger in a “high school” world that has already changed and, in fact, no longer even exists.
Homesickness, problems with roommates, making new friends (and dealing with old ones), etc. can make the early going difficult for some. The good news is that most survive and thrive. Complications arise when any of this causes new students to neglect assignments, miss classes, or otherwise fall behind. Staying up late talking with new friends can be exhilarating but not if you miss your 8:00 AM Art of Thinking class or neglect to hand in your Seminar essay as a result.
- What are some typical causes of freshman academic problems?
There are five primary causes and probably a thousand smaller ones as well, but the ones I notice most are Missing Classes (usually the early AMs); Using Poor Time Management; Doing Work at the Last Minute; Socializing Too Much; and Falling Back on High School Habits. Add to this the incredible amount of time young people spend at their computers, tablets, and phones, playing games and, especially, texting their friends or trolling through Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. It’s natural that college freshmen at first try the same techniques that got them through high school. Those who worked purposefully, had logical priorities, and budgeted their time well have those solid habits to fall back on. They usually adjust well to the increased academic demand. But others who did their work at the last minute, managed their time ineffectively, often with their social life at the forefront of their priorities, or relied on “HS excuses” will be faced with a more severe and demanding transition.
- This all sounds daunting; is there other support for my son or daughter?
It is a major transition for a college freshman, not just as a student but as an evolving person as well. So there is a great deal of support available to address personal and social issues that can have an impact on a student’s success and enjoyment here at Sacred Heart.
Our Wellness Center (University Counseling Center and Health Services Office) offers medical and personal/emotional support; we have a very active Campus Ministry to enhance a student’s spiritual development, and our Residential Life staff helps students adjust to their new living environment. We have a Career Development Office that students can take advantage of at any time—as early as freshman year. These are just some of the services available, and we urge our students to make use of them. Most importantly, we encourage students not to allow a problem to linger—see someone; start anywhere—we all work very well together, and we can usually find someone who can help.
- What can I do as a parent to ease the transition for my son or daughter?
There is no simple answer, but I’ll try to offer some suggestions. Point number one is to walk the slender tightrope that requires you to be supportive without being intrusive, sympathetic without being enabling. Answer the phone calls, e-mails and text messages; give news from home (details, details); post those Instagram pictures; ask questions without prying too much; and just be mom and dad. Trust yourself to know a crisis from a minor problem—“I have a 105 fever” is different from “My roommate plays the music too loud.”
Point two is to allow your son or daughter some room to grow (there is even a book for parents entitled Letting Go,) and to learn to solve his/her problems. I think you do this by being a good listener, by being appropriately sympathetic, and by trying to turn complaints and dissatisfactions into problem-solving discussions. Help your son or daughter learn to confront an issue or address a problem on his/her own but with your support, advice, and encouragement. Sure, you’re older, wiser, and more experienced, but part of growth is learning to deal with people and circumstances on your own. This year is a major step toward independence and maturity. It’s time!!!!
Encourage your child to focus on his/her studies—that’s why he/she is here, right? A new student should be expected to attend every class and do the required work; that can be the steadying point in his/her life. Even a student who has some initial trouble adjusting can set those two goals as fixed priorities. Once things settle down—and they invariably do—the student is on pace with his/her studies and ready to “enjoy” the exciting and eye-opening world of college. So if the start seems a bit rocky, emphasize your child’s strengths, be understanding, and be reasonable with your suggestions and expectations. Encouraging your son or daughter to go to class, manage time wisely, get enough sleep, eat sensibly, and do some studying during the day makes sense—even to an 18 year old, even from a parent.
Initially, the freshmen—almost to a person—miss home and the people at home very much. They miss the comfort of familiar surroundings, the safety of their routines, and the daily, often unspoken, expressions of support and love from those closest to them. But they invariably reach a degree of satisfaction and comfort in their new environment once they realize that in coming to college, they haven’t lost the essentials of what they have left behind. They just need to settle into an effective routine, and it can be difficult at the start. And if they know—sense, feel—that you love and support them, that’s a major part of the struggle.
For now, you might encourage your son or daughter to start getting ready—at a reasonable pace, for sure—for the fall. If the opportunity arises, see if you can have a conversation about his/her expectations and concerns; it might be a good time to reassure him/her that you’re still “around” for advice and assistance. It may not be possible, but try not to shop in one hectic spree at the end of August; doing things gradually lowers the tension level and shows by example how to handle multiple tasks in a calm and organized way (that presumes that you will be “calm and organized,” or at least can pretend to be). Encourage them to do the Summer Reading and to think about how the book might inform their lives. Finally, just be patient, understanding, and supportive. Yes, it’s a summer of transition, but generations of college freshmen—and their parents—have survived before you, so be positive and take heart. My best to all the parents—I know it’s a transition for you too. If you need me, I’m at email@example.com or at 203-365-7648. Thanks and enjoy your summer.