May 22, 2024  
2024-2025 Academic Catalog 
2024-2025 Academic Catalog

Academic Definitions

Credit Hour Definition

Undergraduate programs follow a semester calendar with two long terms (Fall and Spring) consisting of 15-weeks of instruction including final exams, a January Term intersession, and multiple Summer Term sessions. Graduate and professional programs may use the semester calendar or may use a quarter calender with four 10-week terms. The following credit hour definition applies equally to all courses of varying credit, duration, and modes of instruction.

In semester-calendar seminar and lecture courses, students are expected to engage in three hours of work per week to receive one Carnegie unit of credit (1 academic hour = 50 clock minutes). Approximately one-third of student time should be in the form of direct faculty instruction. In a quarter term, one unit is defined as 30 academic hours of student work per term with approximately one-third in the form of direct faculty instruction.

In some cases, the ratio of contact to non-contact activity may be adjusted in order to achieve learning outcomes according to pedagogical standards in a particular area of study. Courses requiring more than the amount of contact time described in the standard policy (such as laboratory courses, language courses, studio courses and practica) may require commensurately less non-contact time than others. Courses requiring less than the standard amount of contact time (such as independent studies, internships, service-learning courses and courses utilizing online or hybrid instruction) may require commensurately more non-contact time. In all cases, students should expect to complete the total amount of work regardless of the ratio of contact to non-contact time.

Course Numbers

First-year undergraduate students are expected to concentrate on introductory-level courses but may sometimes be admitted to more advanced courses if they have the appropriate preparation. Sophomores normally begin to take more advanced courses in their major field, especially in the second semester of their sophomore year. Juniors and seniors normally concentrate on courses in their major field, and frequently include electives in their program of study.

0-99: Pre-College level coursework taken for preparation or as a prerequisite. SMC does not currently offer 0-99 courses.

100-199: Engagement with disciplinary knowledge and skills at a foundational level. These courses contain academic content that is normally studied in the first year of full-time study. These courses may be satisfied through AP, IB, or community college transfer credit.

200-299: Expanding on introductory knowledge and skills. These may require prerequisite coursework, build upon the foundations laid by the Core Curriculum, or represent breadth and depth in lower-division transfer credit. These courses contain academic content that is normally studied in the second year of full-time study, and may function as a gateway into a major or minor program.

300-399: Demonstration of coherence and breadth or depth of knowledge and skills. These courses may require prerequisite coursework, solid foundations laid by the Core Curriculum, or a maturity of perspective and capacity for more significant rigor and workload. These courses contain academic content that is normally studied in the third or fourth year of full-time study.

400-499: Typically reserved for capstone or other experiences that involve synthesis of complex material, higher level evaluation and/or student research.

500-599: Graduate and professional courses. Open to undergraduate students with approval. Used for graduate courses that may be double-numbered (convened jointly) with undergrad and graduate courses.

Graduate and professional courses. Not open to undergraduate students.

780-799: Master’s thesis

800-899: Graduate courses open to both master’s and doctoral students.

900-979: Graduate courses limited to doctoral students.

980-999: Doctoral dissertations

Student Classification

For Saint Mary’s College, full-time undergraduate enrollment requires at least 12 units in the Fall and Spring Terms. Some students (international students, athletes, military and veteran students) may be required to meet alternative minimum course loads to reach full-time enrollment, and should verify their status with advisors and the Office of Financial Aid.

Matriculated undergraduate students are those who meet all entrance requirements, declare their intention of working for a degree, and follow the prescribed curriculum. Generally, full-time and part-time students are classified as matriculated students.

Non-matriculated students are normally part-time students enrolled in regular coursework without the intention of pursuing a Saint Mary’s degree. Such students are not required to meet the normal admissions requirements.

Class Designations

It is generally expected that undergraduate students can complete their degree requirements in four years. This timing is impacted by the amount of credit brought into the college (either as Advanced Placement or Transfer credit), and the individual student’s progress. The designation for these years is the traditional First-Year, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior. These designations impact registration time and dorm room selection, but are otherwise for convenience only.

First-years = fewer than 30 units completed
Sophomores = at least 30 but fewer than 60 units completed
Juniors = at least 60 but fewer than 90 units completed
Seniors = 90 or more units completed


Midterm Grades

All undergraduate students are assigned midterm grades for each class. These grades are advisory only, and are not part of a student’s permanent record. The assignment of midterm grades is mandatory for all faculty. The only grades used at midterm are S (satisfactory progress), D and F (deficiency grades), where appropriate. The grades of Z (audit) and W (withdrawn from course) also appear as midterm grades. Midterm grades are available online for students.

Course Grades and Grade Changes

Faculty report final grades to the Registrar’s Office. Course grades are available online for students. Grades are released directly only to the students themselves.

Saint Mary’s College employs the following course grades: A, excellent; B, very good; C, satisfactory; D, barely passing; and F, failing. All final grades affect grade point average computation (on an A = 4 points scale), and P (passed), Z (audit), I (incomplete), and W (withdrew) do not affect grade point average computation. Plus/minus grading is permitted. A plus or minus changes the point value of a grade by 0.3 grade point upward or downward respectively (e.g., B+ carries 3.3 points; B-, 2.7); there is no A+.

Final grades are considered permanent and not to be changed except in case of an error in computing, recording, and evaluating a student’s work, subject to the approval of the Registrar. When necessary, faculty may secure grade change petitions from the Registrar’s Office. Students wishing to appeal a specific grade assigned by an instructor may do so under the Academic Appeals Process. Information on this process may be obtained from the Vice Provost for Academic Success. Grade changes for prior terms may not occur more than one year from the initial posting of the grades.

Pass / Fail Grading

Pass/Fail (P/F) grading is offered as an option to undergraduate students in good academic standing. Courses taken to satisfy the requirements of the Core Curriculum may not be taken on a P/F basis. Courses required for a student’s major or minor may not be taken on P/F grading, unless the course is offered solely on a P/F basis. In courses where a student elects P/F grading, the pass grade (the equivalent of C- or higher on the regular grading scale) will not affect the student’s grade point average. A grade of F will count as 0 toward a student’s GPA. Petitions for P/F grading, which require the instructor’s permission, are available from the Registrar’s Office and must be filed by the Withdrawal Deadline. 

Undergraduate students are limited to 12 units of elected P/F coursework while enrolled at SMC. Courses offered on a P/F basis do not count toward this limit.

Incomplete Grade

In cases of unanticipated or unavoidable circumstances, a student may request an I (incomplete) grade, which provides additional time to complete coursework. Requests must be approved by the course instructor prior to the deadline for the submission of term grades, who must verify that the student had reasonable attendance through the official withdrawal date for that term and was passing the course when the circumstances prompting the petition arose. The student must satisfactorily complete the coursework, and the instructor’s change of grade must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office within the deadline (37 days past the end of the Fall term, 30 days past the end of the January and Spring term), otherwise the I (incomplete) grade will expire and be changed by the Registrar to an F (failure) grade. In exceptional circumstances, a student may request a one-time extension of the due date, at the instructor and Registrar’s discretion. Students may not re-enroll in a course in which they have an uncleared I (incomplete) grade.


Repeating a Course

A course may be repeated at this College or at another college. Unless indicated otherwise in the course description, only the most recently earned grade will be used in computing the grade point average, and only the most recent units earned will count toward graduation. A student must pay tuition for repeating a course.