FAQs

Reading through these common questions will help you complete the Advising and Seminar Selection Questionnaire, available on your Cascade Web account, to indicate your advising class and first-year seminar preferences. View and compare course descriptions using the links below.

View advising class descriptions

View first-year seminar descriptions

  1. What is a first-year advising class?
  2. How does my first-year advising class relate to my prospective major and/or to the university core?
  3. How do the first-year seminars into my academic program?
  4. How do my first-year advising class and first-year seminar fit together in my fall schedule of classes?
  5. How long will I be enrolled in my first-year advising class?
  6. When will I select my other classes for this fall?
  7. Should I enroll in a first-year advising class in my intended major?
  8. Am I assured a place in one of the four first-year advising classes and first-year seminars I select?
  9. If I have taken Advanced Placement (AP) Tests, CLEP Tests, International Baccalaureate (IB) coursework, or college-level coursework before I come to Puget Sound, will this affect my selection of a first-year advising class or first-year seminar?
  10. How do I select my first-year advising class and first-year seminar?
  11. When will I hear of my advising class and seminar assignments?
  12. What is the Puget Sound Mathematics Placement Test, and how is it used?
  13. What is Puget Sound's Foreign Language Requirement, and how may it be met?
  14. How will my academic advisor help me?
  15. What is the peer advising program?

1. What is a first-year advising class?

A first-year advising class is one of your regular courses or labs, the instructor of which is also your academic advisor. Your instructor will teach you chemistry or philosophy, for example, and will also help you think about academic majors, schedule planning, and adjustment to college, as well as let you know about academic support services on campus.

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2. How does my first-year advising class relate to my prospective major and/or to the university core?

Your Puget Sound course of study will be divided into three parts: the university core, the academic major, and elective classes. The university core lies at the heart of the liberal arts curriculum, introducing you to a wide range of disciplines and giving you the intellectual breadth you will need for whatever life goals you may ultimately choose. The academic major gives you the opportunity to study a single discipline in depth, developing proficiency and sophistication in that area of study. The number of classes required in the core and major are kept within strict limits by the faculty to allow you the flexibility to choose, or elect, additional classes that interest you. These classes are called electives, and some students use them to develop minors, others to develop proficiency in a language or mathematics or a science, and others simply to carry on the academic exploration they began as they met core requirements.

First-year advising classes are chosen from a group of offerings that either meet core requirements or serve as useful introductions to a major area of study. All entering first-year students begin their careers as undeclared majors, with selection of majors occurring in the second to fourth semesters of study, after exploring options in and out of the classroom. Your first-year advising class will give you the opportunity either to meet a core requirement or to explore an academic discipline of interest to you, or quite often both.

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3. How do the first-year seminars fit into my academic program?

The university’s core curriculum requires two first-year seminars, five courses designed as “approaches” to broad disciplinary areas (the social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, fine arts, and humanities), and a “capstone” interdisciplinary studies course. In total, then, the core consists of eight courses. In each core area, a number of course options are offered, giving students considerable choice. As you will see, there is great variety in first-year seminar offerings. Each first-year student will be expected to successfully complete their SSI-1 and SSI-2 seminars in 2014–2015, SSI-1 in the fall and SSI-2 in the spring. These seminars guide students through an in-depth exploration of a focused area of interest and sharpen students’ skills in constructing persuasive arguments in an academic setting.

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4. How do my first-year advising class and first-year seminar fit together in my fall schedule of classes?

By the time you come to campus in August, you will be registered for a first-year advising class and a first-year seminar—both of these assignments will arise out of your choices on the advising questionnaire. For some students, the first-year advising class and first-year seminar will be the same class. So, while some entering students will arrive on campus enrolled for two classes (a non-seminar advising class and a first-year seminar), others will arrive enrolled for only one (an advising seminar). Once here, you will meet with your advisor to select the remaining classes for your schedule, registering for a total of three or four classes.

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5. How long will I be enrolled in my first-year advising class?

You will be enrolled in your first-year advising class for the fall term. The faculty member who teaches this class, however, will serve as your academic advisor until you declare a major, usually by the spring of your sophomore year.

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6. When will I select my other classes for this fall?

We will register you for your advising class and first-year seminar during the summer, based upon your selections in the Advising and Seminar Selection Questionnaire. You will register for your other courses during Orientation in August, after meeting with your advisor to discuss appropriate courses based upon your interests and preparation. As you prepare for this conversation, you can search fall courses in our new student information system through Cascade. After logging in to Cascade, please select “Student Center,” which will open a new browser. Use your same username and password to log in to the PeopleSoft system. The more conversant and honest you are about your interests, the better your advising experience will be.

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7. Should I enroll in a first-year advising class in my intended major?

In most cases, there is no hurry to begin a major, and the entire first year can be used for academic exploration. If you are strongly inclined to begin work on a major in your first year, you should be sure to read descriptions in the Bulletin and discuss requirements with your advisor right away. There will be an academic fair on your first Saturday on campus where you can discuss majors, minors, and emphasis areas with faculty members. Curriculum guides for all majors are also posted online and linked to departmental listings at www.pugetsound.edu/academics/departments-and-programs. Don’t be concerned if your first-year advising class is not offered in the department of your intended major; you will have the opportunity to make one or more of your other choices from that department and there is ample space to explore several possibilities. Even with all of that being said, certain majors and interest areas must be begun early. If you plan to pursue pre-medicine, pre-engineering, or music, we suggest the following courses:

  • Pre-Medicine, Pre-Dentistry, or Pre-Veterinary
    Biology 111
    Chemistry 110 or 115
    Mathematics 180 or 181 (based upon placement test results and prior experience)
    You may want only two of these three challenging classes, with Chemistry 110 the key choice.
  • Dual Degree Engineering 
    Chemistry 110 or 115
    Computer Science 161
    Mathematics 180 or 181 (based upon placement test results and prior experience)
    Physics 121
    You may want only two or three of these challenging classes, with math and physics the key choices.
  • Music
    Music 101/103 (both for 0.5 unit and taken concurrently for 1 unit total)
    Ensemble course
    Music Lesson

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8. Am I assured a place in one of the first-year advising classes and first-year seminars I select?

No, not necessarily. Classes are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, so the sooner you complete the questionnaire, the better your chance of being assigned to one of your selections in each category. If we are unable to place you in one of your selections, we will assign you to another class that appears appropriate to your interests. If you have questions about your assignment, please call 253.879.3336 or send an email message to AcademicAdvising@pugetsound.edu.

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9. If I have taken Advanced Placement (AP) Tests, CLEP Tests, International Baccalaureate (IB) coursework, or college-level coursework before I come to Puget Sound, will this affect my selection of a first-year advising class or first-year seminar?

Because all first-year students must complete both first-year seminars, regardless of any academic credit they may bring with them, none of these forms of advanced standing credit will affect your choice of seminars. However, in some cases, advanced standing credit will affect the choice of first-year advising classes. This credit may be awarded for IB or AP exams, or for college work completed before enrollment at Puget Sound. Some AP and IB work duplicates coursework taken in the first year, and although no core credit can be given for AP or IB work, some class placements may be affected by it. Online credit award information is available for AP tests and for IB tests. Even if you choose to research credit information on your own, be sure to ask your academic advisor to clarify policies on these awards before you register for your remaining classes in August.

If you have taken college-level coursework at another institution, be sure to have your transcripts sent to the university at your earliest opportunity. Then, when you arrive on campus, direct your questions about your transfer credit to the university evaluators at 253.879.3219. Your academic advisor will help you to determine how credit accepted in transfer will affect your schedule selection.

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10. How do I select my first-year advising class and first-year seminar?

Review the descriptions of first-year advising classes and first-year seminars included here. Choose four advising classes and eight seminars that appeal to you and list them, in preferred order, in the spaces provided on the Advising and Seminar Selection Questionnaire. All classes chosen should be acceptable to you in both cases.

So, how do you narrow (or expand) your preferences in each category? Try to select from a variety of academic disciplines. For example, in selecting your advising class you might choose a laboratory science, a social science or a humanities course, and a mathematics course, while in selecting your first-year seminars you might select courses from several departments that interest you.

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11. When will I hear of my advising class and seminar assignments?

We place students in advising classes, based on many factors, primary of which are your choices submitted on the Advising and Seminar Selection Questionnaire and on a first-come, first-served basis. We also factor in high school coursework, to include AP and IB work, academic interests, and post-baccalaureate plans. Due to these pieces, and depending on the date your Advising and Seminar Selection Questionnaire is received, we will notify you in mid- to late summer of your advising placement. After you’ve received your assignments, you may want to send an email message to your advisor and seminar instructor to learn specifics of your advising and seminar courses. Please note, however, that many faculty members use the summer for travel and research, so they may not be able to answer your email message immediately.

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12. What is the Puget Sound Mathematics Placement Test, and how is it used?

Puget Sound requires all students to complete a Mathematical Approaches core requirement. There are many appropriate routes to doing so for different academic goals. In mathematics, computer science, the physical sciences, and certain social science tracks, a sequence of courses leading through calculus is required. In other social science disciplines, including business, a foundation in statistics is of primary importance. In the arts and humanities, students may choose to complete their requirement with a single introductory mathematics course in statistics or contemporary mathematics. Some students may meet the requirement with a course in computer science or logic.

Our placement test is intended to gauge a student’s background in relation to our own curricular offerings. It is best that you do not study for the test (how often do you hear that?!), that you use no aids while taking it (including a calculator), and that you do not seek assistance in completing it. It is a diagnostic tool, only; the results are NOT included in your academic record. So you should not be concerned about the results except as they accurately communicate the mathematics background you have as you enter college. When you come to campus, your advisor will use your mathematics placement results together with other background information to assist you in selecting an appropriate first course from our offerings.

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13. What is Puget Sound's Foreign Language Requirement, and how may it be met?

All Puget Sound graduates must demonstrate foreign language proficiency (except in rare cases when they qualify for a substitution), but this requirement may be met in a number of ways. Some students may, in fact, have met the requirement upon entry. 

In brief, students may meet the requirement by 1) successfully completing two semesters of foreign language at the 101/102 college level, or one semester of a foreign language at the 200 level or above; 2) passing a Puget Sound foreign language proficiency exam; 3) receiving a score of 4 or 5 on an Advanced Placement foreign language exam or 5, 6, or 7 on an International Baccalaureate Higher Level foreign language exam; or 4) qualifying for an alternative means of fulfilling the requirement on the grounds of a documented learning disability that affects the ability to process language. Proficiency examinations will be administered during Orientation Week and at certain times during the academic year. Questions about the requirement and the various options for meeting it should be directed to the learning support services coordinator in the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching at 253.879.3790 or learningsupport@pugetsound.edu.

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14. How will my academic advisor help me?

Puget Sound’s advising philosophy holds that advisors offer counsel, not consent, in helping students formulate their academic programs. Students are ultimately responsible for their own academic decisions, though these decisions are better informed when developed with the insight of advisors. In that light, an academic advisor’s role is to:

  • get to know you and to stay up-to-date with your academic progress while at Puget Sound;
  • help you to understand the purposes of a liberal education and to find accurate, up-to-date information about the university's academic offerings and requirements;
  • assist you in developing a course of study, including core and major requirements as well as electives, which fits your academic background and educational and career goals;
  • provide you with information on campus support agencies and offer appropriate referrals to them; and
  • offer you advising assistance should academic difficulties arise.

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15. What is the peer advising program?

The Peer Advising Program offers first-year students the paraprofessional support of fellow students, juniors or seniors, serving as peer advisors (PAs). The PA program mission is to promote academic success by putting university resources at first-year students’ disposal and by teaching time management skills, study skills, and academic planning.

University services available to aid in the transition to college life include the Office of Academic Advising; the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching; Counseling, Health, and Wellness Services; and the Division of Student Affairs. Peer Advisors are trained in determining which of these resources is appropriate for given first-year students. They are also trained in academic planning skills and can help in putting together academic programs. PAs are assigned to work with faculty advisors in helping first-year students and will assist them in the delivery of advising services.

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