First Year Advising Q & A

What is a first-year advising class?
A first-year advising class is a regular course or associated lab, the instructor of which serves as academic advisor to enrolled first-year students. The instructor will teach economics or biology, for example, and also helps his students plan academic majors, develop class schedules, make the adjustment to college, and learn about academic support services on campus.

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How does a first-year advising class relate to an entering student’s prospective major and/or to the university core?
As the university Bulletin explains, a Puget Sound course of study is divided into three parts: the university core, the academic major, and elective classes.

The core lies at the heart of the liberal arts curriculum, introducing students to a wide range of disciplines and giving them the intellectual breadth they will need for whatever life goals they ultimately choose.

The academic major gives students 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 students the flexibility to choose, or elect, additional classes of interest. 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. Puget Sound assumes that all entering first-year students begin their careers as "open" majors and that they will make a major choice sometime in the first two years of study, after they have explored their options. A first-year advising class gives students the opportunity either to meet a core requirement or to explore an academic discipline of interest, or (quite often) both.

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How do the first-year seminars in Scholarly and Creative Inquiry (SI) and Writing and Rhetoric (WR) fit into entering first-year students’ academic programs?
The university’s core curriculum requires two first-year seminars, five courses designed as “approaches” to broad disciplinary areas (the social sciences, the natural sciences, mathematics, the fine arts, and the 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. Each entering student is expected to complete both their SI and WR seminars in the first year, one in the fall and one in the spring. Students may complete the seminars in either order.

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How do the first-year advising class and first-year seminar fit together in an entering student’s fall schedule of classes?
By the time they arrive on campus in August, entering students are registered for a first-year advising class and a first-year seminar. In some cases, the first-year seminar may also be a first-year advising class. So, some entering students will arrive on campus enrolled for two classes (advising class and seminar), while others arrive enrolled for one (advising seminar). Once here, entering students will meet with their advisors to select the remaining classes for their schedules, registering for a total of three or four classes by the time classes begin.

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How long is a student enrolled in a first-year advising class?
Only for the fall term. However, the faculty member who teaches the class serves the student’s academic advisor until the spring of the sophomore year, unless the student chooses to change advisors or declare a major before that time.

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When do entering students select their other classes for the fall term?
The university’s course offerings appear on every student’s Cascade account. Up-to-date information on course offerings and enrollments is posted there. Students make their selections during orientation, with the help of their academic advisors.

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Should an entering student enroll in a first-year advising class in his or her intended major?
In most cases, there is no hurry to begin a major, and the entire first year can be used for academic exploration. Certain majors must be begun early, however, especially including pre-medicine, pre-engineering, or music. Students who are strongly inclined to begin work on a major in their first year should be sure to review major requirements and discuss them with their academic advisors right away. Curriculum Guides for all majors are also posted online and linked to departmental listings. Entering students should not be concerned if their first-year advising class is not offered in the department of their intended major because they will have the opportunity to make one or more of their other choices from that department.

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If students have taken Advanced Placement (AP) Exams, CLEP tests, International Baccalaureate (IB) coursework, or college-level coursework before they come to Puget Sound, will this affect their selection of classes during their first term?
Since 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 their choice of seminars. But in some cases advanced standing credit will affect the choice of first-year advising classes or other classes. This credit may be awarded for IB or AP exams (Puget Sound does not award credit for CLEP tests), 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. Credit award information is available online for Advanced Placement and for International Baccalaureate exams. Entering students should be sure to ask their academic advisors to clarify policies on these awards before completing their registration.

Students who have taken college-level coursework at other institutions should be sure to have their transcripts sent to the university at their earliest opportunity. When they arrive on campus, they should direct their questions about their transfer credit to the university evaluators (253.879.3219). Students’ academic advisors will help them to determine how credit accepted in transfer will affect their schedule selection.

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How do entering students select their first-year advising class and first-year seminar?
After admission and payment of a tuition deposit, students are sent the First Year Advising & Seminar Bulletin. Complete instructions are included in that publication. Once they have carefully reviewed their options in the bulletin, students will enter their preferred selections on their Cascade accounts under Advising and Seminar Selection.

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When do students learn of their advising class and seminar assignments?
Advising class assignments are made no more than three weeks after receipt of preferred selections. Seminar assignments are made by early July. Assignments are posted on Cascade accounts when they are made.

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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.

Our placement test (found seasonally on the Cascade account for incoming students) is intended to gauge a student’s background in relation to our own curricular offerings. The results are not included in the student’s academic record—the test is diagnostic only. Students should not be concerned about the results except as they accurately communicate the mathematics background they have “at their fingertips” as they enter college. It is best not to study for the test, not to use aids while taking it (including a calculator), and not to seek assistance in completing it—in order for it to be useful as a diagnostic tool, it must accurately reflect the mathematics students actually know.

When students arrive on campus, their academic advisors will use their mathematics placement test results together with other background information to assist them in selecting an appropriate first course from our offerings. No permanent record of placement test results will be kept in students’ official academic records.

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What is Puget Sound’s Foreign Language Graduation 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 approved foreign language proficiency exam at the third-year high school or first-year college level;
  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 are administered during orientation week and throughout the academic year. Questions about the requirement and the various options for meeting it should be directed to the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching.

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What is the Peer Advising Program and how does it fit into the First-year Advising Program?
The Peer Advising Program addresses the unique needs of first-year students through the assistance of peer (student) advisors (PAs). The PAs’ mission is to promote academic success by putting university resources at the first-year student's disposal and by teaching time management skills, study skills, and academic planning. The following university services are available to aid students in their transition to college life:

Peer advisors are trained in determining which of these resources is appropriate for given first-year students and how to access them. They are also trained in academic planning skills and can help in putting together academic programs.

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