FAQ on Classes and Curricula


NGSS Update: There will be course numbering updates throughout the Undergraduate Student Handbook as needed to transition from 3-digit to 4-digit.  We ask for your patience as our sites are updated to reflect changes in the new systems.

How many credits do I need to take each semester?

In order to make satisfactory progress towards your degree, you should take at least four credits each semester. Engineering students typically take between 5 CU’s and 6 CU’s per semester. Graduation in four years requires an average load of 5 CU per semester.

Can I take the Writing Requirement as Pass/Fail?

The Writing Requirement may be taken pass/ fail. You may refer to additional information regarding the writing requirement here and taking courses pass/fail here.

What courses can I take to fulfill the Writing Requirement?

Engineering students may fulfill the requirement by taking one Writing Seminar, or participating in a year-long Mellon writing group. The writing requirement should be completed by the end of freshman year (and no later than second semester sophomore year). Additional information on the writing requirement can be found here.

Do I have to take the Chemistry section for engineering students?

The engineering Chemistry sections were designed specifically for engineering students. Only students with a time conflict should take the non-engineering sections.

Do engineering students have a language requirement?

No. (NOTE: Students in the Computer and Information Science department who entered prior to Fall 2004 have a language requirement. These majors include CSE, ASCS, ASCB and ASCC. DMD students who entered prior to Spring 2003 also have a language requirement.)

How do I know I'm taking the right courses for my major?

There are several resources you may use to find out which courses you need for your major. The online worksheet in Penn InTouch gives you a list of the required courses. For specific questions regarding these courses, you may contact your faculty advisor, the undergraduate chair, or the undergraduate coordinator in your department.

What's the difference between dropping a course and withdrawing?

When you drop a course it is removed from your transcript. No permission is needed from an instructor, and it can be done through Penn InTouch. Withdrawing takes place after the drop period and requires the instructor’s permission, and a form must be filled out and submitted to the Research and Academic Services Office. A “W” will be placed on the transcript next to the course. The Drop deadline is at the end of the fifth week, and the deadline to withdraw from a course is at the end of the tenth week.

How do I know which courses count as a math course? Or a natural science course?

To find out which courses you may use to satisfy your requirements, refer to the online course category lists in this handbook.

How-to’s and What To Do’s

How do I get AP or IB credits transferred after freshman year?

Students should have any advance placement (AP) credits transferred by the end of the freshman year. There is no guarantee that the credit will be transferred after freshman year. For information on transferring your credit during freshman year, contact the Office of Transfer Credit and Advanced Standing at 1 College Hall, 215-898-6080. After freshman year, contact the Research and Academic Services Office in 109 Towne, 215-898-7246.

How do I register for classes?

Registration takes place twice per year: in November for the following Spring semester, and in March for the following Fall. Failure to pre-register means that you may be closed out of a course or a section. No Penn Engineering student will be closed out of a course required for their curriculum. Students experiencing trouble registering for a class should come to Room 109 Towne for assistance.

Detailed instructions for advance registration are available here. In brief, all students must meet with their faculty advisor before registering for courses. In order to have a productive session with your advisor, bring a completed and current copy of your Course Planning Guide, a list of questions, an Advisor Sign-off form, etc. After discussing your program with you, your advisor will sign the Course Planning Guide and the Advisor Sign-off form. Take these to your advisor’s home department and the advisor sign-off will be entered into the computer; you will then be able to use Penn-In-Touch to register.

What do I do if I get shut out of a course but I really want to take it?

You may ask the instructor’s permission to receive a permit to register for the class. Once the permit is given, you may register for the course through Penn InTouch.

What if I take a course at another University over the summer?

Penn Engineering students may take up to 5 courses for credit at other institutions provided prior approval (signature) is obtained from the relevant departments of the University, from the academic advisor, and from the Associate Dean. Any course taken for transfer credit by Penn Engineering students at another institution must be an approved course for majors in a baccalaureate program at that institution. Exceptions to this rule must be approved by the Academic Performance Committee.

Transfer students in Penn Engineering may not take any additional courses for credit at other institutions. Failed courses may not be cleared by taking a course at another institution. The form needed for transferring course credit from another institution is available for here or in 109 Towne Building. The student must take the form and a course catalog description to the appropriate University of Pennsylvania department representative, who must attest that the course is “comparable in quantity and quality” to one offered by their own department. The student must then obtain their advisor’s approval and submit the form to the Research and Academic Services Office for action. After completion of the course, an official transcript must be forwarded to the Research and Academic Services Office; no course with a grade below C will be accepted for credit towards Penn Engineering degrees.

Can I…?

Can I take graduate courses before I get my degree?

Undergraduate students may begin an engineering graduate program while still completing their undergraduate program. Application is normally made before the end of the student’s junior year. The submatriculant may take up to three graduate courses to fulfill both undergraduate and graduate degree requirements while registered as an undergraduate student. Candidates for the BSE and BAS degree may apply for submatriculation into Penn Engineering Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) programs. Penn Engineering students are not allowed to submatriculate into the MCIT program. To apply for submatriculation, review the requirements described in the handbook and fill out the application form. Please note the various application deadlines that are associated with each graduate program. The GRE is not required for those applying to submatriculate. However, students are strongly encouraged to take the GRE, especially those who have interests in continuing for the Ph.D. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required in order to apply for submatriculation.

Can I take a course if there is a time conflict with another course I'm already taking?

Yes, but only with the permission of both instructors.

Can I take courses Pass/Fail? Which ones?

Engineering students may only take four courses pass/fail during their academic career. Only one course per semester may be taken P/F. The only courses which may be taken P/F are SS/H and Free Electives.

Can I change the grading status on a course - from normal to pass/fail or vice versa?

The grading status of a course may be changed only during the first five weeks of the semester by using Penn InTouch. This applies to courses taken for a grade or Pass/Fail.

May I audit a class?

Auditing of classes is not allowed.

Can I take Management 100?

Only M&T students and students with a dual degree with Wharton may take MGMT 100.

Can I take classes part-time?

Penn Engineering Undergraduate offers only a full-time program of study, for which the normal minimum course load is 4 CU per term. On rare occasions, students are allowed to carry 2.5 or fewer CU in a given term. In order to be granted part-time status, a student must petition the Research and Academic Services (RAS) office for approval. Graduating seniors in their final semester may achieve part-time status by carrying 2.5 or fewer CU, if at that time they need only 2.5 or fewer CU to graduate. However, they too must seek permission (in writing) from RAS. Without this permission, they will be billed at the full-time rate. For more information, click here.

Am I allowed to take classes from the College of General Studies?

SEAS undergraduate students are permitted to take courses in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS). SEAS students are advised to discuss their course registration options with their advisor prior to registering. Note that some spaces may be reserved for LPS students until the first week of classes, and some classes have restricted enrollment for LPS students only. Permits to register, if required, are usually available through LPS rather than the academic department offering the course. SEAS students may direct questions about LPS enrollment policies for specific courses to the LPS office. For more information on LPS courses, click here.

Majors and Programs of Study

Which worksheet should I use?

The Course Planning Guide (CPG) is an electronic worksheet and planning document available through Penn InTouch.   It is a worksheet for keeping track of courses and requirements, and provides a convenient way to plan your academic program. 

The entering year determines the specific requirements to statisfy the BAS or BSE degree.  The entering year is determined from the catalog year that you entered Penn.  Students who entered Penn prior to Fall 2020 will not be allowed to switch into the “Entered Fall 2020 or later” CPG.

When do I have to declare a major?

Students must declare their engineering major no later than May 15th of their freshman year.

How do I apply for the Management & Technology Program?

Students wishing to apply to the M&T program must wait until second semester of their freshman year. Contact Ellen Eckert in the Research and Academic Services Office for more information and go to: http://www.upenn.edu/fisher/apply/transfer-admissions

How do I apply for the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER)?

Students wishing to apply to the VIPER program should submit an application at the end of the fall semester of their first year in order to enroll in the VIPR-120 Spring course. Find more information at:   https://www.viper.upenn.edu/admissions/transfer-policies and contact the program at (contact-viper@sas.upenn.edu) with any questions.

How do I apply for a dual degree?

Students wishing to apply for a dual degree with another School must wait until second semester of their freshman year. Contact the Research and Academic Services Office for more information.

How do I apply for a minor?

A student who wishes to minor in a special subject area should complete an “Application for a Minor” form (available online or in 109 Towne Building) and have the selection of courses approved by the undergraduate chairperson of the minoring department. The completed form should be returned to 109 Towne. Once the courses have been taken, the Office of Research and Academic Services should be notified in order to have the minor notation added to the student’s transcript. Should the selection of courses change, an approved, updated form must be submitted so the transcript reflects the approved selection of courses for the minor area.

What's the difference between a BAS and BSE degree?

A BSE degree is the degree for a student who wishes to practice engineering after graduation or who is interested in more technical coursework relating to the engineering field. The BAS program is designed for the student who does not plan to work as a professional engineer, but rather wants a customized education that combines other interests and technology in a manner unique to his/her career goals.

Where can I find out about studying abroad?

Please visit the Study Abroad website or contact the RAS office by email at ras@seas.upenn.edu or by phone at 215-898-7246.

How do I change my major in SEAS?

To change your major, fill out a Petition for Action form and submit to the Research and Academic Services Office.

Additional Help

Where do I go for Academic Advising?

The various academic advising resources in Penn Engineering include professional advisors, faculty advisors, undergraduate chairs, and undergraduate coordinators. Your questions determine who you need to speak with. If your question relates to the requirements for your major, you should speak with someone in your department. If you need information related to School policy then you may speak with an advisor in the Research and Academic Services Office. You can learn more about Advising by clicking here.

Where can I get a tutor?

There are a variety of tutoring resources available to engineering students. Group sessions are offered in the Tutoring Center, which is located in Harnwell House and in the SEAS Library. If an individual tutor is required, please contact Dr. Sonya Gwak, sgwak@seas.upenn.edu, for a referral. For more information on the University’s tutoring services, please go to: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/tutoring/

How do I petition for something?

Deviations from Penn Engineering course requirements and special requests require the submission of a “Petition for Action” to Room 109. All actions require the approvals noted on the form. Final submission is to the Research and Academic Services Office for approval of request. A blank Petition for Action form is available for download in PDF format.

NOTE: Students in single degree programs should address their petitions to their schools. Dual- and joint-degree students should address their petitions for degree requirement exceptions to the school(s) whose degree requirements are affected; in some cases, a petition to both schools will be required. All other petitions for exceptions (e.g. late drop, late add, late withdrawal, late change of grade type) should be submitted to the home school.

How do I calculate my major GPA?

For each course, multiply the number of course units times the numeric equivalent of the grade. Divide this number by the total number of course units. The numeric equivalents: A=4.0, B=3.0, C=2.0, D=1.0, F=0.0. For “+” or “-“, add or subtract 0.3, except for an A+, which equals 4.0. The on-line worksheet at Penn InTouch also has a GPA calculator

What's the difference between my major GPA and cumulative GPA?

Your major GPA is the average of all your math, natural science, and engineering courses, regardless of the where you count them on your worksheet (CPG). The cumulative GPA is an average of all of your courses.

How do I take a Leave of Absence?

If a student is sick for an extended period of time, has severe personal problems, or cannot proceed with their studies at a reasonable rate, they may obtain a leave of absence by requesting it from the Associate Dean. The student’s return from a leave is automatic upon written notification by the student to the Associate Dean. Permission to return is not needed unless a special condition (e.g., physician approval) was attached to the leave. Students receiving financial aid should determine the financial aid impacts of a leave of absence by looking at the Student Financial Services website. Additional information can be found here.