FAQ on Classes and Curricula


NGSS Update: There will be updates throughout the Undergraduate Student Handbook as needed to reflect transition to the new system inclusive of course numbering, edits to processes, and links to resources. We ask for your patience as our sites are updated to reflect these changes.

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 4.5 CU’s and 5.5 CU’s per semester. Graduation in four years takes 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. 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?

There is no language requirement for engineering students.



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 PATH@Penn 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 PATH@Penn.

Withdrawing from a course takes place after the drop period, the student completes a PATH form, which requires the instructor’s permission. 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.  Please access the Academic Calendar for specific dates.

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 first year. There is no guarantee that the credit will be transferred after first year. For information on transferring your credit during first year, contact the Student Registration and Financial Services at 3451 Walnut Street.

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.

Detailed instructions for advance registration are available in the Undergraduate Handbook . In brief, all students must meet with their faculty advisor before registering for courses.

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. This request may be made in PATH@Penn.

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

Penn Engineering students may take up to 4 courses for credit at other institutions provided prior approval is obtained.  Please see guidelines in the Undergraduate Student Handbook – Courses At Other Institutions.

Can I…?

Can I take graduate courses before I get my degree?

Undergraduate students can take a graduate course or two each term along with their undergrate courses and requirements as long as their schedule permits.  Students are not encouraged to complete a master’s at the same time as the undergratue degree.  At no time should an undergraduate student be enrolled in more than 50% of graduate level courses for the graduate degree in a single term.

To learn more about an Accelerated Master’s in Engineering and teh application procedures, please visit https://ugrad.seas.upenn.edu/student-handbook/programs-options/submatriculation-engineering/.  Applicants should plan to apply during their sophomore or junior year.

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

Typically, Time Conflicts are not approved.  Time Conflicts for courses offered in the same time block will not be permitted.  Conflicts with Senior Design that meet infrequently will be considered with the approval of instructors from both classes.


Please note course conflict rules are being applied consistently across all four undergraduate schools.

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 before the end of the ninth full week of the term by using PATH@Penn Forms: Grade Type Change. 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 1010?

Only M&T students and students with a dual degree with Wharton may take MGMT 1010.

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.

Occasionally, a student may take a reduced course load of 3.5 or 3.0 CU. Such a reduced course load is considered full-time by Student Financial Services; therefore, such a student is still billed a the normal full-tuition rate. Note that this reduced course load may jeopardize both state and federal financial aid. Also, international students should check with the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) (international students have to enroll in a minimum of 4 CUs per semester).

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 for approval. 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?

An electronic worksheet and planning document are available through  PATH@Penn.   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” worksheet.

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 the PATH form “Declare/ Update Field of Study” .

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.

How do I change my major in SEAS?

To change your major, complete the PATH form – Declare/ Update Field of Study.

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” online form. All actions require review by the parties noted on the form.  Final submission via the workflow is to the Petitions Committee where a final decision is made.


If a substitution for a required engineering or technical elective is requested, a completed Core Sub Form must be submitted to the department for review.

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.

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?

Students take time away from their studies for a wide variety of reasons including to:

  • fulfill a family obligation
  • pursue career-related opportunities
  • manage a medical concern
  • complete military service
  • take a break

If you are considering a leave, take time to think carefully about your goals for your time away and for when you return. Speaking with an academic advisor is an important first step. Depending on your circumstances you should get advice from other sources as well. Students taking time away in order to manage a medical condition should discuss the leave with their healthcare provider. Your school advising office will help you connect with other campus resources as you prepare to take a leave of absence, such as Student Financial Services, Housing, and International Student and Scholar Services.

Individual circumstances may require more or less time; the length of the leave is determined by the school.

Please visit our Leave of Absence page for details on policy and additional information.