All undergraduates are required to meet certain scholastic standards as outlined subsequently.
Eligibility to Be Enrolled
All undergraduate students must complete a minimum of 27 units per term with a grade-point average of at least 1.9 in order to be eligible to remain enrolled in classes. First-year students are not held to the 1.9 GPA requirement during the first two terms when all courses are taken pass/fail. A student may be excused from the 27-unit eligibility requirement if an underload petition has been approved, prior to Add Day, by the dean or associate dean of undergraduate students. Under exceptional circumstances the deans may waive the requirement that such a petition be approved prior to Add Day, but may do so only once during that student’s career at Caltech. In addition, students must earn a total of 108 units per year; this averages to 36 units per term. The 108 unit requirement may be waived in the case of an approved underload by Add Day, terms away, or having been academically ineligible in one of the past three terms.
When a student is ineligible for the first time, students are to send a reinstatement petition to the dean or associate dean of undergraduate students. The dean may choose to reinstate them, in which case they will be on academic probation. Alternatively, the dean may direct them to petition the Undergraduate Academic Standards and Honors Committee (UASH) for reinstatement. UASH will either approve their petition for reinstatement and place them on academic probation, or require them to withdraw from the Institute for at least two terms.
When a student becomes ineligible a second time, they will be required to withdraw from the Institute for at least two terms. Summer does not count as a term. A student who has been required to leave the Institute because of academic ineligibility may, after at least two terms of leave, petition the Undergraduate Academic Standards and Honors (UASH) Committee for reinstatement. The UASH Committee’s decision regarding reinstatement will be based largely on whether or not such students have made good use of their time while away from the Institute. Useful activities include being gainfully employed, having an internship, engaging in a significant amount of volunteer work, or successfully completing courses at another college or university. The Committee will also expect that students applying for reinstatement will have completed work in all Caltech classes in which they had received an E or I grade.
Students who are ineligible to petition may request an exception to the above. To do so, they must first obtain permission from two of the following three individuals: the dean of undergraduate students, the chair of the UASH Committee, and the Registrar. Such requests require that a reinstatement petition be sent to the Registrar’s Office at least three days prior to the next UASH Committee meeting’s published deadline.
When a student becomes ineligible a third time, they will not be allowed to continue to enroll at Caltech.
If a student is academically ineligible, and not reinstated, they may not continue to live in student housing. See Summer Housing in Section 1 of the catalog for additional information.
Departmental and Option Regulations
By the middle of the third term, first-year students must notify the Registrar’s Office of their selection of an option in engineering, humanities, social sciences, or science to be pursued in subsequent years. Upon the selection of an option, a first-year student will be assigned an adviser in that option, whose approval must then be obtained for registration for the following year.
Undergraduate students may request to add an approved minor to their program of study. The request for a minor must be approved by the option representatives of the student’s option and proposed minor. A plan must be presented which meets the minimum requirements for both the option and the minor, but the option representatives may impose additional requirements as well. The approved request must be submitted to the registrar before the start of the senior year.
Undergraduate students may be allowed to major in two options for the Bachelor of Science degree. In order to do so the student must present a rationale for the double option and a plan of study leading to completion of the degree in four years. The plan, and any substantive modifications, must be approved by a committee composed of the option representatives of the two options. The plan must meet the minimum requirements for both options as set forth in this catalog, but the committee may impose additional requirements as well. The approved plan should be submitted to the registrar during the sophomore year, but in any case no later than the start of the senior year. The student will then be assigned an adviser by each option. Consult the registrar for appropriate procedures.
Continuing in an Option
Students whose grade-point averages are less than 1.9 at the end of an academic year in a specific group of subjects designated by their department or option may, at the discretion of their department, be refused permission to continue the work of that option. Such disbarment does not prevent the students from continuing in some other option or from taking additional courses to raise their average in their original option. Students without an option will fall under the direct jurisdiction of the dean of students. Students may remain without an option for no more than one year.
Change of Option
An undergraduate in good standing at the Institute shall be permitted to transfer into any option of their choice provided they have (a) a 1.9 GPA in subjects required for graduation in that option or in a specific group of subjects designated by that option or (b) permission of the option representative or committee. A change of option is effected by obtaining a Change of Option petition from the Registrar’s Office. The completed petition must then be signed by the option representative for the new option (who will assign a new adviser), and filed with the Registrar’s Office. Institute regulations require that a student who has made normal progress at the Institute be able to change options at any time up to the end of the sophomore year without penalty either as to time until graduation or as to excessive unit requirements in any term.
Term examinations will be held in all subjects unless the instructor in charge of any subject shall arrange otherwise. No student will be exempt from these examinations. When conflicts exist in a student’s schedule, it is the student’s responsibility to report the conflict to the instructor in charge of one of the conflicting examinations and make arrangements for another time.
Satisfactory Academic Progress
Eligibility to register is determined by the student’s record as of the first day of classes of the term in which registration is sought. A student will be declared ineligible to register if they have completed fewer than 27 units with a 1.9 grade point average in the previous term.
To qualify for graduation a student must complete the prescribed work in one of the options with a passing grade in each required subject and with a grade-point average of 1.9. A grade of F in an elective course need not be made up, provided the student has received passing grades in enough other accepted units to satisfy the minimum total requirements of the option.
A Caltech undergraduate degree is based on a four-year residential experience (study abroad included) in which students have the time to explore their academic interested in a deep and rigorous way. Students who are admitted as transfer students or 3/2 students may be granted advanced standing and term credit for academic work accepted in transfer to Caltech. However, transfers and 3/2 students must enroll for a minimum of six terms at Caltech. All other regularly admitted students must enroll for four years (12 terms). Any exceptions to the four year residence requirement must be approved by the dean of undergraduate students and the vice president for student affairs.
Candidacy for the Bachelor’s Degree
Students must declare their candidacy for the degree of Bachelor of Science to the registrar on or before the first Monday of November preceding the date on which they expect to receive the degree. All subjects required for graduation, with the exception of those for which the candidate is registered during the last term of their study, must be completed and the grade recorded by the second Monday of May preceding commencement.
Graduation in the Normally Prescribed Time
Any undergraduate student who fails to complete the requirements for graduation at the end of 12 terms must petition the Undergraduate Academic Standards and Honors (UASH) Committee for approval to register for further work each term.
Excess of or Fewer Than Normal Units (Overloads and Underloads)
An overload is defined as registration for more than 48 units for an undergraduate. This limit corresponds to five 9-unit classes plus a 3-unit non-academic class (PE, PVA, SA) or four 9-unit classes plus one 12-unit class. Classroom and laboratory courses are to be limited to 45 units for first-year students for the first two terms and the remaining three units should be used for frontier (“pizza”) courses, PE, PVA, SA, or research. Students may take up to 51 units (inclusive) but it requires their adviser’s approval for such an overload. To take more units than 51, students will need to petition the undergraduate dean, with the expectation that permission will be granted only in exceptional cases. This policy is aimed at having no effect on currently recommended courses of studies in all options, while putting a very high bar for taking 6 full-time classes simultaneously.
A student who wishes to carry an overload in any term must obtain the approval of their adviser and the dean or associate dean of undergraduate students. Petitions for overloads must be submitted one week before the last day for adding classes in any term.
An underload is registration for fewer than 36 units. Underload petitions for first-year students, sophomores, and juniors must be approved by the adviser and the dean or associate dean of undergraduate students. Seniors may take an underload by presenting for the Registrar’s approval a senior underload petition and a course plan for graduation the following June that does not require an overload in any term. Completing fewer than 27 units without prior approval will result in ineligibility; for more information on eligibility, see Scholastic Requirements. Underloads during the first 12 terms will not result in a tuition reduction, only in a reduction in financial aid. After completing 12 terms, tuition will be charged per unit. The dean or disability services coordinator will evaluate exceptions due to medical reasons. For more information about underloads and tuition, see Underloads. For more information about impact to aid, see Underloads and Financial Aid: The Impact of Less than Full-time Enrollment.
Allowance and Transfer of Credit
Transfer of Credit from Other Institutions
Regularly enrolled students who want to obtain credit for college courses taken elsewhere should obtain the permission of the dean of students and have a copy of the transcript of their work sent to the Registrar’s Office. The student should then obtain an Allowance of Credit form from the Registrar’s Office and take this, with the transcript as well as any supporting class materials required by the option representative, to the representative of the option in which credit is desired. Pending approval by the option representative, credit will be granted when the Allowance of Credit form, with the appropriate signatures, is returned to the office.
Allowance of Credit in the Humanities and Social Sciences
In general, Caltech students should fulfill Caltech course requirements by taking courses at Caltech. Students are expected to have a well-reasoned educational goal for taking classes elsewhere. The only exceptions are transfer students admitted to advanced standing. Credit for comparable work done at other institutions with similar academic standards is not granted automatically.
Students who wish to take courses elsewhere (whether on leave, in the summer, or during the academic year) should consult, in advance, with the executive officer for the humanities or the executive officer for the social sciences, or their designees, to minimize any misunderstanding regarding the nature of credit they may receive. Upon completion of the course, the student must obtain an Allowance of Credit form from the registrar, obtain the signed approval of the executive officer, or their designee, for transfer credit, and return the completed form to the Registrar’s Office. The executive officers are the final authority in the allowance of credit in HSS courses.
Guidelines and specific information about allowance of credit are available from the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Other Allowances of Credit
Except for transfer credit and credit based on Caltech placement exams upon admission, credit will not be granted for Caltech courses in which the student is not officially enrolled, except in special circumstances by arrangement with the instructor. Such arrangements must be approved by the Curriculum Committee, and the student must petition the Committee before the work is undertaken.