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First-Year Student Questions

As you imagine your first year beyond registering for fall quarter, you'll have lots of questions. Here are some of the most commonly asked and resources to help you answer those questions.

Why will I have so many advisers (including first-year seminar, College, major, pre-professional)?

In Weinberg College, we believe that the best advising comes from a combination of generalists and specialists; with integrated advice from different people with different expertise, you can get the most individualized assistance. Your fall first-year seminar instructor is there to get you started. Your college adviser is the generalist, who can help with big-picture academic issues. Major advisers, pre-med advisers, career counselors, and others can help you answer specific questions.

How do I get my AP/IB credits to count toward distribution requirements?

You can count up to two AP or IB credits toward distribution requirements, one each in two different areas—and you can change your mind about which credits you will use as your academic plan develops. You can indicate which credits you want to use via CAESAR:

  • Log in, go to the Main Menu, then click on "For Students," and then "Academic Information."
  • Click on "AP/IB Credit Distribution." All available credits should come up under areas they can apply to. You may select up to two credits, but they must be in different areas.

What do I do if my AP/IB credits aren't posted to my transcript?

First: don't worry. It can take a while for the scores to be reported to Northwestern, and in the mean time you can use our AP/IB credit chart and list of suggested next courses to help you select classes. If you have requested that your scores be sent to Northwestern, but they have not appeared on your transcript by the middle of your first year, you should contact the Registrar’s Office at nu-registrar@northwestern.edu

What requirements must I complete in order to graduate?

All Weinberg students must at minimum complete the College's degree requirements. This includes distribution requirementsfirst-year seminarswriting proficiencyforeign language proficiency, a single major, and complete a specified number of courses and quarters.

Can I take more than 4 classes?

Yes, but with certain restrictions. The Registrar's Office puts a cap on the number of credits for which students may register prior to the start of the quarter, and then allows students to register for overloads during add/drop week (the first week of a quarter). College rules also limit how many credits you may register for based on your GPA for the prior quarter. For details on College rules, see our information about overloads. Be sure to discuss your decision with your first-year adviser.

What do I do if I need to drop below 3 classes?

The most typical course load is four courses a quarter, but three courses is also considered a full-time load. Dropping to less than three classes during a particular quarter may make sense academically, but it may have other implications; you should first consult with your adviser. (If you are a student-athlete, you should also consult with your athletics adviser.) See the College's policy about underloads for important details.

How should I choose my major? When should I do it?

While you can declare a major at any point, Weinberg does not require you to do so until the end of your sophomore year. This should tell you two things: that we want you to use your early coursework to try out different fields, and that most majors can be completed in about two years, provided you have gotten your feet wet with an introductory class or two.

Choosing a major is an individualized process. Elsewhere on this website, you'll find lots of information about majors, minors, and certificates, including requirements worksheets and some of our best advice for how to choose. The short version: explore! Your major does not determine the rest of your life, but it will determine anywhere from a third to half of your courses at Northwestern. Your major should be interesting to you; it should ask questions and investigate problems that you find intriguing, and it should use methods to explore those problems that speak to your strengths as a student. You have lots of options, and you have the chance to really own your academic plan! Your first-year adviser can be a great sounding board as you consider your options, and every department has a special webpage and adviser for first-year students that you can consult for detailed information about getting started.

Should I study abroad?

There are many choices when it comes to studying abroad—when to go, where to go, for how long to go—and your first year is a good time to start thinking about these questions. The Study Abroad Office's website has a tremendous amount of information about programs and requirements, and this website has advice about study abroad as well. Regardless of when you plan to study abroad, you should consider the language requirements of programs that interest you when you plan your first-year schedule.

Can I take classes at another US institution over the summer?

Yes, as long as it is at a four-year, accredited university and, with certain restrictions, you can use those credits toward Northwestern degree requirements. All the details are spelled out in our policy on study away from Northwestern. Note: if you are an international student planning to take courses at home during the summer, this is considered study abroad, and your plan must be approved in advance by the study abroad office.

How do I talk to a professor from whom I'm taking a class?

Students who get to know their professors during office hours and in other non-classroom contexts get more out of their college experiences. Having conversations with your professors—getting to know them and helping them get to know you—can lead to a deeper understanding of the material covered in class, more insight into an academic field, research and other opportunities, and, potentially, stronger letters of recommendation in the future. You should feel free to go to your professor's office hours with a general or specific question in mind to discuss. You can also email your professors with questions. A word, however, about etiquette: unless you are specifically told otherwise, you should always address a faculty member as Professor or Dr. X. And you should never begin an email to a professor with "Hey So and So." Be polite, and try "Dear Professor So and so" instead!

Can I switch to another school at Northwestern?

If you want to have a major in another school, you will need to interschool transfer out of Weinberg. (You may have a Weinberg major even if you are in a different school; you would complete that school's degree requirements, including a major in that school, in addition to the Weinberg major's.) If you have changed your mind during the summer prior to your first year, you should contact the admissions office about how to change schools. Once you have begun your studies, you will need to apply to transfer schools. This is generally a simple process, but you can only apply to transfer during the first month of a given quarter—the transfer then goes into effect at the start of the following quarter. For all the details, including how interschool transferring can affect your decisions about your second first-year seminar, consult our rules and policies for interschool transfer.

This year is challenging in ways I hadn't anticipated. Whom should I talk to?

The first year is a challenging one in many respects: you will face academic, social, and personal pressures that you likely have not encountered before. Your acceptance at NU indicates we think you have what it takes to succeed here, and we are here to help if the road to success isn't completely smooth. Your adviser is always the best place to start. If you have issues in a particular course, don't be shy about talking to the professor about strategies for success. You may want to meet with one of the study skills specialists at the Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning, or learn about tutoring resources, or see a counselor at CAPS. If you have health problems that are interfering with your ability to complete your classes, you should contact health services and, potentially, the Dean of Students Office. When in doubt, ask your adviser where to start seeking assistance!

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