Caltech Home > Home > Academics > Recent Changes
Search open search form

Recent Academic Changes

1.)    New 12-term residence requirement - A Caltech undergraduate degree is based on a four-year residential experience (a quarter of study abroad included) in which students have the time to explore their academic interests in a deep and rigorous way. “To expand human knowledge and benefit society” has been an essential part of Caltech’s mission statement since its inception, and the curriculum is designed to give students the tools necessary to accomplish these ambitious objectives. Through four years of intense classwork and research, students mature intellectually, and acquire an interdisciplinary academic foundation upon which excellence, creativity, and curiosity are built. In addition, students develop life skills, such as thinking critically, managing one’s time, collaborating with others, and achieving personal goals. 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, transfer and 3/2 students must enroll for a minimum of six terms at Caltech. Any exceptions must be approved by the Dean of Undergraduate Students and the Vice President for Student Affairs.

2.)    Change in overload limits - 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 (PA, PE) or four 9-unit classes plus one 12-unit class. Classroom and laboratory courses are limited to 45 units for freshmen for the first two terms and the remaining three units should be used for frontier (“pizza”) courses, PE, PA, 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 majors, 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 his or her advisor and of the Dean or Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students. Petitions for overloads will not be accepted later than the last day for adding classes in any term.

An underload is registration for fewer than 36 units. Underloads for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors must be approved by the Dean or Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students. Seniors may take an underload by presenting for the Registrar’s approval a senior underload and a course plan for graduation the following June that the plan does not require an overload in any term.  Underloads will not receive a tuition reduction, only a financial aid reduction.

3.) Eligibility for registration - Following the first two terms, which are taken on a pass-fail basis, freshmen will be ineligible to register if they failed to pass at least 27 units in the previous term. After the first two terms of study, all undergraduate students must complete 27 units with a grade-point average of at least 1.9 in order to remain eligible to register for classes. In addition, students must earn an average of 36 units per term over each academic year (or three trailing terms if students were not in attendance for the entire academic year) for a total of 108 units. A student may be excused from the 27- unit eligibility requirement if the requisite 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. Following their first ineligibility, students are to meet with 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. Students who fail a core course or who fail to successfully complete 36 units, even though they remain in good standing, are required to meet with one of the undergraduate deans before being allowed to register for classes in the subsequent term. Students who becomes ineligible a second time 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. Any student who becomes ineligible a third time will not be allowed to continue to enroll at Caltech. Students who are ineligible may petition the UASH Committee to waive any of the rules listed above, but in order 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. Permission to file a waiver petition will be granted only under exceptional circumstances.

4.) Grades of E and I - Beginning in the fall 2013 term there is now a limit on how long E and I grades may be extended. Typically, incomplete grades (E) and medical incompletes (I) are extended until Add Day of the next term but if students are granted a further extension of an E or I grade they may not be extended past one year. The catalog now states: “An E will turn into an F one year after the date on which the E was given, and an I grade will turn into a W (standing for “Withdrawn”) one year after the date on which the I grade was given.”