FAQ on Changes to Academic Requirements

First, have you checked the Academic Requirements summary grid at go.wlu.edu/planning-grid?

Changes addressed below:

120 credits required for a degree for the classes of 2020, 2021, and beyond. Current sophomores and first-years must accumulate at least 120 credits in order to receive a W&L bachelor's degree. Juniors and seniors (those graduating by June 1, 2019) are required to have at least 113 credits.

Effective with the Fall 2017 term, Physical Education skills courses are valued at one credit each for first-years and sophomores only, who must accumulate 120 credits to graduate. Juniors and seniors will continue to receive a total of one composite PE credit (PE XXX) upon completion of their four skills courses. (During registration, the courses are shown as flexible credit -- zero to one -- and students must select the appropriate amount during their planning and registration.) The FDR requirement still requires all current students to accumulate 4 PE skills courses, whether or not they carry any credit. Your PE courses will now count in a more rational way, awarding fair credit for the time involved.

1. I am a junior who has already taken three PEs. How does this affect me?

If your basic question is "how many PE skills courses do I need to take", it is still four required for all students, whether they are 0- or 1-credit courses.

2. As a sophomore (Class of 2020), I wonder if I can get retroactive credits for PE skills already completed?

Yes. These adjustments to credits and cumulative grade-point averages appeared on your record during September.

3. I was wondering why playing a varsity sport only counts for two of the four PE credits.

The number of varsity credits which are countable toward the FDR requirement is set by the PEA&R Department (2 for each sport but max of 3, going forward). Students in the Classes of 2020 and 2021, may use up to 6 credits of 100- or 200-level PE toward degree requirements, so it is possible for those students to use two additional varsity (or other skills) credits toward degree credits once the FDR requirement has been completed.

4. As a sophomore or first-year, how do I make my new PE registration for 1 credit?

To do this, you will change the 0 credit to 1 credit in the course details screen in the earliest part of the planning process--when you add the course to your plan.  Please see the screen shots at www.wlu.edu/university-registrar/registration/student-planning-registration-help/variable-credit-courses .

5. I still don't understand the new rules.

Students in the Class of 2019 and earlier have always been shooting for only 113 total credits, counting on only one credit for all of the PE skills courses. We also were having problems about fairly accounting for completed zero-credit skills in the cumulative GPA and building the Degree Audit or My Progress logic.

We have modified the implementation of this part of the requirements as follows:

  • 100- and 200-level PE skills courses will be posted as variable credit (zero or one credit) in WebAdvisor and Self-Service.
  • Class of  2019 and earlier will continue to take four PE skills courses for 0 credits and earn 1-credit upon completion of their four required courses toward their 113 credits required for graduation. There is no change to the graduation requirement for juniors and seniors.
  • Class of 2020 and later will continue to take four PE skills courses for one credit each, toward the 120 credits required for graduation.

The change that affects ALL students is that you are now asked to choose the proper number of credits (0 or 1) when you plan your course sections. Classes of 2020 and later should pick 1 credit. Class of 2019 should pick 0 credit.

See the registration help for selecting variable-credit classes at

Also, Class of 2020 students who have completed zero-credit PE skills courses prior to Fall 2017 have received a credit adjustment equal to the number of PE skills completed and including their average grades in their cumulative GPA.

New category of Experiential (EXP) courses, required for the classes of 2020, 2021, and beyond. All students will have access to EXP-designated courses, but current sophomores and first-years must accumulate four credits of EXP coursework. The standards of learning for the EXP designation were approved by the faculty in October 2017 for course proposed by the department and programs, meeting one of the following standards:

  • perform as individuals, ensemble, and/or team members in expressive and skillful presentations before audiences, or demonstrate understanding of collaborative performance and production by designing, crafting, managing, publicizing, and/or directing events that have scholarly, artistic, or practical significance.
  • conduct research independently or collaboratively, to advance scholarly inquiry, to develop reasoned recommendations for sponsoring organizations or community partners, to extend classroom learning into the field of inquiry, and to support subsequent senior-thesis, capstone, publication, or public presentation.
  • explore interests and build skills through work in the world and reflect upon and articulate how the activities expand, redirect, alter, or confirm their intellectual, personal, and/or professional development.
  • build cultural competence, perspectives, and understanding through international immersion beyond the classroom, such as homestays.

Courses approved as meeting this Experiential Learning requirement (some as early as Fall 2017, most beginning January 1, 2018) are listed in the University catalog (search using this link: go.wlu.edu/EXP-courses) and on the Course Offerings or Self-Service list with the EXP course type. Many of these are already popular with W&L students, including one-credit courses in the arts, practica, internships, and community-based learning. You will now receive credit for the experiential work that so many W&L students already complete.

1. How do I request EXP designation for something I took at another institution or abroad?

The W&L EXP courses have been reviewed by the faculty for compliance with one of the learning outcomes. In the same way, another course would also need to be reviewed. So students should do the following to have an external course reviewed.

  • First, the course must have already been approved by the appropriate department or program head for transfer to W&L, based on the course content and appropriateness to the W&L degree. You do this using either the Study Abroad approval process (go.wlu.edu/StudyAbroadCredit) or the US transfer credit approval form (intranet.wlu.edu/registrar/FormsUnivReg/studyoffcampus.pdf).
  • Next, articulate the rationale for EXP credit in terms of one of the four student-learning outcomes (above), linking it specifically to the study-abroad experience and including a syllabus or detailed description of the work from the employer.
  • Get written support from a W&L faculty adviser or department or program head.
  • Submit all materials to the faculty's Committee on Courses and Degrees (CD@wlu.edu) for consideration.

A "normal" full-time course load is 13-15 credits in the fall and winter term, encouraging students to take a full academic load plus credit-bearing PE and experiential courses. An entering student can easily reach 120 credits without overloading, by averaging term loads of with 13-13-4 credits (30 credits each year for four years), even without AP, IB, or transfer credit. Overloads of 16 credits will be approved easily, with overloads of 17 or more continuing to receive careful review by the associate deans or Faculty Executive Committee. (See the overload policy at go.wlu.edu/overload-policy.) Also, 12 credits will continue to be the minimum full-time course load.  These changes went into effect for Fall 2017 and beyond.

A credit hour for undergraduate courses will be defined as 60 minutes of class instruction per week in fall and winter terms, beginning with Winter 2018. A three-credit course would meet for a full 180 minutes each week. That is, if a class typically meets three times per week, it would meet for three, 60-minute sessions; a class meeting two times per week would meet for two, 90-minute sessions; and so on). For the detailed policy, see www.wlu.edu/university-registrar/policies-and-procedures/undergraduate-credit-definition.

1. One credit hour is proportional to one hour of instructional time and I was curious if this wording means that science labs are exempt from this change. 

A credit hour assumes instructional time of 60 minutes per week and two hours of out-of-class work per week. For other academic activities established by the faculty, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, supervised undergraduate research, etc., leading to the award of credit hours, an equivalent amount of work is required. For some laboratory courses, for example, much of the work may be done only in the laboratory space at scheduled times. For others, lab can require extensive time both in and out of the laboratory. Typically, a laboratory is only awarded one credit beyond the credit for the course. This fall, the faculty will consider an expanded definition of Washington and Lee credit, consistent with federal requirements.

The typical undergraduate teaching schedule is moving to 60-minute meetings with 15-minute passing times. The expanded passing time will alleviate some student and faculty concerns which have been expressed in recent years. This adjustment will provide more learning time per course, and the increased passing time should make for a better-paced class day. See details at www.wlu.edu/university-registrar/policies-and-procedures/class-time-blocks.