Academic Advising & Support
Students experiencing symptoms of flu-like illness MUST immediately report them, using the Caltech Covid-19 Reporting website: https://access.caltech.edu/covid19_reporting/, and let their faculty know they will not be attending class and/or lab until they are cleared to do so via a negative test.
Students experiencing other illness or other health conditions should seek treatment at Student Wellness Services, where the condition can be assessed and treated.
For ongoing or long-term illnesses, any recommendations for extensions will be communicated to the Deans' Office. A student must grant written permission for any communication from Student Wellness Services to the Deans' Office. The deans will not recommend extensions or other academic adjustments for medical reasons without supporting documentation from Student Wellness Services, CASS, or other qualified health professionals.
The deans are prepared to recommend academic adjustments where a student has clearly experienced a significant family or personal emergency, such as a death in the immediate family, or a moderate to severe illness or medical condition such as pneumonia or a hospitalization, that makes it difficult to keep up with coursework. In such circumstances, a student should contact a dean as soon as possible in order to discuss the situation.
The Deans can talk with you about any personal concerns, and work with you in attempting to resolve them. They are also a good source of referral to other offices on campus (e.g. the Counseling Center, the Center for Inclusion and Diversity, etc.) who may be of assistance to you, as well.
As a matter of policy, the deans will not support extensions or excuses from class absences that result from participation in athletics or other campus clubs or activities. The deans will not support extensions or excuses for class absences that result from travel for interviews for graduate or professional school admission or for job applications. These commitments can be anticipated in advance. Student athletes and seniors who expect to travel for interviews should communicate directly with course instructors early in the term, to ensure that they understand relevant course policies around missed classes or late work. Student athletes who are having difficulty balancing academics and athletics, or who feel that course instructors are reluctant to accommodate their athletic commitments, should consult with the deans and with their coaches. As in all cases, academic adjustment is at the discretion of the course instructor.
Caltech is committed to maintaining a diverse academic community, and welcoming individuals with a broad spectrum of talents and experiences to its campus and programs. Students with disabilities, actively participating in all aspects of the Caltech experience, are an essential part of that diversity.
Caltech Accessibility Services for Students (CASS) will make every reasonable effort to provide academic adjustments and other reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified students with known disabilities, consistent with Caltech's obligations under applicable law. For further information, please see the CASS website.
ISP enables students to craft custom-tailored curricula—comprising Caltech courses, academic-year research, courses at other schools, or independent study courses—in collaboration with faculty advisors. An important change from the older Independent Studies Program is that the degree recipient can now propose a designated academic specialty on the transcript, for example, "B.S., Interdisciplinary Studies Program in X", where X could be "Biophysics", "Decision Neuroscience", "Environmental Science and Policy", or "Quantum Information Science", to borrow examples from previous Independent Studies Program majors.
The Curriculum Committee, a standing committee of the faculty, has overall responsibility for the program. In addition, each student has his or her own committee of at least two advisors, two of whom must be professorial faculty. Learning outcomes are determined on an individual basis with each student. Application materials may be obtained at the Dean of Undergraduate Students office or website, however the Deans do not approve the program.
Criteria for ISP Curricula:
- The program must enable educational goals that cannot be achieved in any of the other available Options.
- In scope and depth, the program must be comparable to a normal undergraduate program.
How to Set Up an ISP Curriculum:
- Construct a curriculum that satisfies the Core Institute Requirements (see Caltech Catalog for details) and that includes a total of at least 486 units of academic credit. These units can be in the form of other Caltech courses, academic-year research, courses at other schools, or independent study courses.
- Recruit at least two Professorial Faculty from at least two different degree-granting Options to serve as the ISP faculty committee. Refine the curriculum in collaboration with the faculty committee.
- Complete ISP Proposal Form
An overload is defined as registration for more than 48 units in a term 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 first year students 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 after the first two terms (inclusive) but it requires their advisor's approval. To take more units than 51, students will need to petition the undergraduate Deans, with the expectation that permission will be granted only in exceptional cases. Such cases might include:
- A student who wishes to add research units
- A student who wishes to add the Health or Peer Advocate class, or extra PE course
- An overload is required to complete the student's option requirements (rare)
This policy is aimed at having no effect on currently recommended courses of studies in all majors, while setting a very high bar for taking 6 full-time classes simultaneously.
The Deans are happy to provide recommendations for students. It is best to make an appointment with a Dean to discuss your request and to let the Dean get to know you. It is very helpful to provide a written resume of your experience and activities.
The Deans can talk with you about your study habits, and provide resources to help you develop more effective ways to approach your work. They proactively reach out at midterms to students with midterm warnings, and collaborate with faculty and advisors to support student progress.
Students who need to be reinstated by UASH, or are planning any kind of petition, are advised to meet with one of the Deans before petitioning the committee. A Dean can read a draft of your petition and advise you about your appearance before the committee. It is also important to get your advisor's statement of support and signature on the petition. The Deans can reinstate a student after the first ineligibility, although they will often refer this to UASH.
Click here to find out more about UASH.
Students who have experienced significant adversity over the course of a term, and have been working with the Undergraduate Deans' office, or can provide documentation of their situation, can request that a Dean recommend an "I" grade.
Per the Caltech catalog: The grade I is given only in case of unexpected sickness or other emergency, occurring near the end of the term, that impedes the completion of the work in the class. An I grade is not intended to allow students to make up missed work from the majority of the term. If a student has not completed the majority of the work, they are not eligible for an incomplete and they will be advised to late drop the class or take a leave. It is given at the discretion of the instructor, after approval by the dean or associate dean of students or the dean of graduate studies. If a student is seeking an I grade due to a severe exacerbation or onset of a disability that occurred near the end of the term, they should contact Caltech Accessibility Services for Students (CASS) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If a student is ill for a significant period of time towards the end of a term, or has another reason that might justify the use of an I, the student is responsible for contacting the Deans before the faculty member turns in grades. Incompletes cannot be retroactive.
It is important to keep in mind that Incompletes can often trigger an ineligibility, if the work is not completed and graded by the first day of the following term, and the student has therefore not posted 27 passing units. This is an issue that should be discussed with a Dean before any final decisions are made.
An underload is registration for fewer than 36 units, and should be approved before add day of the term in question. Underloads for first, second and third year students must be approved by a Dean. Seniors who wish to underload must submit to the registrar a senior underload petition and a course plan for graduation the following June that does not require an overload in any term.
Underloads will not receive a tuition reduction unless the CASS office recommends it. Students receiving financial aid should note that underloads will often result in a reduction of financial aid. International students and NCAA athletes should also consult with ISP or the athletic department about implications of underloads.
(See Guidelines for Underloads)
Students who need to go under 27 units after add day may do so with the approval of a Dean one time, and only under exceptional circumstances during their Caltech career, without triggering an ineligibility for the term. Any further post add-day underloads may make the student ineligible, and the Dean may recommend alternative options.
The Deans' Office supports first year students by providing information about options and facilitating discussions with representatives from options during orientation, and as freshmen approach their decision during third term.
As the Catalog indicates:
"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."