Frequently Asked Questions

Course Load

How many total credits will I need to graduate?

All undergraduates will need to earn at least 120 SHUs and complete the minimum number of courses as stipulated when they matriculated into their degree program: 34 courses for Liberal Arts students in the BA or BS degree program; 36 or 38 courses for Engineering students, according to degree program; 33 courses for BFA Program; 24 academic courses plus studio component for BA/BFA students; 24 Tufts courses plus NEC component for Five-Year Tufts-NEC students.

Now that I have to earn 120 SHUs to graduate, does that mean I have to carry a heavier course load, or take 5 courses each semester?

Not necessarily. Just as now, undergraduates should expect to complete 4 or 5 courses each semester to graduate within 8 semesters. After the credit conversion, however, it will be easier to carry a more balanced course load, aiming for a range of approximately 14 to 16SHUs each semester. For example, it will be possible for one student to enroll in 5 courses and earn 15 SHUs, and for another student to enroll in 4 courses and earn 16 SHUs.

What will happen to pre-matriculation credits after the credit conversion?

Pre-matriculation credits will follow the same conversion formula: 1 Tufts credit = 4 SHUs. Credits transferred prior to Summer 2018 will follow the same formula.

I have been granted a Reduced Course Load as an accommodation for a medical condition. How will the credit conversion impact my course load?

Your actual enrollment (in two or three courses each semester, as determined by you and your dean, in light of your clinician’s recommendations) will not change. Students with disabilities or significant health conditions who have been approved for a reduced course load by Student Accessibility Services will be permitted to enroll in 11 SHUs or less in a given semester (for undergraduates) and will be billed on a part-time basis, according to the number of credits they attempt in that semester. Undergraduates enrolling in more than 12 SHUs in any semester will be considered full time and billed as such.

Financial Aid and Billing

How will my tuition bill change when we move to the new academic credit system?

There will be no changes in billing. Students will continue to be billed at the full-time rate for full-time study (defined as 9 or more SHUs for grad students and 12 or more SHUs for undergrads). Students permitted to study on a part-time basis will be billed as they have been in the past, as three-quarter time, half-time, or less than half time, on a per-credit basis.

Will my financial aid package change?

No, financial aid will not change. If you receive federal financial aid, your aid package will continue to take into account whether you are a full-time student or a part-time student.

How will full-time status and part-time status be determined?

Undergraduates must enroll in at least 12 SHUs each semester to reach full time status. Graduate students reach full-time status when enrolled in 9 or more SHUs per semester. Depending on how many credits they attempt in a given semester, part-time students will be considered three-quarter time, half-time, or part-time. These categories will adhere to federal financial aid formulas.

Degree Requirements (for students matriculating prior to 2018)

How will the credit conversion impact my major?

The credit conversion will have little to no impact on any of the majors. All majors require a specific grouping of 10 to 12 courses, and that will not change. Major requirements are being re-phrased to clarify whether the major is fulfilled by completing a set number of specific courses or earning a range of credits in a specific area.

How will the credit conversion impact the Engineering HASS requirement, which requires 6 courses from Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences?

The HASS requirement will not change for students who matriculated prior to Fall 2018. It still requires “6 course credits,” which means taking 6 courses from Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. You must complete at least 18 SHUs of coursework from the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, including a minimum of 6 courses from these disciplines.

How will the credit conversion impact the A&S Language Requirement and Culture Option?

The language requirement will not change as it is based on demonstrating proficiency in one language up to a specific level. For those students who decide to fulfill the Language Requirement through the Culture Option, that option still requires that students take a cluster of at least three courses in one specific culture. As in current practice, students may take two “half credit courses” (2 SHUs going forward) to add up to one of the courses used toward the culture option.

How will the credit conversion impact the A&S Distribution Requirements?

Complete at least two courses in each distribution area, with each of those courses adding up to at least 3 SHUs. (Courses assigned 2 SHUs or less may be taken in the distribution areas, but at least two of them must be taken to add up to at least 3 SHUs to be considered equivalent to one of the 3 SHU courses required.) No more than two courses may be from the same department or program. (Exception: For the Arts Distribution Requirement, students may take more than two courses from the same department if those courses are 2 SHUs or less.) At least 3 semester hours in each area must come from credits earned after matriculation. If approved by the Academic Review Board as fulfilling a Distribution Area, only one ExCollege course, no matter how many semester hours, may be used to fulfill a distribution requirement. As always, those courses graded pass-fail may not be used to satisfy any distribution requirement.

How will the credit conversion impact pre-matriculation credits?

For students matriculated prior to Fall 2018, each 1.0 pre-matriculation credit will be converted to 4 SHUs. These credits will count toward the minimum of 120 SHUs. As in the past, no more than five credit-bearing pre-matriculation course equivalencies will be applied toward the Liberal Arts BA or BS degree program (adding up to at most 20 SHUs), and no more than eight credit-bearing pre-matriculation course equivalencies will be applied toward the Engineering degree program (adding up to at most 32 SHUs).

How will the credit conversion impact transfer credits?

Each credit transferred before Summer 2018 will be multiplied by 4 in order to be converted to SHUs. These credits will count toward the minimum of 120 SHUs. Each credit transferred to Tufts during and after Summer 2018, will be assigned SHUs by the Registrar’s Office; since most universities already use the semester-hour system, transfer of credit will be more transparent. As in the past, undergraduate students must complete as least half their semester hours toward their degree at Tufts or on a Tufts study abroad program.

How will the credit conversion impact transfer students?

Transfer students must spend a minimum of four full-time semesters at Tufts (or on a Tufts Program Abroad) and must complete at least 60 SHUs of the required 120 SHUs toward their degree at Tufts. Pre-matriculation credits from standardized exams (such as AP credits) are not considered credits earned at Tufts.

Residency Requirement

I had to take a semester off because of an illness, but I would still like to graduate with my class in 2020. I have taken some Tufts Summer Session classes to catch up. How will the credit conversion affect the 8-semester Residency Requirement?

The policy will remain virtually the same. All undergraduates must complete 8 semesters of full-time study (or 10 semesters for those in the combined-degree programs). A student who has at least 5 credit-bearing courses or equivalent from pre-matriculation credit or Tufts summer school, adding up to at least 15 SHUs, may petition to count that as the equivalent of 1 full-time semester. A student with 9 credit-bearing courses/equivalent and at least 27 SHUs may petition to count that as 2 full-time semesters.

After the credit conversion, I will have over 120 credits, and will need to take just 3 more courses to fulfill my major. Can I graduate early or go part-time in my senior year?

In order to graduate, undergraduate students must meet all degree requirements (including for major, foundation, and distribution), as well as meet minimal credits for their specific degree program, and have completed 8 semesters of full-time study (or equivalent). Students may submit an application to go part time or graduate one or two semesters early if they demonstrate that they have fulfilled 8 semesters of full-time study or the equivalent. A student who has at least 5 credit-bearing courses or equivalent from pre-matriculation credit or Tufts summer school, adding up to at least 15 SHUs, may petition to count that as the equivalent of 1 full-time semester. A student with 9 credit-bearing courses/equivalent and at least 27 SHUs may petition to count that as 2 full-time semesters.

Grades and GPA

How will the credit conversion affect my GPA?

It will have no impact on your past or current GPA. Grade Point Average will be calculated as it always has been, taking into account the number of credits assigned to the course (0.5, 1.0. or 1.5 credits), multiplied by the grade points (4.0 for A, 3.0 for B, etc), and averaged for each semester and across accumulated semesters. When converting to SHUs, all past credits will be converted according to a set ratio (in which 1 Tufts credit = 4 SHUs) so that your past GPA (for each semester and cumulatively) will not change. The grade point values will not change, so that grades of A will still be awarded 4.0 points, grades of B will still be awarded 3.0 points, and so on. Beginning in Fall 2018, most courses will be assigned 3 SHUs, but some will be assigned 2 SHUs and a few will be assigned 4 or 5 SHUs. As is the case now, courses with higher SHU values will have a larger impact on your grade point average, such that earning high grades in courses with high SHU values will have a greater positive impact on that semester’s GPA and your cumulative GPA; on the other hand, earning low grades in courses with high SHU values will have a greater negative impact on that semester’s GPA and your cumulative GPA.

How will Dean’s List be determined after the credit conversion?

Dean’s List will be calculated much as it is now. In Fall 2018 and thereafter, to earn Dean’s List distinction for a specific semester, Liberal Arts students in the BA or BS degree programs must have enrolled in a minimum of 12 SHUs with grades in at least 12 SHUs, with no Incompletes, and a minimum GPA of 3.40. Engineers must have enrolled in a minimum of 12 SHUs with grades in at least 9 SHUs, with no Incompletes, and a minimum GPA of 3.20. Students in the combined-degree program with the NEC whose total course load equals 12 SHUs or more will be awarded Dean’s List honors at both institutions if they meet Dean’s List GPA requirements for the course work taken at both institutions. Students in the BA/BFA combined degree program with SMFA at Tufts whose total course load equals 12 SHUs or more will be awarded Dean’s List honors if they have a GPA of at least 3.40 in a given semester. There is no Dean’s List for the BFA Program. There will be no changes made retroactively, so if you were on the Dean’s List in a given semester prior to Fall 2018, that will not change; and if you were not on the Dean’s List in a given semester prior to Fall 2018, you will not be added retroactively to the Dean’s List.

Will there be any changes to Latin Honors after the credit conversion?

The GPA thresholds for cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude will not change, in Liberal Arts or Engineering. Liberal Arts will still require the same number of grades of A and A-for courses taken in fulfillment of the major, and the other additional criteria for Latin Honors. For cum laude, Liberal Arts graduates must have achieved a record of at least 5 grades of A or A-(in courses adding up to at least 15 semester hours) in satisfying their concentration requirements. For magna cum laude and summa cum laude, Liberal Arts graduates must have achieved a record of at least 6 grades of A or A-(in courses adding up to at least 18 semester hours) in satisfying their concentration requirements.

Repeating Courses

In Spring 2017, I received a grade of D in a class I need for my major, and my major requires only grades of C- or better. I plan to re-take the class in Fall 2018. When I took the class in 2017, it was assigned 1.0 credit, and that will be converted to 4 SHUs. If the same course offered in Fall 2018 is only assigned 3 SHUs, and if I get the better grade I am seeking, how will this impact my GPA and the credits toward my degree?

For this situation, please bring your concern to the Registrar’s office. The Registrar has a formula in place to handle the nuances of repeating courses. The Registrar will balance out past and current credit values to be equal for both courses, regardless of when taken, by choosing the higher credit value, so as not to delete any credits earned toward the degree.

Miscellaneous

My classmate took a course last year and got 4 SHUs, but I’m only getting 3 SHUs. Why?

This actually isn’t new a new circumstance. Any time faculty change the credit value of a course, there will be students who took it before the change and got one amount of credit, and those who take it afterward and get a different amount of credit. The change to the credit-hour system in June 2018 will causes some courses to go up slightly in credit value and others to go down. For example: those who complete CLS 31 before the June 2018 conversion will have their 1 Tufts Credit converted to 4 SHUs; after the conversion, CLS 31 will be 3 SHUs. However, those who complete BIO 13 before the conversion will earn 4 SHUs, while those who complete BIO 13 after June 2018 will be assigned 5 SHUs. All of these changes in credit value were determined by Tufts faculty.

I’m doing more than 6 hours a week of homework. Can I petition for an additional SHU?

No. The SHU value measures the amount an average student is expected to spend in a typical week: it’s the amount of time the professor believes an average student will likely be spending on the course, counting both time in class and time out of class doing homework, reading, studying, writing papers, etc. This expectation is not a “contract” that guarantees a certain amount of work for every student.

The change to the credit-hour system seems to value Science and Engineering courses more than Arts and Humanities courses. Is that true?

No. The number of SHUs a course carries isn’t a measure of its intrinsic value or difficulty. It is simply a measure of the amount of time a student is expected to spend on the course in a typical week. Courses with labs, recitations, or large amounts of work out of class (like some upper-level seminars) require more time and, in turn, can receive higher credit values (more SHUs).

Students who take a number of 5–SHU classes will likely take fewer courses over all. Students who take mostly 3–SHU classes will likely take more courses, enabling them to study a larger number of subjects and areas of interest. Ultimately, however, our distribution requirements ensure that each student's education at Tufts has breadth, while major requirements ensure that a student's studies also have focus. Faculty from every department in Arts and Sciences, as well as Engineering, participated in the conversion process. No discipline was left out of consideration, and no discipline is being valued over any other by the change to the credit-hour system.