Academic Advising

The Associate Deans of Undergraduate Advising support undergraduate students in the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering. Advising Deans (also known as “alpha deans”) serve as the first point of contact for parents who have academic concerns about their students. Advising/Alpha Deans are assigned by last name. The Deans help students navigate course selection, manage their progress toward graduation, explore possible majors, and connect students to University resources and co-curricular opportunities. Additionally, Advising Deans help with discussions about academic difficulty, extended absences/leaves, and policies related to curriculum and graduation requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do Advising Deans work with parents/guardians to support students?

One of the biggest transitions from high school to college is understanding how a parent’s/guardian’s role changes. As young adults, students will be expected to take charge of their education, which will be a different experience from high school. In addition to the learning your student will be doing in the classroom, this independence will be an important part of their development as young adults. You should expect that sometimes your students may struggle with this newfound independence. We encourage parents/guardians to coach students through their problems rather than solving them for them.

If you have academic concerns about your student, we encourage you to reach out to their Advising Dean. Without prior permission from the student, the Advising Dean will not be able to share details about the student’s academic record, but they can share resources that may be helpful to the student. While Advising Deans are happy to speak to parents, it is ultimately the student they need to speak with, so parents should encourage their students to contact their Advising Dean.

While Advising Deans respect the role of parents/guardians in a college student’s success, and while we collaborate with parents/guardians, we encourage student-parent/guardian communication rather than staff-parent/guardian intervention.

What is FERPA?

FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1972. When a student reaches the age of 18 or begins to attend a post-secondary institution, regardless of age, all rights to their educational record belong to the student. This can be a major shift for families. We encourage families to start a conversation about how they will keep an open dialogue about student experiences, enrollment, and grades before their student moves in for Orientation. Students can grant parents/guardians Invited Viewer Access in our Student Information System (SIS) to see information about course enrollment, grades, and finances.

If your student has declined to enable the invited viewer access in SIS, we encourage you to speak with them about their choice. Please know that most students who encounter difficulties on campus are able to resolve them without the need for parental involvement. Regardless of whether or not your student has granted permission for their educational records to be shared, Advising Deans can still have a general conversation about your concerns, explain academic policies, and direct your student to campus resources.

Tufts does not disclose information to parents solely because a student is a tax dependent. While federal privacy law permits schools to make such disclosures, it does not require them to do so. Where a student is a dependent for federal tax purposes and the University believes that it is in a dependent student’s best interest, information from the student records may, at the University’s discretion, be released to the parents or legal guardian.

When will the Advising Deans contact parents/guardians?

The University does recognize that there are some situations where parental involvement may be appropriate to assist a student through a difficult circumstance. Under those circumstances, the University may choose to disclose information to parents.

Such disclosures are generally limited to information regarding a student’s official status at the University, but parents or legal guardians may also be notified, by the Advising Deans, in the following cases:

  1. When a student receives an academic alert,
  2. When a student is placed on academic probation,
  3. When a student has been required by the University to withdraw for academic reasons, or
  4. In exceptional cases when a student’s academic difficulties call into question the student’s continued enrollment at the University.
Will the Advising Dean keep a parent/guardian conversation confidential?

Advising Deans encourage open communication between all parties. In order to best address your concerns and support your student, it is beneficial for us to be upfront with your student and let them know you have reached out to us. Therefore, we will not withhold information from your student.

What advising resources exist at Tufts?

Students have access to a range of advising resources throughout their time at Tufts. For more information, please view our general advising resources and the advising page for your student’s academic program: Liberal Arts BA/BS Advising, Liberal Arts BFA Advising, and Engineering Advising. We encourage students to seek advising early and often to address their academic concerns.

My students says they would like to change their advisor/Advising Dean. Is this possible?

Students are allowed to change their Major Advisors. However, Pre-Major Advisors, Senior Academic Advisors, Academic Resource Advisors (for BFA students), and Advising Deans cannot be changed. Given the number of advising resources students have access to, they often find that they can meet with another advising resource. Nevertheless, students should be aware that advisors at Tufts collaborate and students will often find that their attempt to meet with someone else in order to receive a different answer will not yield the result they seek.

What if my student needs to miss class because they are ill or experience a personal or family emergency?

If your student is ill and is on-campus, we encourage them to visit Tufts’ Health Service, located on the Medford campus, because they can communicate directly with a student’s Advising Dean. For acute, short-term illness, students are able to notify their instructors and Advising Deans using the Short-Term Illness Notification in SIS. Please note that the Short-Term Illness Notification form does not excuse students from coursework, and students will be responsible for making up missed work. Due to COVID-19 protocols, Health Service will not see students on a walk-in basis and will not provide excuse notes if a student is too ill to take an exam. If students have medical documentation from an off-campus health care provider, they should provide that to their Advising Dean. For all other academic responsibilities that cannot be met due to illness, students should contact their Advising Dean.

If your student is diagnosed with a more serious illness or injury, including mono, pneumonia, or a concussion, Health Service will also notify the student’s Advising Dean. The Dean will work with your student and their professors to make adjustments to course work, if necessary.

If a student experiences a personal or family emergency (such as a death in the family) they should contact their Advising Dean as soon as possible. The Advising Dean will notify the student’s instructors and, if needed, help make arrangements for missed work.

If I made travel arrangements for my student and they find out that they have an exam that conflicts with their planned travel, will they be granted a makeup exam?

We advise all students not to make any travel arrangements until after they have received all of the syllabi for their classes. Advising Deans will only advocate for a makeup exam in the cases of family, personal, or health emergencies. Instructors are not obligated to allow students to make up an exam due to travel conflicts. We strongly encourage families to familiarize themselves with the Academic Calendar each year.

What are SHUs?

SHUs are an acronym for “Semester-hour units,” our course credit system at Tufts effective as of June 2018. Courses are assigned a SHU value that correspond with how much time the class meets per week. Classes range from 1 - 6 SHUs.

How many classes should my student take in their first semester? After their first semester?

A student’s course load in each semester is determined by their interests and the requirements of their degree program.

First semester BA/BS students are recommended to take 4-5 courses, totaling 14-16 SHUs. After their first semester students will need to enroll in a minimum of 12 SHUs per semester to satisfy the residency requirement and be full-time. However, they should average 15 SHUs per semester to graduate with 120 total SHUs.

First and second semester engineers are recommended to take 4 courses, totaling 14-16 SHUs. After their first year, engineers are recommended to take 5 courses, with a total number of SHUs ranging from 15-21. The total number of SHUs required for Tufts engineering degrees varies, with a minimum of 120. However, many students will find that they need to earn 130-140 SHUs to fulfill their specific degree requirements.

First semester BFA students are recommended to take 4-5 courses, totaling 14-16 SHUs. Because of the unique and personalized nature of the SMFA curriculum, each student takes anywhere between 12-18 credits each semester throughout their academic career, dependent on their course selections. All students are encouraged to take a blend of studio and non-studio coursework each semester. Students in the BFA need to earn a total of 120 SHUs to earn their BFA, including 76 SHUs of studio coursework and 42 SHUs of non-studio coursework.

First semester students in the combined BA/BFA program are recommended to take between 5-6 courses each semester, including 3 non-studio courses and 2 studio courses. Combined degree students typically take between 18-21 SHUs of course work. Combined degree students need to earn 96 SHUs of non-studio credits and 76 SHUs of studio credits to earn their two degrees.

What are the basic degree requirements?

All Tufts students are required to earn a minimum of 120 SHUs to receive their diploma. Engineering students and Combined-Degree BA/BFA students are required to earn additional SHUs as determined by their degree programs. A cumulative GPA of 1.67 is required for graduation.

BA/BS Requirements: The faculty of Tufts University believe that writing and foreign language study are indispensable to a liberal arts education. Additionally, they believe that regardless of a student’s interests, they should experience each of the following areas: the humanities, the arts, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and the mathematical sciences. To that end, all Liberal Arts BA/BS students must complete Foundation and Distribution Requirements in addition to the requirements of one major.

BA/BFA Requirements: Combined degree BA/BFA students are expected to complete all BA/BS foundation and distribution requirements as described above, in addition to the requirements for one major. Students are also required to take 15 SHUs of Art History courses and to earn 76 SHUs in studio art coursework.

BFA Requirements: The SMFA curriculum is self-directed and each student is encouraged to pursue a course of study appropriate to their training and interests. All BFA students must complete non-studio distribution requirements. Student studio coursework is evaluated within the classroom and also during a faculty and peer review board at the end of the semester.

BS Engineering Requirements: There are both general School of Engineering requirements and specific requirements for the 17 degrees offered by the School of Engineering.

In addition to the minimum number of credits and the requirements for each degree, all Tufts students are required to complete the academic residence requirement. Liberal Arts BA/BS/BFA, Engineering BS, and Combined-Degree BA/BFA students are required to complete eight full-time semesters of study to satisfy this requirement. Combined-Degree students with the New England Conservatory are required to complete ten full-time semesters. Transfer students are required to complete four full-time semesters. All students that enroll full-time in Fall 2020 or receive a Reduced Course Load accommodation, with the exception of transfer students, will receive an exceptional waiver to the Residency Requirement and are only required to complete six full-time semesters of study. For more information about what constitutes a full-time semester of study please visit our Residency Requirement webpage.

What if my student doesn’t know what classes to take? Or what they want to major in?

Choosing courses will be one of the first important tasks your student will do and one that many students struggle with during their first few semesters on campus. It is not uncommon for students who once seemed sure of their academic path to change their minds several times. It may be difficult for you to watch your formerly decisive and focused student become uncertain about whether their interests and abilities are best aligned with their current course selection. Encourage your student to seek all of the advice available, including advisors, departmental chairs, faculty members in a variety of disciplines, other students, and staff members in Academic Advising, Student Affairs, or the Career Center.

What if my student refuses to ask for help or meet with their Advisor?

We understand that it is difficult to watch your students struggle and not take advantage of resources available to them. At times, students also do not take the advice of their advisors. We believe that college students are responsible for their academic success and need space to make their own decisions and mistakes. We encourage you to continue to be supportive, but resist the urge to step in and attempt to solve their problems for them. Learning how to resolve problems on their own and rebounding from failures is part of the process of their development as young adults.

How does the Advising Dean support my student when they are ill?

The Advising Deans work with students who are referred to them by Health Services who are having significant illness that is impacting their ability to manage their academic work. The Dean wants to ensure that the student is getting health care. If needed, the Dean will also notify instructors of the medical issue and ask for some short-term flexibility (perhaps an extension on a paper, or an excused exam). But if illness persists, then the Advising Dean will be talking with the student about modifying their course load, or possibly taking a medical leave, as ongoing flexibility is not an option. The Advising Deans strongly recommend all students take tuition insurance in case health matters make it advisable for a student to take a medical leave.

Can I sit in on a class at Tufts?

Unless a parent/guardian is invited by the professor as a guest lecturer, parents and others not actually enrolled in the class are not permitted to sit in on any Tufts class.


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