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Progressing Toward a Degree


Classification (year in school) is determined by the number of credits completed and reported to the registrar, and is based on credit hours earned, not merely credit hours attempted. The grades F and NP and the marks I and X do not contribute toward credit hours earned and thus are not considered in determining year in school.

Classification in all colleges except Veterinary Medicine is as follows:

Sophomore: 30 credit hours earned

Junior: 60 credit hours earned

Senior: 90 credit hours earned

Students who have a bachelor's degree and are working toward another undergraduate degree, licensure, or admission to a specific graduate or professional program, are typically classified as a senior.

Transfer students without a degree are classified on the basis of credits accepted by Iowa State University.

Veterinary medicine students are promoted from the first- to the second-, third-, and fourth-year classes based upon satisfactory completion of the required courses for each year. To be promoted to the second-year class, students must have a cumulative grade-point average of at least 1.67 for all courses in the first year of the veterinary medicine curriculum. To be promoted to the third- and fourth-year classes, students must have a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.00 for all courses in the professional curriculum.

A student, who is attending Iowa State and decides not to work toward an undergraduate degree, will be classified as a special (nondegree) student. Admission requirements and academic standards regulations are the same as regular students. Credits taken as a special (nondegree) student are applicable for undergraduate degree purposes if the student is admitted later as a regular undergraduate. Credits obtained as an undergraduate special student may not, however, be applied toward a graduate degree.

Students enrolled in the Intensive English and Orientation Program (IEOP) are classified as special (nondegree) students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and usually are not permitted to enroll in academic courses until they have satisfied requirements for admission as regular students. Permission to enroll in one academic course may be granted under special circumstances.

Policies for Graduate Students

The Graduate College has specific policies approved by the Graduate College body. The Graduate College Handbook is the official source for all policies related to graduate students. See for the latest updated information.

Transfer of Credits

Credits presented from another institution are evaluated initially by the Office of Admissions to determine whether the courses are acceptable for transfer credit. In addition, credits applied toward a particular degree will be determined by the student's college, based on relevance to the students' program requirements as well as the level of performance deemed necessary for successful progress in that program. For example, courses that are deemed important to a program but were earned with less than a C grade may or may not be approved for a program. This policy also applies to students already enrolled at Iowa State University and to new transfer students. Grades earned in courses transferred to Iowa State University will not be used in calculating a transfer student's Iowa State cumulative grade point average.

A student who is admitted as a transfer from another college or university is required to have at least a 2.00 cumulative grade-point average for all transferable work taken elsewhere. If, due to special circumstances, a student is admitted with less than a 2.00 average, that student will have a transfer quality-point deficiency.

This deficiency will be added to any deficiency accumulated at Iowa State University and will be used to determine whether satisfactory progress toward a degree is being made. To graduate, students must earn sufficient quality points above a 2.00 at Iowa State University to offset any quality-point deficiency, including a transfer quality-point deficiency.

Students should consult with their academic advisers and the Office of Admissions before taking coursework at other colleges and universities to be certain the credits will transfer and will be applicable to their program of study. Students who believe that any transfer credits have not been correctly evaluated should consult with their academic adviser and with the Office of Admissions. Questions concerning how transfer credits are applied toward a degree program should be referred to the academic adviser and college office.

No more than 65 semester or 97 quarter credits earned at two-year colleges can be applied to a bachelor's degree from Iowa State University. While there is no limit to the number of credits that may be transferred from a four-year institution, the last 32 semester credits before receiving a degree from Iowa State University must be completed at Iowa State University.

Iowa State University students who attend one of the other Iowa Regent universities under the Regent Universities Student Exchange Program will have the credits earned at the other university counted as resident credit and grades received included in their Iowa State University cumulative grade point average, even if the credits are included in the last 32 semester credits. For information on applying to the program see Index, Regent Universities Student Exchange Program.

 AccessPlus Information System

AccessPlus is a secure and confidential campus information system that is available via the World Wide Web. Students, employees, and affiliates view personalized menus from campus and home workstations. For public convenience, AccessPlus stations are available in the Memorial Union and at the Visitors Information Center. Students can use AccessPlus to register for classes, obtain transcripts or enrollment certifications, submit emergency contact information, view and print current term schedules, view class meeting rooms, class instructors, academic records, final grades, financial aid status, current university bill, academic adviser assignment and projected date of graduation. University employees use the system to view personal information such as pay history and insurance. Some employees also perform business-related functions. Information about and access to AccessPlus may be found at

Third Party Access on AccessPlus

Third party access is an option in AccessPlus that allows students to grant access to selected personal information to a trusted third party. For example, Third Party Access allows a student to set up a special account for a parent or family member to view their grades and/or pay their university bill. More information on creating third party accounts is available from Help after signing onto AccessPlus at

Academic Advising

Academic advising and advisers are an intentional, collaborative relationship based on trust and mutual respect that promotes the student's development of competence, autonomy, and sound decision making skills. Adviser-student interactions are grounded in teaching and learning and are vital in promoting student growth and personal development through learning, discovery, and engagement. Academic advising supports the mission of the University.

Academic Advising Process

All undergraduate students are assigned an academic adviser based on their major/ curriculum. A new adviser assignment is made when a student changes majors/curricula. Advisers serve as a primary resource for students, connecting them with the wide variety of services and academic opportunities available to them. The advising experience begins during the prospective student stage and continues through graduation. The goal of academic advising is an individualized academic experience for each student developed through a mentoring relationship.

Academic Advising Responsibilities

A successful academic advising relationship involves fulfillment of responsibilities on the part of both the student and the academic adviser.

Student responsibilities include:

  • knowing Iowa State University policies and procedures
  • knowing graduation requirements for degree program
  • understanding and accepting the consequences of their academic decisions
  • seeking, evaluating, and acting upon advising assistance
  • taking responsibility for accomplishing his/her degree plan

Academic Adviser responsibilities include:

  • assisting students in achieving the learning outcomes of their academic program, their college, and the university
  • referring students to appropriate campus resources
  • empowering students to develop an academic plan appropriate to the student's abilities, interests, academic and career goals
  • communicating university policies and procedures accurately

Scholastic Recognition

The university recognizes those students who are doing exceptionally well in several ways, including the following.

  1. Dean's List. Each semester the university issues a dean's list made up of those students who have carried at least 12 credit hours of graded or S-F courses with a 3.50 grade-point average or above for the semester. Courses taken on a P-NP basis do not count as part of the 12-credit hour requirement. No dean's list is issued for summer school. The list can be viewed from the Office of the Registrar web site.
  2. Top 2 Percent. Each spring semester, undergraduate students in the top 2% of their class (freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior) within their college, based on cumulative grade point average, are recognized. In addition to a congratulatory letter from the university president, a notation of the accomplishment is recorded on the student's permanent record.
  3. Graduation with Distinction. Undergraduates who have a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 or higher at the beginning of their final term are eligible to graduate "with distinction" provided they have completed 60 semester credits of coursework at Iowa State University at the time they graduate, including a minimum of 50 graded credits.
    Students who graduate with a cumulative grade point average of 3.90 or higher will graduate Summa Cum Laude; those who graduate with a cumulative grade point average of 3.70 to 3.89 will graduate Magna Cum Laude; and those who graduate with a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 to 3.69 will graduate Cum Laude. This recognition appears on the student's official transcript and diploma and in the commencement program.
    Candidates for the bachelor of liberal studies degree may be graduated with distinction providing that they (a) have completed 45 semester credits of coursework at the three Iowa Regent universities at the time of graduation, (b) have earned at least a 3.50 cumulative grade point average at ISU, and (c) their combined grade point average for coursework taken at the three Iowa Regent universities meets the honors cutoff specified above.
  4. Honors Program. Students who are full members of the University Honors Program prior to Fall Semester 2011 must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.35 or higher at the beginning of their final term. Students becoming full members during Fall Semester 2011 or later need a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 at the beginning of their final term. In addition to meeting the appropriate grade point requirement, students will have completed an approved honors program of study and an honors project prior to graduation. This recognition appears on the student's permanent record and diploma, and in the commencement program.

Learning Communities

Learning communities are a university-wide initiative providing students the opportunity to connect with peers who have similar academic goals. Students in learning communities typically take one to three courses together and may live together (or near each other) in the same residence hall.

Although many of the learning communities are focused on first-year students, opportunities are available for sophomores, juniors, seniors, and transfer students.

In addition to developing academic and social networks, advantages of joining a learning community include: getting to know people and making friends in your major or area of interest, getting to know faculty and staff members, making a smooth transition from high school to college, making connections between in-class and out-of-class learning, applying classroom learning to real world situations through hands-on experiences, exploring career opportunities, and having fun! Most learning communities employ an upper-division student as a peer mentor who organizes various activities for the students, ranging from study groups to social events. We have found that students in learning communities are more satisfied with their overall experience at Iowa State, are more engaged, are more likely to remain enrolled at Iowa State after one year, and are more likely to graduate.

First-year students are offered the opportunity to sign up for learning community courses during summer orientation. For learning communities that offer a residential living environment the sign up takes place online with the housing contract.