The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Advising FAQ


Major (and minor) requirements

Transfer courses; Courses applied in Spire; Double-dipping courses

Registering for courses; Holds; Credit limits

Pass/Fail; Dropping or withdrawing; Incompletes

Questions related to completing the degree

What are the requirements to earn a BA degree in English?

Earn 120 overall credits

  • A student must earn 45 credits in residence and/or through UMass Amherst CPE to fulfill the residency requirement. This is an issue only for transfer students.
  • A student must earn 54 credits in residence and/or through UMass Amherst CPE to earn latin honors.

Maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0 to remain in good academic standing with the University.

Complete all General Education (GenEd) requirements

  • GenEds must be taken for a letter grade and require only a passing grade.
  • If a student believes they have taken an AP course and/or transfer course that should count toward a GenEd but is not counting, refer them to the Registrar’s office located at 213 Whitmore and have them ask to speak to a transfer counselor.
  • The Integrative Experience is fulfilled in a student’s primary major and, because it is a GenEd, requires only a passing grade.

Fulfill the CHFA foreign language requirement

A student must take up to an intermediate 2 in any foreign language offered on campus for a letter grade and has to pass the courses to move forward and fulfill the requirement. The college allows the final level, intermediate 2, to be taken elective pass fail.

Note: Some courses are offered in intensive sequence, are 6 credit courses, and cover two semesters of material in one semester, thereby allowing a student to complete the requirement in 1 academic year. These courses are meant for students already proficient in at least one other foreign language and are not recommended as a speedy way to finish up this requirement. 

If a student needs to complete their foreign language requirement in one year, we recommend they take two levels of a romance language through UMass CPE or another CHFA approved institution over the summer and the final two levels the following academic year.  We recommend romance languages because there are more of them offered during the summer and they are always offered through UMass CPE. 

The College will waive their foreign language requirement if: a major has taken 4 levels in a foreign language in high school; or 3 levels in one foreign language and 2 levels in a second foreign language; or is bilingual and can test their proficiency.

  • The College applies the foreign language waiver. We do not.
  • This is not an automatic process and it will take a few weeks for the College to apply the waiver, where applicable.
  • A student with a documented disability through Disability Services may be entitled to a foreign language modification. This is not a waiver but it substitutes other courses designated by CHFA Advising in lieu of the required levels in foreign language.
  • Transfer students will have to bring a copy of their high school transcript to the College who will not have access to their high school transcript.
  • The College has to approve all transfer, exchange and Five College courses toward the foreign language requirement.

Direct students to CHFA Advising located at E202 South College if they have any further questions about the foreign language requirement.
For more information about the language requirement, please visit CHFA's page.

Fulfill the English major requirements

All courses must be taken for a letter grade.  A student must earn a C or higher for courses to count toward the major.  We allow a maximum of three approved courses taken outside the major to count. This includes inter-departmental courses (Comparative Literature has several, for instance), Five College courses, transfer and exchange courses. No AP tests are allowed to count toward the major.

These are the major requirements:

  • English 200
  • One course in British literature before 1700
  • One course each in two of the following three:
    • British literature after 1700
    •  American literature before 1865
    • American literature after 1865
  • One course in global Anglophone/ethnic American literature, culture and rhetorics at a 200 or higher level
  • Junior Year Writing (English 300)
    • This requirement is waived for 2nd majors but required for 2nd majors who are pursuing a dual degree (see below for info related to dual degree)
  • One elective in English at a 200 or higher level
  • One elective in English at a 300 or higher level
  • One elective in English at a 400 or higher level
  • Integrative Experience
    • This requirement is waived for 2nd majors and dual degrees.
    • Upon approval by an English Advisor, we will allow a prior instance of the IE taken in another department to count.  Please see Celeste in the undergraduate office regarding the paperwork needed to accept another instance of IE to count toward our own. This is relevant only for our primary majors.

What are the letters of specialization?

The English Department offers 8 Letters of Specialization, 1 Certificate, and 1 Individualized Option. Our specializations are: American Studies, Creative WritingDigital Humanities + GamesEnvironmental HumanitiesSocial Justice: Race, Class, Gender, AbilityStudy and Practice of Writing (SPOW), Teaching the English Language Arts (TELA), and an individualized plan for students who wish to create their own pathway through the major. We also offer 1 certificate in Professional Writing and Technical Communication (PWTC). Each letter of specialization is comprised of 3 to 5 courses and requires a C or better except for Creative Writing and PWTC, both of which require a B or better in their coursework.

Students who are pursuing 1 or more letters of specialization are encouraged to work on them in tandem with their progress in the major to ensure they have the time to complete the major and the letter(s).  We allow students to double count these courses toward the major requirements, where applicable, to help students fulfill both the major requirements and their specialization requirements. 

We have more information on the certificate and specializations on our website. 

What is required for a minor in English and how does a student declare it?

We require 6 courses for the minor:

  • English 200 Introduction to Literary Studies, Intended for English majors
  • One course in American literature at a 200 or higher level
  • One course in British literature at a 200 or higher level
  • One course in global Anglophone/ethnic American literature, culture and rhetorics at a 200 or higher level
  • One English elective at a 200 or higher level
  • One English elective at a 300 or higher level

A student must earn a C on all coursework, and we allow no more than two courses outside the department to count toward the minor.  We require that students declare the major in English so that they can get into courses open only to English majors. 

A student formally declares the minor after they have completed the coursework or are a graduating senior in the process of finishing the last coursework.  In that case, they stop by the English undergraduate office to complete the paperwork that they will then turn into the registrar’s office.

How can a student add or drop a major?

We are able to add and drop English majors at the undergraduate office online via Spire and no paperwork is required.  If a student is looking to declare English as a primary or secondary major, they simply need to stop by the English undergraduate office to declare the major and we can add them via Spire.  If a student is looking to add on a major outside of English, they should first consult the undergraduate pages of the major they wish to add on and then either make an appointment online to see the Undergraduate Program Director of that department or contact their undergraduate office directly.  Some majors still require the “change of major” form to be completed and turned into the registrar’s office, but most change of majors are now done online.

What is our transfer course policy in English?

We allow up to three approved courses taken outside of the Department to count toward our major requirements and two approved courses toward the minor.  This includes transfer courses, Five College courses, and courses taken on exchange; however, we do consider courses taken at the Oxford Summer Program to count as in-residence because it is a special program with which we are closely affiliated.

How do I get applicable transfer courses to count?

Contact Celeste at the English Undergraduate office and she can redirect these courses appropriately on a student’s ARR.

Can a course count toward more than one requirement?

We allow an English course to count toward two major requirements if the student takes one additional English elective at a 300-level or higher.  For instance, a student can count English 204 (Introduction to Asian American Literature) toward the Anglophone/ethnic American and the course in American literature after 1865 if they take one additional 300 level English elective. This allowance can be very helpful to majors who are pursuing a double major and/or letter of specialization. 

Why are English courses not accurately reflected on my advisees’ ARR?

This is highly annoying when it happens but it can be easily fixed. Many of our courses can count toward more than one requirement and Spire will count them toward the wrong requirement often. Plus, due to an unfortunate programming glitch in the last update, Spire sometimes "re-assigns" courses out of the requirement category they are fulfilling in favor of a more current course. We hope this unfortunate problem will be resolved with the next update but until then Celeste will have to correct these issues. Contact her if you need English courses redirected on a student’s ARR and she will be happy to do so.

What determines a student’s pre-registration appointment?

A student’s pre-registration enrollment period is set by the registrar’s office and is based on their class level, with seniors being the first class allowed to pre-register for classes and freshmen being the last class.  The class level is determined by credits. For more information, please visit the Registrar's page.

Senior:             87 credits and above

Junior:             57 – 86 credits

Sophomore:    27 - 56 credits

Freshmen:       0 - 26 credits

What kinds of holds are placed on a student account that would prevent them from preregistering for classes next semester?

Students may have a hold on their account/record preventing registration for various reasons. Students should contact the office that placed the hold. The following are some of the most common:

  • Bursar's Office - usually an outstanding balance. Students should go to the Bursar's Office, 215 Whitmore.

  • Health Services - usually missing immunization forms. Students should go to Health Services, 150 Infirmary Way .
  • Academic Dean - usually students exceeding ten semesters. Students have a ten semester limitation to complete degree requirements. To continue at UMass Amherst beyond these limits, students must have approval from their Academic Dean along with a recommendation from the Department. Students should go to the Undergraduate English Office, E345 South College prior to going to the Academic Dean's office.
  • Advisor Hold. Often this is due to a credit alert. Students who average fewer than 12 credit hours per semester after four semesters of enrollment are required to see their Chief Advisor prior to being allowed to register for the following semester. Students should see their English advisor, who should then contact Celeste in the Undergraduate Office to remove the hold or students may go directly to the Undergraduate office.  Also, we are now requiring students in English 200 see their advisor for pre-registration counseling.  Celeste places and releases these holds as well.

How many credits may a student take per semester?

All full-time humanities majors may enroll in a maximum of 19 credits per semester. Majors wishing to exceed their credit limit must complete a Petition for a Credit Overload, which they can download online or pick up from and return to CHFA Advising, located in E202 South College.

Note: If English is the 2nd major and the student’s primary major is in another college, they will have to complete the paperwork for their primary major’s college.

What is the procedure for taking a course at one of the Five College institutions?

To be eligible to take a Five College class, the student must be returning to campus (first semester students are ineligible), be in good academic standing, and be registered in at least one 3-credit UMass course.  NOTE: Special Students, Continuing & Professional Education and Dual Enrollment Students are not eligible.

Students may register for a Five College class during the first two weeks of pre-registration and during the add/drop period. 

Step by Step Registration:

  • Identify course(s) from Five College Course Catalog. NOTE: No more than 8 credits can be taken at any one of the other four institutions per semester.
  • Locate the Five College Enrollment Request Form on your SPIRE account. Log on to SPIRE and under "Enrollment" follow the link for Five-College Enrollment Request.
  • Read the two pages of instructions and enter the course information onto the form. (Handwritten forms will not be accepted.)
  • Print out TWO copies of the form.
  • Acquire instructor signatures: During Pre-registration - IF the course has limited enrollment, requires prerequisites, or requires instructor's permission. During the Add/Drop Registration - ALL courses require the instructor's signature.

Bring both copies (with signatures, if needed - see above) of the form to the Five College Interchange office located at 511 Goodell.

How can a student take course elective pass/fail and when should that be done?

A student is allowed to switch one letter graded course to elective pass/fail per semester; they can do this online during the add/drop period but will need to complete a “Course Change” form to do it after add/drop (but before the mid-semester date).  To change online: under the “enrollment” tab on Spire, select “edit course,” pull down the course to make elective pass/fail, change the default letter grade to pass/fail and then save. 

Most courses have to be taken for a letter grade to count, including the General Education courses, but the final level toward the foreign language proficiency and all courses counting toward the overall credits only can be taken elective pass/fail. 

Direct students to the English undergraduate office if they need help with any of this.

What is the course repeat policy?

Students may repeat courses in which earned a C- or lower, under the course repeat policy. The grade earned in the 2nd instance will prevail.  If a student earned a D in the first instance, they will also earn the credits, which means they will not earn the credits in the second instance.  If they passed the course in the first instance and failed the second instance, they will also lose the credits.

If a student repeats a course more than once, they must go to CHFA Advising to get the third instance approved.

How long does a student have to drop a course from their schedule?

A student can drop any course during add/drop with no record on their account.  After the add/driop period ends, they have until the mid-semester date to drop a course from their schedule, which will then appear on their transcript as a “W.”

A student may petition the college that is offering a course they wish to drop after the mid-semester date but it is the college’s decision whether to allow a course to be dropped after the mid-semester date has passed.  CHFA Advising requires students complete a Petition for Late Drop, an Attendance and Performance Verification Form and a Course Change form and turn in all completed forms to them for the late-drop petition.  They do not recognize failing in a course as grounds for a successful petition.  Grounds for a successful late-drop petition would be student illness, severe family crisis or some other external circumstance deemed beyond the student’s control  

What are the consequences of dropping a course past the mid-semester date?

Too many W’s on a student’s record might make their applications to graduate school less competitive but one or two are not likely to matter so much.  What might be of much greater consequence is if dropping the course will drop their overall credits under full-time status (which is a minimum of 12 credits) and they receive financial aid for full time.  In that scenario, it is not advised to drop the course, as it could jeopardize a student’s financial aid package.  Have them contact Financial Aid in 243 Whitmore if they have questions about that.

How long does a student have to finish up work for an Incomplete (INC)?

A student has one semester after the incomplete is recorded to finish up their work and be graded.  An "INC" grade automatically turns to an "IF" after one semester (or to an "F" if it was taken before Fall 2004).  An instructor should be able to change their grade online via Spire but they can submit a Grade Change Form with their signature if they experience a problem doing the change of grade online.  An "INC" grade may be extended for a semester provided the instructor of the course  agrees to accept late work.  In that case, they will have to complete a “change of grade” form which they can get from the English undergraduate office and which must be submitted to the Registrar's office.

Under what circumstances can an instructor change a student’s grade after the fact and what is the process?

If an instructor miscalculated the final grade, lost paperwork from the student or incorrectly recorded the grade on Spire, they are entitled to change the student’s grade after the fact.  In that scenario, the instructor will need to complete a “grade change” form which they can get at the English undergraduate office and leave the signed form with the office for the final two rounds of signatures.  We will send the completed form to the registrar’s office on your behalf.

If an instructor fails to record grades before the official deadline, they will have to prepare a change of grade form for each student in their class(es).

What is dual degree?

An undergraduate can earn two degrees upon graduating if they:

  • Earn 150 credits (30 credits more than required for a single degree)
  • Complete all requirements for both majors and the college requirements for those majors. 
    • Note: the 2nd major may require additional coursework and students must check in with their 2nd major to see if they have additional requirements for dual degree. 
    • We require our 2nd majors who are also pursuing a dual degree take Junior Year Writing with us.  We waive this requirement for our 2nd majors but not for dual degree candidates.
  • Complete the “Dual Degree” form in their final semester on campus and turn it into the registrar’s office.  This form can be downloaded from the registrar’s website or picked up at their office located at 213 Whitmore.

Can a major finish up their degree at another institution?

If a student has met their residency requirement and are not otherwise prevented from finishing up their degree elsewhere, then they can do so and need to complete a “Senior Year in Absentia” form, which they can download from the registrar’s website or pick up from their office in 213 Whitmore. 

  • In English we allow a maximum of three transfer courses to count toward our requirements; so if  a student is already at their threshold, they will not be able to finish up their degree at another institution and graduate as a UMass Amherst alumnus/a.
  • UMass Amherst is the only institution that offers Integrative Experience and there are no transfer equivalents they will recognize. Therefore, this course must be taken on campus. 

How many semesters does a student have to complete their degree before they have to appeal for extra semesters through their dean’s office?

A student has 10 semesters to finish their degree before needing to seek approval by their Dean’s office. 

How can a student change their expected date of graduation?

In the SPIRE Menu, go to Graduation > Graduation Data. Alternately, on your Student Center, go to the Expected Graduation Term section and click the link for Graduation Data.