Avoid These Pitfalls!

We have seen real students experience these pitfalls! Don't let them happen to you…

Taking a Course that Doesn't Count

  • RECR, MLSC – In the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS), of which our department is a part, limits are placed on how many credits of "activity" coursework can be applied to the degree. MLSC (Military Science) courses at the 400-level can be used for credit for a degree in the college. Additionally, at most 3 credits of 100-300 level MLSC or 100-level RECR coursework may be taken to satisfy the degree requirements, and these courses will be applied toward a student's general electives. For students who started at Mason earlier than 2017, and do not or cannot change to a 2017 or later catalog year, there are additional restrictions (some PHED and PRLS courses are also excluded), so in that case please see your advisor. Taking activity courses for enrichment is perfectly fine, just be aware of the limits on how they count.  
  • Checking the Mason Core lists – If you need to fulfill a Mason Core or CHSS general requirement, consult the CHSS website to see which courses count. Other courses will not count, no matter how logical it may seem to you. And be sure to look at the courses that count for your Catalog Year (see instructions on that CHSS webpage).

Forgetting to Check Prerequisites

Some courses have prerequisites and some do not. The only way to know for sure is to look up the course in the University Catalog. If you sign up for a course for which you have not met the prerequisites, the instructor or department may have you dropped from the course. This will be very painful if it happens late in the game, for example in the first week of classes… So take charge of the situation and check prerequisites before you register!

Delaying Taking a Prerequisite

The history and art history major programs are structured to give you a lot of flexibility but some important prerequisites do exist. For example, history majors MUST complete HIST 300: Introduction to Historical Method and ENGH 302: Advanced Composition BEFORE they can take HIST 499: Senior Seminar. In fact, HIST 300 can be taken as soon as a history major has sophomore status (30 credits), and our research finds that students who take the course as soon as they're eligible show an academic advantage in completing their degree. So don't wait! For art history majors, you must get ENGH 302 completed before you can take either of your 400-level seminars, and you must have either completed it or be taking it concurrently to take your ARTH 394: The Museum. ENGH 302 can be taken as soon as you have completed ENGH 101 or 100, your Mason Core Literature requirement, and 45 credits. Get it done!

Losing Credit by Unintentionally Repeating a Course

Sadly, we have seen this happen. The most common reason is because you take a course for which you already received transfer credit, whether that was credit from another school or test credit (for example, AP, IB). Sometimes you simply forget that you already took a course. Regardless of the reason, Mason’s course repeat policy means that if you take a course that is not repeatable for credit (“topics” courses are an exception), the new course will "overwrite" the credit and grade for your earlier course. You don’t earn the new credits you thought you’d earn and the most recent grade will stand, regardless of whether it went up or down. So please be careful! If you are a transfer student, study your transfer equivalency worksheet (in your Patriot Web account) and become very familiar with the titles of the courses already credited to you. Be especially careful if the content of a Mason course sounds similar to the content of a course you took elsewhere, even if the course you took elsewhere was titled something else.

Missing the Chance to Transfer Credits to Mason

Admissions has strict deadlines! This and other important related topics are covered in “Special Notes for Transfer Students.”

Taking a Course Elsewhere without Prior Approval

Students meeting specific requirements are permitted to take a limited number of credits at other colleges or universities for transfer back to Mason, but permission must be granted by the dean’s office BEFORE the student takes the course. Otherwise the course will not count. The rules are very particular so read about them and find the appropriate paperwork at https://academicaffairs.chss.gmu.edu/ugradpolicies/ugpolicies/courseelsewhere

Staying in a Course You Wish You’d Dropped

  • Checking your schedule – Before the semester starts, double check your schedule in Patriot Web to make certain you are registered for all of the courses you meant to take and only the courses you meant to take.
  • Academic Calendar (Add/Drop/Withdraw Deadlines) – Know these deadlines! You can always find them under Calendars on the Registrar’s website (http://registrar.gmu.edu/calendars/).
  • Unrestricted Withdrawal - For a period beginning after the final drop deadline and lasting for about 10 days, students may use Patriot Web to self-withdraw from any of their courses. Students who choose to take an unrestricted withdrawal will receive a grade of "W" for the course and are still liable for 100% of the tuition. The W will not affect your GPA but it is counted toward your attempted credits. If you are considering withdrawing from multiple courses, please contact your advisor to discuss ramifications and whether a non-academic withdrawal (see below) would be more appropriate. 
  • Selective Withdrawal – Three times during your career as an undergraduate at Mason you are allowed to withdraw from a class in the middle of the semester, without explanation and without need of anyone else’s approval, during the selective withdrawal period. This period starts right after the unrestricted withdrawal deadline and lasts for about four weeks. As with all withdrawals, the course does not disappear from your transcript the way a dropped course does, and it does still count toward your attempted credits, but the W grade you receive will not affect your GPA. For more information and to make sure you understand the details and possible ramifications, see https://academicaffairs.chss.gmu.edu/withdrawal/selective. NOTE: It is important to decide whether to take a selective withdrawal or request a non-academic withdrawal from the CHSS Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs (see next item).  
  • Dean’s Office Withdrawal (“Non-Academic Withdrawal”) – If, after the the last day to withdraw on your own, you encounter academic difficulty due to a non-academic event or circumstance, such as a health crisis, family emergency, or employment change resulting in a direct schedule conflict, the dean’s office may agree to withdraw you from your classes. As with selective withdrawal (see previous item), the courses do not disappear from your transcript but nor will the W grades affect your GPA. Policy and procedure information can be found at https://academicaffairs.chss.gmu.edu/withdrawal/non-academic
  • Grade Replacement Policy – So a course you stayed in did not go so well for you? Mason has a very forgiving course retake policy. Many courses can be reattempted, with the new grade replacing the previous grade in your GPA calculation. Just please remember that this means the new grade stands, whether it has gone up or down! Also, this is not an unlimited license to repeat courses - there is a limit of three graded attempts. NOTE: “Topics” courses usually may NOT be repeated for grade replacement. Examples of these courses include HIST 387: Topics in Global History or ARTH 399: Special Topics in the History of Art. These courses have been programmed to allow you to repeat the course number so that you can take different topics. Check the course listing in the University Catalog. If it says something like, “This course may be repeated for credit,” that means you probably can’t replace the grade. For questions, see your advisor.