Undergraduate Academic and Registration FAQs

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What is the difference between a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science?

The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in International Affairs encourages students to explore international affairs through the liberal arts, creating broad-based political and cultural understanding with study in language, the social sciences, science and math, arts, and humanities. The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in International Affairs also requires a breadth of study across the liberal arts but encourages students who have particular interest in scientific inquiry and quantitative skills to pursue complementary STEM-related courses. Regardless of which degree you pursue, the Introduction to the Major requirements are the same.

The B.A. requires students to complete a concentration, whereas students who pursue a B.S. in International Affairs complete a concentration or a second major. The B.S. also requires students to take 18 credits in approved, STEM-related courses, while the B.A. does not. These 18 credits in STEM-related courses may be applied to a second major or minor, if pursued.

What is a regional major?

While a major in International Affairs gives students a generalist degree providing breadth across regions, a regional major provides depth and specialization within one region, the Elliott School offers regional majors in Asian Studies, Latin American & Hemispheric Studies, and Middle East Studies.

A regional major encourages students to focus their studies in an area of the world that is of particular interest to them utilizing a framework in liberal arts and language study. You will learn about the region's politics, societies, history, culture and literature. When completing a regional major, you must complete your language proficiency in a language spoken within the region.

What is a concentration?

A concentration represents an academic specialization within the International Affairs major, usually consisting of five courses and focusing on a specific functional or regional theme (e.g., International Environmental Studies, Africa). These courses must be taken in at least two different academic departments. Declaring a concentration (required for the B.A; optional for the B.S if pursuing a second major) allows you to shape your degree program to include study in a particular topic of interest. Regional majors do not require a concentration since the major itself is already a specialized program.

What’s the difference between a functional and a regional concentration and do I need both?

Students who pursue the B.A. in International Affairs major are required to declare one concentration (optional for the B.S if pursuing a second major). You can choose from the list of concentrations that is divided between two categories: functional and regional. Depending on your interests, you can choose more than one concentration but only one is required.

Functional concentrations allow you to explore contemporary international topics or themes. Through your study of a functional concentration, you will understand critical global challenges such as international development, international environmental studies, or security policy.

Regional concentrations allow you to focus your studies on a specific area of the world.  Within a regional concentration, you will take social studies and humanities courses relevant to that region. Students who complete a regional concentration may also take one of their regional foundation courses with a focus on the same region (Note: you cannot double count a course between the two requirements). When completing a regional concentration, students are not required to demonstrate language proficiency in a language from that region.

When and how can I declare or change my major(s), minor(s), or concentration(s)?

  • Major(s): Unlike at other schools where you have to declare your major, students in the Elliott School enter with a B.A. in International Affairs already declared. If you wish to change your major to the B.S. in International Affairs, or add a second major within Elliott or from another GW school or college, you can do so at any time before you apply to graduate. It is best to consult your academic advisor when you add or change your major(s). If you declare a second major outside of the Elliott School, you also should meet regularly with an advisor from that school or college to check on your progress.
  • Minor(s) outside the Elliott School: Elliott School students can declare or change their minor(s) at any time before they apply to graduate. When doing so, you should consult both your academic advisor and an advisor from the minor program or department. 
  • Concentration(s): Students pursuing the B.A. degree are required to declare a concentration no later than the end of their fourth semester of study.  Students pursuing the B.S degree have the option of declaring a concentration or a second major. After the initial concentration is declared, students are allowed to add a second or third concentration, or change their original concentration, in consultation with their advisor.

You can find all relevant declaration forms for Elliott School undergraduates on the Elliott School Forms for Undergraduate Students page by scrolling down to the Program Declaration Forms section.

Can courses double count?

  • Within the Elliott School curriculum (Introduction to the Major, Supporting Courses in the Liberal Arts, Advanced Fundamentals, Concentration): Only a WID course can apply to an Elliott School requirement as well as to the WID requirement. No other course can apply to more than one requirement in your Elliott School curriculum.
  • Between the Elliott School curriculum and non-Elliott requirements: A course approved for an Elliott School requirement and for an additional minor or major may apply to both (e.g., PSC 1001 can apply to the International Affairs major and to a second major in Political Science.) Depending upon the non-Elliott major or minor declared, some exceptions apply.
  • Between the Elliott School curriculum and the University General Education requirements (as seen on your DegreeMap): A course approved for both an Elliott School requirement and for a University General Education requirement may apply to both (e.g., CHEM 1004 can apply to the Elliott School science course requirement and to the University General Education Scientific Reasoning with Lab requirement).

Can I take courses in the summer?

GW offers summer classes in two six-week sessions and they can be applied in the same manner as Fall and Spring term classes. After matriculating at GW, you also may take summer classes at another school or college and, if approved, they too may be applied to Elliott or non-Elliott major or minor requirements (you cannot use post-matric transfer credit to satisfy GW General Education math or science requirements). You are restricted to three post-matriculation classes (up to a total of 12 credits).

What are Z, W, and I grades?

  • The symbol “Z” (unauthorized withdrawal) is assigned when students are registered for a course that they have not attended or have attended only briefly, and in which they have done very little or no graded work. The symbol “Z” is not a grade but an administrative notation. 
  • The symbol “W” (authorized withdrawal) indicates that the student has withdrawn from their course after the fourth week of classes. Undergraduate students in the Elliott School of International Affairs may withdraw from any or all undergraduate courses through the last day of classes in the fall, spring, or summer semester in which they are enrolled. The withdrawal will be processed unless withdrawing from the course would result in an international student or student-athlete taking fewer credits than they are required to take. All charges for courses from which a student withdraws are subject to the refund policy listed under Fees and Financial Regulations in the Bulletin.
  • The symbol “I” (Incomplete) indicates that a student with extenuating circumstances was unable to complete a portion of required work for a course during the semester of enrollment, and a satisfactory explanation has been given to the instructor. If the instructor accepts the explanation, they can give the student an “I” in the course. An Incomplete can be granted only when the student’s prior performance and class attendance have been satisfactory. The remaining work must be completed within the designated time period agreed upon by the instructor, student, and school. Students should fill out an incomplete grade contract form (PDF) with their instructor and submit it to their advisor if they are approved to receive an Incomplete.

For more information about Z, W or I grades, students are always encouraged to consult the University Bulletin’s Regulations and their academic advisor.

I believe that I was unfairly graded. What can I do?

Each school at GW has its own grade grievance process and form which provides students the opportunity to resolve their grading concern. If you believe that you were graded unfairly or arbitrarily, you can follow these procedures: You will need to first identify which school offers the course in question. (For example, IAFF courses are offered by Elliott, while ECON courses are offered by Columbian College.)  Once you identify the relevant school, you will follow that school’s grade grievance procedure and will use that school’s forms. Typically, you should first try to resolve the issue directly with the instructor. If you cannot come to an agreement with the instructor, then employing the grievance process is the next step.

If you wish to grieve a grade in an IAFF course, please use the Elliott School’s Grade Grievance form (PDF). If you have a grievance with how you were graded in a different department’s course, please look online for that school’s grade grievance form or ask your academic advisor for assistance.

Can I transfer in courses from another institution?

GW and the Elliott School allow students to transfer in credits - with some restrictions - from other institutions, whether those credits were earned before you began your studies at GW (pre-matriculation credits), or after you started coursework at GW (post-matriculation credits). You can find detailed information about this process and these policies on the Elliott School Transfer Credit page. You are restricted to three post-matriculation classes (up to a total of 12 credits). Approved GW study abroad program credits are not counted against the post-matriculation limit.

Please keep in mind that minor and major programs outside of the Elliott School may have their own restrictions (“resident credit” requirement) on whether you can fulfill their requirements with transfer credit. Please consult with an advisor in the non-Elliott major or minor program.

Can I fulfill a requirement with a course not on the approved list?

In certain circumstances, yes. If you believe that a course you are taking, will take, or that you have already taken meets the criteria for a specific degree requirement, you can submit a Course Substitution Request to have this course reviewed. Please consult with your academic advisor before submitting a Course Substitution Request. Some further information about Course Substitution Requests:

It is uncommon for a course offered through GW to be approved for a requirement that it does not have the attribute for (not pre-approved for) as courses are reviewed for specific requirements when the Schedule of Classes is compiled each semester.  However, in some circumstances, it is warranted to have a course reviewed for another requirement through the Course Substitution Request process.

If you are wondering if a STEM-related course can count toward the B.S. in International Affairs STEM requirement, please first check the List of Reviewed Courses for Upper Level STEM Course Requirement PDF found in the Advanced STEM Requirement section of the BS in International Affairs Curriculum page.  This list includes courses that have both been approved and courses that have been denied. If the course in question does not appear on this list, please submit a Course Substitution Request to have it reviewed.

If you want to know if a course that you have taken through Study Abroad or that you are bringing in as transfer credit may count for a requirement, please review the Elliott School Transfer Credit page for more information.

I have questions/concerns about DegreeMap, what do I do?

Your question may be answered on the DegreeMAP Frequently Asked Questions page. If you still have questions after reviewing the FAQs, please contact your academic advisor.

How do I figure out my registration date?

You can check your registration date through GWeb and the Registrar’s Registration page. Do not use DegreeMap’s “Credits Applied” as this number includes credits in progress.

In GWeb, go to "Student Records and Registration," click on "Registration Menu," and "Prepare for Registration." From there, you can check your “Registration Status.” That page will list your earned hours which will be presented as Institution Hours and Transfer Hours. Add those two numbers together to determine your total earned hours.

Using your total earned hours, you can check the Registration page to determine your registration date. This information (with screenshots) is also included in the Registrar's How to Register Guide.

How do I choose courses to register for?

There are a few areas of guidance that can be useful when choosing courses for a given semester. First, consider what your remaining requirements are for your degree plan. DegreeMAP is a good tool to determine what these requirements are.

Next, use the Bulletin or Schedule of Classes to find courses that will satisfy those requirements (see “Which courses satisfy Elliott School requirements?”) and find the options that are most interesting or relevant to you. If you are having trouble finding courses or identifying your remaining requirements, do not hesitate to contact your advisor.

Ultimately, the path that you take to graduation and the courses you choose to get you there are your own. As you develop or make changes to that plan, your advisor is available to help ensure that you can build a course schedule that best reflects your goals and interests.

Which courses satisfy Elliott School requirements? 

Courses that have been approved for Elliott School requirements can be found in two places. The first is the GW Bulletin, which lists the courses most regularly offered at GW that satisfy requirements. In any given semester, additional courses can be found by searching the Schedule of Classes by course attribute. Course attributes are unique codes that represent Elliott School requirements. Courses that are approved for an Elliott School requirement will have an associated course attribute for that requirement.

Can I register for a class that is waitlisted?

When a course is waitlisted, you may add your name to the waitlist as long as the waitlist has not reached capacity. If a space opens on the waitlist, the next student on the waitlist will be contacted by the Registrar with instructions to sign in to the course. That student has 24 hours to register or the spot will go to the next student on the waitlist. NOTE: The waitlist is not first-come, first-served, but is determined by a number of factors, including earned credits. More information regarding waitlists can be found on the Registrar's Waitlists page. Instructors are unable to override the waitlist; the only way into a waitlisted course is through the waitlist.

Can an academic advisor add or drop me from a class?

Only students may add or drop themselves from a GW course.

If you are unable to register in GWeb for a course that still has space, check the Schedule of Classes to determine whether departmental approval is required.  If so, contact the department or instructor of the course (and include an RTF-EZ) who will review your request and may sign your RTF-EZ to allow you into the course.

What is the deadline to add, drop, or withdraw from a class?

Students may freely add courses on GWeb from the time their registration window opens until the end of the second week of classes. Registration schedules can be found on the Registrar’s Registration page

Students may drop a course on GWeb through the fourth week of classes.  Dropping a course removes it entirely from the transcript.

Through the 10th week of classes, students may withdraw from a course on GWeb, which will result in a “W” on the transcript. After the 10th week, students must use an RTF Classic form, signed by their advisor, to withdraw from a class.  The deadline to withdraw from the course is the last day of classes.

NOTE: Dropped and withdrawn courses are subject to the University’s tuition refund schedule if the dropped/withdrawn credits would result in a change to the student’s tuition bill. Some students (including but not limited to international students, student-athletes, and recipients of some scholarships) may have commitments or statuses that can factor into their decision to drop or withdraw from a class. Students should consult with relevant departments (International Services Office, Athletics Department, Office of Student Financial Assistance) before deciding to  drop or withdraw from a course.

Do I need to use an RTF or an RTF-EZ?

An RTF is used to manually add, drop, or withdraw from a class when an error, policy or prerequisite prevents a student from doing so. There are two forms of RTF:  The RTF-EZ, which the instructor of the course signs and you email directly to [email protected], and the RTF Classic, which you email to your advisor after the instructor signs it. If a course is waitlisted and you are unable to register for the waitlist in GWeb, you can use either the RTF-EZ or the RTF Classic to add yourself to the waitlist.

Guidelines for when to use each form:

Option 1: Registration Transaction Form EZ (RTF-EZ)

The RTF-EZ form requires instructor/department approval but does not require advisor approval. Use this form to override the following registration errors:

  • Instructor/Department approval needed (e.g., "Instructor's Signature")
  • Pre-requisites (e.g., "Prerequisite Error: You have not satisfied a prerequisite course or minimum test score required for this course.")
  • Restriction (e.g., "This course is restricted to students pursuing specific degrees.")
  • Course capacity when there is no waitlist (e.g., "This course has reached the enrollment maximum.”)

Email the RTF-EZ form (PDF) directly to the Office of the Registrar ([email protected]) with "RTF-EZ” in the subject line.

Option 2: Registration Transaction Form Classic (RTF)

The RTF form requires department/instructor and advisor approval. Use this form for the following exceptions:

  • Repeating a course for credit
  • Adding a course after the 4th week of classes if it has reached capacity 
  • IAFF courses that require departmental approval (e.g., Research Seminars)
  • Overriding a time conflict
  • Changing grade mode
  • Withdrawals after the 10th week of the semester

Email the RTF form (PDF) to your academic advisor.

Can I retake a class?

The Undergraduate Academic Forgiveness policy allows students to retake up to three courses for which they received a letter grade of D+ or lower. If for any reason you need to retake a course for which you received a C- or higher, please consult with your advisor.