Frequently Asked Questions

What "safety nets" are available to first-year students at WPI, and what responsibility does the school have to the parents in the sharing of information in terms of the students' academic progress? Do professors let students know if they are in 'academic trouble' before they fail?

Almost all WPI first-year classes have 3 or more exams, with the first typically 2 weeks into the class. Most faculty consider this exam an early warning of progress for students. Many faculty make clear when their office hours are for extra help or to answer questions, and announce the schedule for any student-run help sessions for students who are in difficulty. Additionally first-year students' faculty advisors and student peer advisors are available on a regular basis evenings in the residence halls checking with the students to see how they are doing. Frequently, they will check with a student's professors if they have an indication from the student that he or she is struggling. After conversation with the student, advisors may make referrals to appropriate campus resources if necessary.  Additional the Academic Advising Office is available for any student who is experincing difficulty.

Is there a way of letting parents know that trouble is looming?

The best way, of course, is for parents to ask their students--who may or may not be in a position fully to respond. Parents could call either the Director of Academic Advising or the Associate Director for First-Year Advising and--within the limitation of privacy laws--they would try to ascertain how things are going.

The "Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" (FERPA) strictly limits to whom WPI can provide information with respect to student grades. Please see our FERPA policy Web page for our statement on these matters. Generally, by law no one at WPI has the right to respond to a request in any form to release information on student academic progress unless that student has given permission for that release. However, unless a student specifies in writing he or she is not a dependent and wants no communications sent home, WPI interprets FERPA to mean we can contact parents under certain conditions, listed below. There are grade release forms in the academic advising that students can sign authorizing the Director of Academic to query faculty on a particular student's academic progress and share that information with parents. Typically the students who sign these authorizations are students who are working with the Academic Advising staff in the academic support services program to try to improve their academic standing.

At the end of A and C Term, the Director of Academic Advising reviews all the grades and sends letters home to the parents whose son/daughter received no academic credit for A and/or C term. The letter states that student should contact the director to make an appointment to discuss the situation to see what can be done to help the student get back on track the next term. Alternately, at the end of B and D term, parents and students receive warning or probation letters which again encourage the student to contact the Director for academic assistance. The Director follows-up all the letters up with an e-mail to the student reminding them that they should come in for assistance.

Are term grades sent to parents?

Because so much communication at WPI occurs electronically, students invariably learn of their grades by checking their transcripts over the Web, where grades are posted virtually as soon as faculty submit them. Students can view their grades online at the end of each term and we encourage them to share their grades with their parents.WPI sends grades home to parents at the end of B term and D term.

Are no grades given when a course is unsuccessfully completed?

If for whatever reason a course is not completed, students are assigned a "no record (NR)"--not a grade, but an acknowledgment no passing grade was earned. The "NR" symbol is used only for internal bookkeeping. On a student grade report on the web, a course for which a student as received no credit simply does not appear. Thus at the extreme, a student who earns no credit in a term receives a blank grade report.

The 7 week term has one great advantage for students especially in the first year. If they do poorly, they learn of the need to improve their learning skills after the first 7-week term is over. They have the opportunity in the second term to try again, hopefully (perhaps with help from various resources available to them) to improve, and to pass their courses. In a semester system, failures are not assessed until a half year had gone by, and there's only the spring semester in which to catch up.

What academic support services are available?

The Academic Advising Office runs a very successfully academic coaching program that helps students get back on track with their academics. For more information on this program and other academic support services such as the academic coaching program, Math and Science Help (MASH) sessions and tutoring services, contact the Director of Academic Advising by calling +1-508-831-5381 or e-mailing

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Last modified: October 24, 2008 11:43:12