Academic policies


Time of Enrollment: Returning students enroll in fall semester courses prior to their arrival on campus. Most newly enrolled students take part in a two-week fall intensive course titled “A Sense of Place” in September. At this time new students will be able to review elective course choices and make selections for the remainder of the fall semester. During the add/drop period of each semester, with the approval of their advisor and course faculty, students may, in most cases, alter their course selection. Add/drop forms are available from advisors. Completed forms must be submitted to the Registrar. The add/drop period for long block courses and summer sessions is the first week of the semester. The add/drop period for campus-based intensive courses is the first two days. Throughout the add/drop period, the Registrar reserves the right to change each student’s schedule. Also, please note that any faculty member reserves the right to refuse enrollment after the first week of classes in the long block semester.

Late Enrollment: Students may petition the Dean of the College to enroll in a course after the add/drop period with permission of the instructor. If the schedule, the size of existing classes, and the nature of the material already covered permit, the request may be granted.

Withdrawal from Courses: A student may withdraw from any course by filling out an add/drop form available from his/her advisor or on the Sterling College website. The course instructor as well as the advisor must sign this form, and the effective withdrawal date will be the date on which the Registrar receives the form. If a student withdraws during the add/drop period, the course will not be included on the permanent transcript. Thereafter, the course will be listed on the permanent transcript with a grade of W. A class dropped before midpoint of any semester will not count toward the annual credit limit attempted. After this time, a dropped class will count toward that limit, and receive a grade of F, which will count toward the Q.P.A.

Cancellation of Courses: The Academic Dean reserves the right to cancel classes due to insufficient enrollment or other unforeseen circumstances.

Auditing Courses: Matriculated students may audit courses with the permission of the course faculty. Non-matriculated students may audit with permission of the Dean of the College at a reduced cost per credit hour. Auditing entitles a student to attend all class meetings. An audited course will appear on the transcript but will not receive a grade or credit.

Part-time Students: Nonresidential students may enroll part-time in selected courses with permission of the Academic Dean. Due to limits in class size, enrollment in some courses may require permission of the instructor. Please see Sterling College Tuition and Fees for associated costs.

Repeating Courses: Students may petition the Academic Dean in writing for permission to repeat a course or courses for up to 30 semester hours of credit toward the B.A. degree. Students should specify which course(s) they wish to repeat and explain the benefits to be derived from repeating them. In any course repeated, the second grade will be included in the Q.P.A. and it will be noted that the course has been repeated. To take a course a third time a petition must be submitted to the Academic Dean two weeks prior to the start of the semester of enrollment. The first grades will remain on the transcript, but will not be included in the Q.P.A. In no case will credit be awarded more than once for a given course. Students will pay full tuition costs for any repeated course(s).

Incompletes: A student may apply for a temporary incomplete when extenuating circumstances prevent completion of course requirements by the last day of final exams. Extenuating circumstances are factors beyond a person’s control, such as death of a loved one, serious illness, or a family crisis. An incomplete may be granted if such factors prevent a student from completing required coursework. A proposal for incomplete status must be submitted to the course instructor by the last day of the semester. It should include an explanation of the extenuating circumstances and present a timeline for when unfinished work is to be completed. Documentation of the extenuating circumstance, such as a note from a physician or counselor, must be submitted along with the proposal.

Generally, all incomplete work should be completed by the end of the next semester. On rare occasions, an instructor may recommend taking two semesters to finish incomplete work, such as when a student misses Winter Expedition for health reasons and plans to finish Bounder I requirements by participating the following year.

If the instructor approves a proposal for an incomplete, she or he will complete a form to be filed with the Registrar. This form includes the student’s current grade in the course. If the student fails to complete required work according to the proposed timeline, the incomplete will be changed to the current grade.


Course faculty are responsible for evaluating student work and coming up with final grades of both effort (E, S, U) and achievement (A‑F) as well as writing comments on each student’s performance.  Grades should follow the guidelines below.  Faculty should be certain to include the basis they use for determining grades in the course syllabi and outlines they hand out to students at the start of each class; that is, students should know the criteria, which will be used to determine their grades from the start of the course. Faculty are encouraged to use course and assignment-specific rubrics to aid in this proc­ess. Every effort should be made to apply criteria fairly to each student’s work.  Late work will be downgraded unless excused, as explained in the Student Handbook.

Evaluation for college credit in all courses is on the basis of an A through F grading system. The exceptions to this are HM 050, SS105, and SS110, which are evaluated on a Pass/Fail (P/F) basis.

A student who, because of extenuating circumstances such as extended sickness or injury, is unable to attend required course meetings presenting material that cannot be made up at other times will receive a permanent incomplete for that course. No credit is granted in such cases. A report of grades is given to each student at the end of each semester. Sterling College uses a weighted grade point average system (quality point average) calculated according to the following formula:

Quality Point Average = Total Quality Points/number of credits attempted.

Quality points are determined by multiplying the numerical grade values listed below by the number of credits attempted in each course where a grade was earned.

  • A = 4.0
  • A- = 3.75
  • B+ = 3.25
  • B or P = 3.0
  • B- = 2.75
  • C+ = 2.25
  • C = 2.0
  • C- = 1.75
  • D+ = 1.25
  • D = 1.0
  • D- = .75
  • F = 0

Incompletes that remain incomplete will be treated as Fs but are subject to appeal. Permanent incompletes (PI) are not included in the QPA calculation. Ws are excluded from QPA calculations.

Credits approved for transfer from other institutions for newly enrolled students are not included in QPA.

Effort Grades

Participation in all courses is evaluated on an Excellent (E), Satisfactory (S), or Unsatis­factory (U) basis. The following criteria are considered:

Attendance at and positive participation in scheduled meetings of a course is expected. Positive participation may be evaluated differently for different students due to variation in individual abilities, talents, and previous training, but all students are expected to demonstrate a willing attitude to take part in and contribute to class activities and to perform to the best of their abilities. Students must complete all assignments. Adequate preparation outside of class is also necessary. This includes completion of assigned readings and maintenance of personal and crew equipment.

It is expected that a student doing below-average college level work will make individual contact with the faculty as part of an effort to improve. If a student is having problems with the course and does not see the faculty member in charge, participation is consid­ered unsatisfactory.

Progress Reports and Attendance

Faculty submit mid-semester letter grades to the Registrar for first year students and only effort and grades below a ‘C’ for all other students. Students are also provided with written feedback at midterm and at the end of each course. Faculty are required to maintain accurate attendance records, and class attendance should be submitted each week using the College online advising and attendance form.



Participation in all courses is evaluated via midterm or end-of-term narrative feedback. The following criteria are considered:

Attendance at and positive participation in scheduled meetings of a course is expected. Positive participation may be evaluated differently for different students due to variation in individual abilities, talents, and previous training, but all students are expected to demonstrate a willing attitude to take part in and contribute to class activities and to perform to the best of their abilities. Students must complete all assignments. Adequate preparation outside of class is also necessary. This includes completion of assigned readings and maintenance of personal and group resources and equipment.

It is expected that a student doing below-average college level work will make individual contact with the faculty as part of an effort to improve. If you are having problems with a course and do not see the faculty member in charge, your participation is unsatisfactory.

Students receive narrative feedback and grades, at the middle and end of each semester with their participation in each course noted. Students are encouraged to meet with their advisors at the beginning of each semester to discuss progress and objectives for the upcoming semester.



The standard of Satisfactory Academic Progress is established to encourage students to perform adequately in their coursework. It defines the steps by which a student progresses toward the final degree.

  • To earn second-year status, a student must have earned 27 credits with a Q.P.A. of 1.7
  • To earn third-year status, a student must have earned 60 credits with a Q.P.A. of 2.0
  • To earn fourth-year status, a student must have earned 90 credits with a Q.P.A. of 2.0.

Students may take up to six years of full-time enrollment (defined as at least 12 credits per semester and two or three semester per year) to earn a B.A. degree. Students working to remedy deficiencies, to meet a higher year’s status may take Sterling courses on a part-time or full-time basis but will not be eligible for financial aid unless they are able to earn their degree within the stated maximum time frames. This means that candidates for the B.A. degree must achieve third year status no later than the end of their fourth year of full-time study.

Students unable to complete their degree requirements in four years may have the option to earn their degree by making up work after full-time enrollment at Sterling has ceased. For up to five years after completing their full-time enrollment at Sterling, students may earn a Sterling degree by transferring credits from other institutions or by returning to take additional part-time credits at Sterling. Generally, such students will not be eligible for financial aid. The Dean of the College must approve all such special arrangements.



Sterling commencement ceremonies celebrate the achievement of students who have completed all of the requirements for the B.A. degree. The requirements for the degree are listed here on this webpage. Please direct any questions about the requirements to your Academic Advisor or to the Academic Dean.



Students who wish to interrupt their studies for a period not to exceed one calendar year may request a leave of absence. Students granted a leave of absence do not need to reapply to resume their studies at the College. The leave is not official until the Registrar and the Academic Dean approve the request.

To apply for a leave of absence the student must complete a Leave of Absence Form available from his or her advisor or on the College’s website. The Academic Dean and Registrar may request the student to submit additional information in writing. A leave may be requested for one or two regular consecutive semesters (Fall and Spring).



A student voluntarily exiting from the College during or at the end of a semester must do so formally and in writing by completing a Student Exit Notification Form available from a student’s advisor or on the College’s website.



If a student demonstrates a need for support based on specific challenges with coursework or other academic aspects of their college experience an/or is making unsatisfactory progress toward a Sterling degree, s/he may be placed on Academic Review. Evidence of inadequate progress might include:

  • QPA (Quality Point Average) of below 2.0 for a given semester
  • Repeated absences from class
  • Late or incomplete assignments
  • Repeatedly missing appointments with an advisor or faculty member
  • Failure to meet other course or academic expectations

Students who could benefit from additional support in one or more of these are given Academic Review status as a means to help support their work to achieve academic success. Depending upon specific circumstances, as a first step in helping to support students on review, they are encouraged or required to meet regularly with their advisors and develop a plan for academic success and for addressing challenges in specific classes. When progress improves, a student will be removed from probationary status by the Academic Dean.

More than one semester on Academic Review may result in a student’s dismissal from the College.


Academic honesty is an essential standard in an educational institution. All students are expected to exhibit honesty in completing classroom and laboratory work. A student shall neither give nor receive unauthorized aid. Such unauthorized aid includes cooperation on quizzes, tests, work projects, or laboratory assignments unless such cooperation is specifically approved by the instructor. On regular homework assignments, students may advise and assist one another. However, a student shall neither copy another’s work and represent it as his or her own nor fabricate data for laboratory or fieldwork. If you are unsure about specifics, please ask a faculty member.

Any materials taken from published sources must be specifically acknowledged. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. See “Plagiarism” below, for more information.

Violations of an academic honesty guideline will result in a penalty ranging from receiving no credit for that portion of the course to Academic Review to dismissal from Sterling. The penalty will be determined by the Academic Dean in consultation with the course faculty. The determination of the Dean may be appealed to the President.



To represent another person’s words or ideas as your own is called plagiarism and is a violation of the College’s Policy on Academic Honesty. Whenever you write a research paper using direct quotes or paraphrased ideas from another source, you must always give credit where credit is due. In all circumstances ask yourself whether the concept or word you are using is wholly your own or taken from elsewhere. If borrowed or copied from any source, whether electronic, print, recorded, or spoken word, the original source must be acknowledged.

Styles for citing sources vary across academic disciplines. Scholars writing about literature or art history often follow format recommendations of the Modern Languages Association (MLA), while social scientists and many natural scientists may follow those of the American Psychological Association (APA). Since the majors at Sterling College are predominantly social science and natural science based, all students are expected to learn APA guidelines and use them when appropriate. Faculty will alert students when an assignment requires a format other than APA. When in doubt, make sure you cite your sources (S) following recognized guidelines.

You must always cite the author in the following instances:

1. When using a word-for-word direct quote: “Stay the course” (Bush 19).

2. When citing a statistic or research finding that is not common knowledge. You do not have to reference the statement, “The earth revolves around the sun.”

You do have to reference the statement, “Bears prefer fish to fowl” (Marsdel 109).

3. When paraphrasing someone else’s idea (the wording is rephrased but the idea is the same).
He thought Charles DeGaulle looked like a startled Llama (Churchill 97).

4. When using someone else’s key words or phrases. You must not only reference the words or phrases, but put them in quotations.
The economy is guided by the force of the “invisible hand” (Smith 177).

For more information on citation, please visit the Sterling College Brown Library webpage.



The faculty is responsible for the safety and security of all participants in college programs; students who are unwilling or unable to comply with safety procedures create an unacceptable risk for the College. A student who fails to live up to specific written guidelines for college courses or activities may be barred from further participation in activities which involve the assumption of risks, including any student who may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.



From the very first days and weeks of the semester, each entering student is invited to work closely with a faculty advisor to help build a solid foundation for a rewarding learning experience at Sterling College. Over the first semester, students typically meet regularly with advisors, each of whom, in turn, works with Sterling’s Deans  in order to best support a student’s individual goals, needs, and expectations in the community, in coursework, and throughout their Sterling experience.

The principal goal of all Sterling faculty advisors is to provide resilient and responsive learning and community support to help students achieve high levels of success and engagement throughout their college experience.

The Sterling Advising and Learning Support Program is grounded in the principle of cooperatively designed learning. This approach integrates universal instructional design principles with a developmental advising approach that underscores a holistic approach to student support.

Although advisors are initially assigned by the Registrar and Deans according to student academic interest and foreseeable needs, students may choose to switch advisors at any point in their tenure at Sterling.

Upperclass students may find that advisors more closely associated with their Senior Project or major might serve them more effectively. Advisors assist students with course selection and meeting program requirements, including developing a long-term study plan. All faculty and staff members act as resources available to the student.

Advising at Sterling is goal oriented, ongoing, and curriculum based.

The Advising and Learning Support Program at Sterling is:


With small numbers of advisees, faculty advisors are able to meet as frequently as students’ needs warrant to craft a learning plan that enhances opportunities, supports student learning needs, builds on students’ personal goals, and capitalizes on their strengths to support success throughout a student’s tenure at Sterling.


In their work together, advisors and advisees are empowered to identify and set goals, identify learning outcomes and learning strategies that can help adapt to meet students’ changing needs. As a team, course faculty, Deans, and faculty advisors help to shape a student’s learning experiences.


Advisors address concerns ranging from pragmatic academic issues such as course registration to a student’s involvement in the community and development of personal as well as academic goals. The advisor-advisee relationship is based on a progression of ongoing, curriculum-based, and goal oriented conversations.


Sterling’s Advising and Learning Support Program scaffolds student opportunities for success in a way that is appropriate for each individual student’s level of need and academic and community development.

Cooperatively Designed

Students work one-on-one with advisors to co-create individualized learning plan. Advisors, in turn, collaborate with a student’s course faculty, the three Deans, and other appropriate College staff to holistically support the student learning experience.

The Sterling College Learning Center is located in Simpson Hall and is available to students during set hours and by appointment. The Learning Center is staffed by faculty, staff, and students who have demonstrated strong writing and peer-editing skills.

The Learning Support Coordinator encourages one-on-one meetings with students to plan and support learning strategies for dealing with individual learning challenges. The College provides for students with reading challenges, such as dyslexia, using advanced text to speech software (Kurzweil 3000) and equipment.The LSC can convert text documents into digital audio files for students to listen to on a personal computer, laptop, portable audio player, or campus lab workstation.

Students who need assistance with time management and organization may be advised to enroll in HM050 College Learning Skills. Additionally, students who need extra support in mathematics may enroll in NS050 Quantitative Skills, which prepares students for Sterling’s upper level math and science requirements.

The term, “learning disabilities”, is a broad term referring to a variety of learning difficulties. Students with a learning disability can obtain adjustments to a course or program that minimizes disability-related barriers based on individual need.

Faculty should include the following statement on all syllabi:

Students bring a variety of learning styles to class.  At Sterling we do our best to support different learning modes by mixing lecture, discussion, hands-on work, and visual information.  Please let us know what mode works best for you—we will do our best to accommodate your learning style.  If you have a learning challenge or documented disability, please check in with our Learning Support Coordinator. The LSC can help you determine accommodations that can be helpful in this course.


The Learning Support Coordinator keeps all disability related information confidential to the extent required by law. Sometimes, in order to determine or provide the most effective accommodations, the Learning Support Coordinator may share with other Sterling College faculty or staff.



In order to accomplish what we need to during our brief and busy time together, we at Sterling take strict approach to class attendance and timeliness. Many of our courses build on skills which progress week by week, and missing one class in a sequence jeopardizes the rest of that course. Attendance at all scheduled course activities is expected of students. Students must see a physician/nurse for a medical excuse, if applicable. Students wishing an excused absence from a class for non-medical reasons should make arrangements in advance with the course faculty and the Academic Dean. If you must miss a class, please see the faculty member immediately to see if it is possible to make up the work. Make-up work is at the discretion of the faculty member; it may not always be possible to make up missed quizzes and exams. The Registrar keeps records of class attendance.

Students who do not arrive on time for a scheduled class should inform the faculty of the reason for their lateness. Late attendance may also affect a student’s final grade. When classes are traveling in Sterling vehicles, the vehicles are expected to leave promptly and will not wait for late students.

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Students are expected to complete all assignments. All assigned papers and projects should be submitted on or before the due date. Late work will affect a student’s final evaluations and grade and may cause a student to earn a failing grade in a course. Please remember that this policy is designed to assure that you do not get behind in your work. See the course instructor and your faculty advisor early if you are having problems.

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All course work, projects, and papers must be submitted to the appropriate faculty members preceding graduation (“see Commencement”). Work handed in after this deadline will not be considered for credit.

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When you are faced with a challenging situation while pursuing your studies, pause for a moment and evaluate your options for support, because you are not alone. Here’s some advice from other students:

  • First start by re-checking your course syllabus and any other materials given to you by your professor. It is important to evaluate what portion of the challenge can be addressed by you, the student
  • If you still feel lost, you should approach your teacher at a mutually convenient time. Office hours are posted conspicuously. Faculty are usually very receptive to comments, suggestions, and requests for guidance or assistance, especially when they see students taking initiative and making an effort on their own part to solve problems
  • You may wish to consult your peers, seek assistance from the College Learning Center, or talk with our Learning Support Coordinator
  • Remember your advisor – it is a good idea to check in with them regularly throughout the year. Your advisor is able to advocate for you and your success, and to help you find solutions.

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The use of the term “student/parent” in the following refers to the person who controls the individual student records. This person is the student, if 18 years of age or older, or the parent or other legal guardian if the student is not yet of age. The age at the time of the request is the determining age. Categories of information contained in student records


Directory Information: This is information that is known to be available from a variety of sources and is considered public information. It includes: name, home address, telephone number, date and place of birth, dates of attendance at Sterling, degrees or certificates earned, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities, and most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student.


Restricted Information: This is information directly concerned with a student’s relationship with Sterling. It includes: courses taken, grades earned, credits earned, academic and disciplinary actions taken by Sterling, financial arrangements between the student and Sterling, and letters of recommendation.


Confidential Information: This is information of several types that has been collected under a promise of no disclosure with unauthorized staff or in the context of a confidential relationship. It includes:

  • records held by Sterling educational personnel which are in the sole possession of the author and which are not available to be revealed to any other person except a substitute.
  • financial information of the student and/or parents contained in the FAFSA, SAR’s, or income tax returns.
  • all records created by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other professional which are maintained only for use in connection with the treatment of a student.
  • letter of recommendation when a student has waived any right of access.


Access to and Release of Student Records: Directory information may be released unless the student/parent has indicated otherwise, in writing, to the Registrar.

As per federal regulations, Sterling College is obligated to release directory information only to any branch of the military upon request.


Prior consent in writing for disclosure of restricted information is not required when records are released to:

  • other Sterling officials with legitimate educational interests.
  • an educational agency in which the student seeks or intends to enroll when such transfer is initiated by the student/parent.
  • authorized representatives of Comptroller General, Secretary of Education, or state educational authorities
  • in connection with financial aid for which student has applied (limited disclosure permitted).
  • accrediting organizations to carry out accrediting functions.
  • parents of dependent students.
  •  appropriate parties in health or safety emergency if the information is necessary to protect health or safety of the student.

Confidential information may be kept confidential by the author and may be released only upon written request of the student/parent and with the consent of the Sterling official having custody of such information.

General Policies

A written record of the release of any information should be placed in the student file including to whom records were released, what interest they have in the records, date, and who released the records. The exceptions are only:

  • when the release is of Directory information only
  • when Sterling has written request from student/parent
  • when the release is to the student/parent
  • when the release is within Sterling
  • No disclosures will be made for commercial purposes

Right to challenge incorrect information:

Students may challenge the content of the records maintained by Sterling and are provided an opportunity to correct or delete any inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise inappropriate information contained, and to insert into such records a written explanation concerning their contents. It is hoped that any such difficulty can be resolved in an informal manner between the student and the appropriate Sterling official. If no informal agreement can be reached, the student may request that the matter be resolved by the Administrative Council.

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This webpage was last updated on August 21, 2014.