Academic Policies

Definition of a Lake Forest Credit

Lake Forest credit is earned, recorded, and tallied by courses rather than by semester credit hours. For the purposes of definition and transfer of credit, a Lake Forest course is valued at four semester credit hours or six quarter credits. A Lake Forest semester lasts 15 weeks (14 weeks of classes plus a 5-day final exam period). The Lake Forest calendar also includes three four-week summer sessions. Regardless of the term, each regular Lake Forest course delivered in person (1.0 Lake Forest credit) includes at a minimum the equivalent of forty-two 50 minute instructional hours per term. Remote and hybrid courses require regular and substantive interaction with the professor during the term to maintain the same rigor, quality, and integrity as fully in-person courses. Students are expected to devote a minimum of three hours of out-of-class work for each hour in class. Courses that include additional class meeting times, laboratories, or discussion sessions may require proportionately less out-of-class work. Semester-length Lake Forest courses carrying 1.0 course credits should require students to devote a minimum of 12 hours of total work per week (in-class time plus out-of-class work). Full-credit courses taught during shorter periods of time (e.g., during summer session) should require an equivalent amount of work as a semester-length course. Courses offered for fractional course credit (e.g., 0.5 or 0.25 course credits) should require an appropriate proportion of the total workload of a full credit semester-length course.

Internships: For each credit, approximately 150 hours of on-the-job experience is required. Students are also required to complete a substantial paper, a project, or a study on issues related to the internship as well as a reflective paper on the internship. The number of hours of on-the-job experience may be proportionately reduced if the internship involves significantly more written or creative work, as required by the Internship Supervisor.

Practica: a minimum of 40 hours of work is required for 0.25 Lake Forest credit. Independent Studies do not have established meeting dates/times. The learning objectives and academic requirements for these courses are determined by the faculty member and the student, with the expectation that the total work completed will approximate that required for a regular Lake Forest course receiving 1.0 Lake Forest credits (as defined above).

Course Load

A normal course load for a degree-seeking student is four course credits per semester (the equivalent of 16 semester credits), but a student may choose to take any load between three (the equivalent of 12 semester credits) and four and one-half course credits (the equivalent of 18 semester credits) to be granted full-time status. Students also may be non-degree-seeking students or attend the College part-time, with commensurate charges. Courses in education that are required for certification but not credited toward a degree, private music lessons or music ensembles may be added to the normal course load. Consult with the Registrar for complete information regarding credit for these courses.

For the purposes of federal financial aid, full-time status is defined as 3 or more Lake Forest credits (the equivalent of 12 or more semester credits); three quarter time is defined as between 2.1 and 2.99 Lake Forest credits; half-time is 2.0 Lake Forest credits and less than half-time status is fewer than 2.0 Lake Forest credits. See “Financial Aid” for further information about federal and state grants

An overload is any course load in excess of 4.5 credits in a given semester. With the permission of the advisor, a student may register for an overload if the total is not greater than five course credits in any semester. (See “Tuition and Fees” for course overload fee.) A student has full-time status if he or she is registered for at least three course credits (the equivalent of 12 semester hours) per semester. Students must register for a full course load for the entire year, unless they are seniors needing less than a full course load to graduate on time.

Credit Distribution

Exceptions to the following rules may be granted only by the Academic Appeals Board.

Of the 32 credits required for graduation, the following rules apply:

  • At least 8 but no more than 15 must be taken in the student’s major field. More than the minimum of 8 may be required.
  • A student may not take more than 15 credits, including internships, in any single discipline (as listed in the College Catalog under the heading  Major and Minor Programs).
  • No more than 16 transfer credits (60 semester hours) may be counted toward Lake Forest College degree requirements.

Twelve of the last 16 credits, and 4 of the last 5 credits, earned before degree completion must be Lake Forest College credits. A student may petition the Academic Appeals Board for an exception to either of these rules. Students interested in studying off campus in their last semester should consult with the Director of Off-Campus Programs.

Academic Standing and Progress

Students are considered in good academic standing if they are not currently on academic suspension or dismissal.

Students with fewer than seven completed Lake Forest credits are classified as first-year students. Those with at least seven Lake Forest credits are classified as sophomores, those with at least 15 Lake Forest credits as juniors, and those with at least 24 Lake Forest credits as seniors. Normally, a full-time student who takes four credits each term is expected to fulfill graduation requirements within four years. While students are encouraged to work closely with their academic advisors and to heed the advice of the registrar’s Office to make sufficient progress to complete degree requirements, students are ultimately responsible for keeping abreast of their degree requirements.

Registration in Courses

Enrolled students are allowed to pre-register each spring for the next academic year. Students who have pre-registered by the end of spring term will be given first priority in courses for the coming year. First-year students have an opportunity to register for fall semester during the summer preceding their entrance to the College. The spring registration plans are formally completed during designated registration periods in the fall. Prior to the spring semester, additional days are scheduled for confirming or changing registration plans for that semester.

Course Changes and Withdrawals

During a designated registration period, a student must make any changes in registration using the online registration system provided on my.lakeforest and have those changes approved by an advisor (also on my.lakeforest). If this procedure is not followed when a student wishes to drop one course in favor of another, a grade of F will be recorded for the course in which the student is officially registered, and the student will not receive credit for the other course.

Because the full-time course load is defined as 3 to 4.5 course credits per semester, a full-time student is permitted to reduce his or her registration to fewer than 3 course credits during a semester-in-progress only with prior written approval of his or her faculty advisor and the Dean of Students. Within the Add/Drop Period of the semester, a course withdrawal is regarded simply as a permissible change of registration. Only the courses in which the student remains registered will appear on the transcript.

In a regular semester course (15-weeks), the last day for approved withdrawal from a course, including authorized Medical Withdrawals, will be the last day of classes. Withdrawal results in a W grade. A student may not withdraw from a course after the last day of classes (that is, during the reading or examination periods).

If a student ceases to attend class and fails to withdraw officially from that course (including physical education) in which the student is officially registered, the student will receive a failing grade for that course. (See “Withdrawal and Readmission” for more information)

Reduction of load to fewer than 3 courses

Full-time students will not normally be permitted to reduce their course load to fewer than three course credits in any semester. A reduction in course load may affect their eligibility for financial aid and their participation in organized sports. The Director of Residence Life has the right to suspend on-campus housing when students reduce their course load to part-time.


An exception to the usual policies concerning course withdrawals may occur when a student has been brought before the Academic Honesty Judicial Board. The student is permitted to withdraw, through the last day of class, from a course in which a charge of violating the academic honesty policy has occurred. But if the Board determines that a violation has occurred in that course, any penalty imposed will take precedence over the course withdrawal.

  • When a student is penalized with failure of the project, assignment, or paper, the faculty member will record the zero in determining a final course grade. A student withdrawing from a course with a passing course grade (as determined by the faculty member) will earn a W, while a student withdrawing from a course with a failing course grade will earn an F, regardless of when in the semester the withdrawal may have taken place.
  • When a student is penalized with failure of the course, the recorded grade will be F, rather than WF, regardless of when in the semester the withdrawal may have taken place.

Refunds for withdrawal from courses

Any combination of courses ranging from 3 to 4.5 credits is regarded as a full load and regular full-time tuition applies. There are no refunds for course load changes within this range of credits. Students registering for fewer than 3 credits per term with the permission of the Dean of Students will be charged at a per-course rate. (See “Refunds” under “Tuition and Fees” for more information.)


Classroom activities are an integral and important part of the learning experience. Therefore, it is expected that students will attend class meetings. Each member of the faculty has the prerogative of establishing specific attendance policies that in his or her opinion are best suited to the course. Faculty members are required to publicize such policies to the class in writing at the beginning of the course.

Students who miss class meetings because of participation in a “College-approved event” – so designated by the Dean of the Faculty – are officially excused but will be expected to make up any work missed and will be allowed to do so in a manner approved by the faculty member whose class was missed. If, in the judgment of the instructor, making up the work missed is not feasible, the student may not be penalized for the absence from the class.

In cases when students miss a class for any reason other than to participate in an event previously designated by the Dean of the Faculty as “College-approved,” only the individual professor may “excuse” the absence. If a professor has deemed a student absence is “excusable,” the Dean of Students’ office will document the absence for the professor if necessary. In cases in which the absence is related to a disability, the student is responsible for documenting the disability with the Assistant Dean of Faculty for Learning Support and requesting a reasonable accommodation (See: Services for Students with Disabilities).

Auditing of Courses

Students who wish to acquaint themselves with a subject without receiving credit may audit a course with the permission of the instructor. Auditors are not subject to the requirements of the course, but they are expected to participate seriously. There is no audit fee for full-time students; part-time students are charged a minimum amount per course. Examination for course credit is not permitted in an audited course.

Final Examinations

By faculty regulation, no test may be given prior to its originally designated time. Only the Dean of the Faculty may grant exception to this rule and only at the request of the faculty member.

A term paper may be assigned in lieu of a final examination in a course, but in such cases students are entitled to have until the end of the scheduled examination time for a course to submit their term papers. If not returned immediately to students, examination papers, particularly final examination papers and term papers, are to be kept by faculty members for at least one term before being destroyed, so as to be available for review by students. Papers from the spring term are to be kept through the fall term.