Smith College School for Social Work BannerWeb
Mission Statement
Structure & Organization of the Program
Academic Standards
Field Work & Community Practice Project
Research Project & Post-Residency Advising
Academic & Field Work Performance Standing Committee
Appeals & Grievance Procedures
Leave of Absence, Withdrawal, Probation & Dismissal
Financial Matters
Student Records
Campus Life & Responsibilities
Campus Life & Responsibilities
Master's Program Handbook

200 - Academic Standards

200.1 Degree Requirements, Course Selection & Check-In

200.1A Degree Requirements


The formal requirements for the M.S.W. degree for master's students are:

  1. Satisfactory completion of the residence period, consisting of three academic sessions of full-time study (56 quarter-hours of course work), which shall include a specified required curriculum.
  2. Satisfactory completion of the field internship instruction requirement (56 quarter-hours).
  3. Satisfactory completion of the community practice project (3 quarter-hours).
  4. Satisfactory completion of the research project (thesis) (16 quarter-hours).


The formal requirements for the M.S.W. degree for advanced standing students are:

  1. Satisfactory completion of the residence period consisting of one full-time academic summer session; three academic courses during the 15-month field internship period; and one 3/5 part-time academic summer session (42 quarter-hours).
  2. Satisfactory completion of the field internship requirement (42 quarter-hours).
  3. Satisfactory completion of the research project (thesis) (16 quarter-hours).


Advanced standing students begin their project after the first academic summer session and complete the project by mid-November following their second summer session.


Since each student matriculates with a different background and skill set, the associate dean or his/her designee will, in consultation with the advanced standing student and the appropriate chair(s), create a recommended course of study for each of the student's two academic sessions.

200.1B – Course Selection


Students are expected to assume responsibility for selecting courses that meet the degree requirements. Course selection material is provided annually by the school.


It is the student's responsibility to be certain he or she is properly registered in each course. Students whose names do not appear on the final course enrollment lists will not receive credit. Course changes, both additions and deletions, may be requested at the time of registration. Students must follow the school's established registration procedures.


The school reserves the right to reassign sections, make changes in course scheduling, bracket courses or cancel elective courses if enrollment is insufficient. The school is not able to guarantee a student's first choice of elective courses.



A student who is required to complete BannerWeb registration and who does not meet the posted deadline or make other arrangements in advance risks being disenrolled from the program or not being able to meet graduation requirements within the 27-month or 18-month time frame of the program.

Students enrolled in summer term classes may, under certain conditions, attempt to change their schedule by adding and/or dropping courses through a process administered by the Office of Academic Support Services. Add/drop is primarily for elective courses. Deadlines will be posted by the Office of Academic Support Services in the academic calendar and on the add/drop form.

Second- and third-summer students may drop courses under the following conditions:

  • The course is an elective that is not required for graduation;
  • A third-summer or advanced standing student will have enough credits to graduate if the course is dropped;
  • A second-summer student will have the required number of credits on his/her Term 1 and Term 2 records if the course is dropped (this will almost always entail adding a substitute course);
  • The course is not a required course;
  • Ordinarily students cannot exceed the maximum number of credits but under unusual circumstances, a student may do so with permission of the associate dean;
  • The completed add/drop form is submitted to the Office of Academic Support Services by the deadline.

Students may not change sections in required courses.

Course sections may not be overloaded based on student preferences.


A student may obtain a final grade of W (withdrawal) between the drop deadline and the end of the second week of a summer term by submission of a signed withdrawal form to the Office of Academic Support Services. After that date, a student may not withdraw. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that they are meeting graduation requirements.

200.1C – Check-in

All students must attend Central Check-In at the beginning of Term 1 each summer. The process will be posted by the Office of Academic Support Services well in advance. There is a $125 administrative fee for late Check-In. See also 600.7.

200.2 Auditing

Auditors are not permitted in class, with the exception of final summer students who are eligible to audit courses that are not fully subscribed on a first-come, first-serve basis up to full enrollment with the permission of the instructor. Auditing is a paper process administered by the Office of Academic Support Services. A student wishing to audit a course in his/her final summer must obtain a form in OAS, obtain the instructor’s signature, and submit it to OAS no later than the published add/drop deadline in each term. An instructor is not compelled to have auditors in his or her class, and neither students nor instructors should make auditing arrangements apart from the OAS process. Instructors should inform the Office of Academic Support Services by June 1st if s/he does not want to accept auditors. Auditing does not require registration, and these courses do not appear on the transcript. Instructors are not required to grade the work of auditors and are at liberty to establish ground rules for auditors in their classes. Note: Visiting scholars who wish to audit courses will work out arrangements through the Associate Dean.

200.3 Grading Policies for Academic Courses

All academic work during the summer master's program sessions will be graded on a pass/marginal pass/fail basis in accordance with the categories defined below:

Pass [P]

This designation will be used for performance reflecting an acceptable mastery of graduate level course content.

Marginal Pass [MP]

This designation will be used for performance of a marginal quality, falling below the mastery of graduate level course content. A marginal pass in this system should be viewed as the equivalent of the work in the "C" category in a graded, graduate system.

Fail [F]

This designation will be used for performance which fails to demonstrate creditable mastery of graduate-level course content.

Incomplete [I]

Incomplete work. See 200.8.

Permanent Incomplete [PI]

This designation will be used for courses originally graded with an Incomplete (I) but later assigned after consultation between the instructor, sequence Chair and Associate Dean. See 200.8.


Withdrawal [W]

This designation shall be used when a student withdraws from a summer course before the end of the term with permission of the instructor and in consultation with the Chair and the Associate Dean. In rare cases, a W grade may be assigned to the Research Project/Thesis at the discretion of the Associate Dean and the Chair of the Research Sequence. See also 502.4.

200.4 Evaluative Measures and Warning of Marginal Pass or Failing Academic Work


It is a student's responsibility to attend to academic performance criteria, to monitor their own learning performance against these standards, to identify problems in meeting course criteria and to initiate timely efforts to address them.


The school requires all instructors to use two or more graded evaluative measures. Any grade below a pass on a first assignment shall serve as notice to a student that a passing grade is in jeopardy. Whenever feasible the instructor shall assess the ongoing performance as early as possible in the term using at least one evaluative measure that will allow for notification of concern before the final assignment. In five-week courses, when substantial weight is carried by the final assignment, prior notification of concerns may not be possible. If there are reasons to be concerned about a student's performance at any time before the final assignment, it is the responsibility of the student to initiate a discussion with the instructor about ways to address the concerns in future work. The instructor shall also notify the sequence chair.


A student's performance shall be assessed on the basis of evidence of:

  1. mastery of course content
  2. ability to conceptualize
  3. timeliness of work
  4. class preparation
  5. critical thinking
  6. integration across the curriculum
  7. creativity and originality
  8. writing skills
  9. professional conduct in the classroom


In making assignments instructors should bear in mind the constraints of the five-week term and the intensity of the educational experience.


Using the official school grading policy (see 200.3 and 200.6), instructors are expected to assign grades on the basis of a critical and fair assessment of the student's work. It is the right and obligation of the instructor to assign the grade they deem appropriate.

200.5 – Class Attendance

Students are required to attend all classes and are responsible for making up any missed work. In the event of any absence from class, a student must contact the instructor(s) to discuss making up the missed work. Regardless of the reason for the absence from class, a student may not miss more than 20 percent of a course. In any instance of absences beyond the 20 percent of a course, the instructor, chair of the relevant sequence, and associate dean will meet to determine what the consequences will be.

200.6 – Grade Criteria

200.6A – Grade Criteria for Academic Courses

The general criteria for award of individual grades are determined by the faculty of the respective academic sequence. The criteria are communicated by the sequence chairs to each summer instructor, who will inform their class at the first meeting as to how the criteria are to be applied in that course. Instructors are expected at that time to inform students specifically as to the nature and timing of the evaluative tools to be used in grading, the requirements for class attendance and participation and any other criteria the instructor intends to use. Criteria for grading will be put in writing and distributed to students on the syllabus. Faculty must specify the weight that each student assignment will contribute to the final course grade and include this information in the course syllabus.

200.6B – Grade Criteria for Field Work

The grade for the field internship period is assigned by the director of field work and is based upon the written evaluation submitted by the supervisor as well as feedback from the faculty field advisor. The field internship is graded on a pass/fail basis; a failing grade in field must be preceded by a formal review by the Academic and Field Work Performance Standing Committee.

200.7 Evaluations

200.7B – Evaluation of Academic Courses

Instructors are expected to provide students with complete written evaluations of their work, using the above guidelines. In order to be useful to the student, comments should reflect both strengths and suggestions that will alert students to their individual learning needs. Evaluations should be made on the basis of at least two evaluative tools. The instructor completes an online narrative evaluation form for each student registered for credit. Narrative evaluation forms are kept indefinitely as part of the student's permanent file.

200.7B – Evaluation of the Field Internship

Evaluation of the field internship is based upon the learning goals and objectives as identified in the Guidelines for the Field Internship.

200.7C – Student Requirement to Complete Course Evaluations

Student evaluation of courses is a program requirement. Failure to complete a course evaluation by the deadline will result in the following: a) grade/transcript hold; b) registration hold; and c) diploma hold.

200.8 – Incomplete Work

200.8A – Incomplete Work in Academic Courses


Any request for an extension to complete work for a course must be arranged with the instructor no later than the last day of classes of that given course. Requests for extensions to complete course work will only be granted in exceptional circumstances, which include but are not limited to requests to accommodate a documented disability. All extensions must be granted in writing (forms are available in the registrar’s office) by the instructor with a copy to the student and a copy to the registrar’s office. Extensions may be granted for a period not to exceed 7 days beyond the last day of the given term.


Any student who has been granted an extension of up to 7 days will be given an Incomplete. The final grade will be given when the instructor has received and evaluated the completed work, and the grade must be submitted to the Registrar within 2 weeks following the end of the term. If the work is not completed within the granted one-week extension, a final grade will be entered based on all work completed by that date.


In rare cases, a grade of PI (Permanent Incomplete) may be assigned in a course after consultation between the instructor, Sequence Chair and Associate Dean. The PI will remain permanently on the transcript.

200.8B – Incomplete Work in Field Work

A final grade of Incomplete in field work can be given only in rare instances and only as a result of a review by the Academic and Field Work Performance Committee. See 502.1C.

200.9 – Grade Changes

Normally, grades may not be changed after they have been submitted to the registrar. Under special circumstances, an instructor may submit a written request and explanation to the Chair and Associate Dean for a change of grade. Generally, all such requests should be made within two weeks of the submission of the instructor's grade report. For procedure governing grade grievances, see 501.

200.10 – Grade Requirements for Academic Courses


Most courses in the curriculum are five weeks (one term) in length. Some courses, however, have a 10-week syllabus. All courses, including those with a 10-week syllabus, will be graded at the end of each five-week term and a narrative evaluation completed for each.


All students are considered to be in good academic standing except as defined in this section. If the result of a review of the Academic and Field Work Performance Standing Committee has determined that a student has been placed on probation, s/he may continue in the program in good standing. A student on probation will have a second review by the committee, which will result in a determination of either good academic standing or dismissal from the program.


To remain in good standing, a Master's student may receive up to one Fail (if not in 101, 102, 301 or 302) and two Marginal Passes, or 3 Marginal Passes (as long as all 3 are not in required courses). An Advanced Standing student may receive up to two Marginal Passes in all courses, either required or elective, and still remain in good standing. In order to progress in the program the student must pass the Community Practice Project.


Students will be automatically dismissed from the school under the following circumstances:

  • A Master’s student who receives a Fail and three Marginal Passes, or two Fails, in any courses;
  • A Master’s student who receives a third Marginal Pass in a required course (or a fourth Marginal Pass overall);
  • An Advanced Standing student who receives a third Marginal Pass or one Fail;
  • Any student who receives a grade of Fail in 101, 102, 301 or 302;
  • Any student who receives a second grade of Fail in any required course.


A Master's student who receives a failing grade in a required course, other than practice, must repeat and pass that course in order to graduate from the program. A Master's student who receives a failing grade in Research 380/381, 382/383 or 384/385 will not be permitted to initiate a thesis project. A Master's student must repeat and pass the course in a subsequent summer term before initiating the thesis project. In most cases this will mean that the Master's student will enroll in course 480, Research Project, in a third academic year and will be in half-time status during that year.


The student and school officials will be notified of final grades through the Office of the Registrar.

200.11 – Summer Academic Advising

Advisors for first-summer students are the instructors of the 101/102 practice sequence. Advisors for second-summer students are the instructors of the 301/302 practice sequence. Seniors are randomly assigned by the registrar to resident faculty advisors. Advisors can be consulted as needed.

200.12 – Transferring Course Credit

Up to 12 transfer credits may be awarded for courses completed with a grade of B or above from an accredited graduate school of social work. Students must send the transfer request form (available on the online form or from the Office of Academic Support Services) with supporting documentation, including a syllabus and a statement as to how the course met SSW requirements, to the Office of Academic Support Services by the posted deadline in order for the request to be considered. The appropriate sequence chair, in consultation with the associate dean, will make the decision with regard to the transfer credit. No credit will be granted for previous work experience or life experience.

Petition to transfer credit (pdf)

200.13 – Waiving a Required Course

Some required courses may be waived if students can demonstrate that they have mastered the course content prior to enrollment. Students are encouraged to apply for waivers to avoid duplication of their previous educational experience. A waiver allows a student to move to a more advanced level in the same content area. No credit is awarded for waived courses; credits must be made up by taking electives. The transcript will indicate when a waived course has met a requirement. Alternatively, a student may elect to apply for transfer credit (see 200.12). Students must submit waiver forms to the Office of Academic Support Services by the posted deadline in order for the request to be considered. The appropriate chair has the discretion to waive a course requirement. The associate dean, in consultation with the appropriate chair, has the discretion to alter course selection after the posted deadline.

Petition to waive a required course (pdf)

200.14 - Academic Difficulty

Students who encounter academic difficulties are encouraged to discuss learning challenges first with the instructor of the relevant course and next with their Academic Advisor if the difficulties extend across a number of courses. The Office of Disability Services is available to assist students who require specific accommodations due to disability. A student at risk of failing out of the program may request a Consultation on Academic Performance to support him or her in addressing his or her specific learning challenges (see section 500.6 for a description).


Updated 10/23/13