When classes begin on Monday, August 26, you'll have learned a lot about the campus, met some of the staff, and forged many new friendships. Now it's time to really concentrate on understanding Westminster's academic year and making sure you are positioning yourself for success.
Academic Year at a Glance
Midterm and Holiday Breaks
While the high school academic year and the college academic year are similar in some respects, there are significant differences.
There are scheduled breaks throughout the academic year for which you will be expected to return home. It might be helpful to know that Westminster holds classes on Labor Day. Residence halls are closed for fall midterm break, Thanksgiving, winter, spring break, and Easter break.
However, with the exception of these scheduled breaks, you are expected to attend every class session. Missing multiple classes for any reason can have a negative impact on your grade.
Athletes who are in season during breaks will stay on campus with their teams. Your coach will be able to provide more information.
Transportation Tip: Transportation to the airport and Greyhound bus station is available during breaks. Reservations can be made online or in Student Affairs and email reminders will be sent to students prior to each break.
About halfway through your first semester at Westminster College, you will receive midterm grades from your faculty. While these grades do not appear on your official transcript or affect your grade point average in any way, they are an important measure of your academic success. You can expect to meet with your classroom faculty or your faculty advisor to review your midterm grades.
Academic Advising and Registration for the Next Semester
In October and March, the Online Registration Schedule for the upcoming semester is published, and registration begins a few weeks later. With the publication of the registration schedule, the Academic Advising period begins.
Faculty advisors in each major area arrange advising appointments differently, so keep in touch with your faculty advisor as the Academic Advising period approaches, around the middle of each semester.
When the Registration Period opens, each class is assigned a Registration Day, and every student is expected to register for the next semester on their assigned day. Don’t miss your Registration Day! Many course sections fill quickly and you don’t want to be left scrambling to get the courses you want.
At the end of each Fall and Spring Semester there is a designated four-day Final Exam Period. There is a special Final Exam Schedule that indicates the day and time of the final exam for each of your courses, as your final exams are scheduled separately from your regular class meeting times. A few days after the end of the Final Exam Period, faculty will record final course grades for the semester.
Tips for a Successful First Year
Students choose different paths to academic success and campus involvement—and even their definition of what success is may vary. Regardless of time, path chosen, and goals for success that are set, Westminster’s faculty and staff know that there are universal behaviors that will help every student move closer to success in all aspects of student life.
One of the obvious differences between high school and college is that you have more choice and autonomy at Westminster than you did in high school. With autonomy comes responsibility. Sure, it would be easy to silence an alarm clock, play video games, or spend the day in Pittsburgh rather than go to class. Most Westminster courses meet two or three times each week, so missing even one class can significantly hamper your success. Absences also can affect student-athletes’ ability to practice or compete with their teams.
Westminster’s faculty members notice when their students are absent because most of our courses have 25 or fewer students in them. We will get to know you well, and we expect you to show up for classes, labs, rehearsals, and appointments. We also expect that for every hour you spend with us in class, you will spend another two hours studying and preparing for the next class or assignment. College is a lot of work (it is your full-time job!) and being present is important.
Merely being present is not enough. Your faculty expect you to be prepared for each class by reading materials and working on assignments ahead of time. In class, we expect you to be active, engaged learners who share your knowledge, experience, and insights. Sitting quietly at your desk and never contributing to class discussions deprives us of your perspective. Similarly, being present but holding side conversations, using electronic devices for purposes unrelated to the course, or catching up on missed sleep is discourteous to your faculty and fellow students. Every time you come to a class, lab, or studio, be prepared and ready to learn. If you have an opinion, share it. If you have an answer, give it. We want to hear from you.
Faculty and administrators often find students wait too long to ask for help. The request comes just before a big exam, or after a number of poor grades. In some cases, students say they didn’t realize they were having problems until too late; in other cases, students suggest they didn’t know who to ask for help.
Westminster faculty members will evaluate your progress in courses through exams and quizzes, lab reports, rehearsals and performances, and so on. Many of them post your grades on our learning management system (D2L), so you will know your grades throughout the semester. Even if your professors do not use D2L, you can always ask them to let you know how you are performing in their courses. You do not need to guess at how you’re doing; your faculty will tell you exactly how you’re doing.
But don’t wait until an exam to visit your professors. Instead, visit each professor during the first week to introduce yourself, ask questions about things in the course that you don’t understand, and hear advice for succeeding in her/his course. Every faculty member sets aside time to meet with students (called “office hours”) each and every week of the semester. This is the ideal time for you to visit with your professors to learn how you are doing in their courses; to discuss strategies for improving; and to ask questions that were not addressed in class or textbooks.
In addition to the faculty teaching your courses, you have a dedicated faculty member who serves as your academic advisor. Advisors help you plan and register for your courses, but they can also help you find the resources you need to succeed. Those resources include the Academic Success Center
, the Disabilities Resource Office
, and the Professional Development Center
. You should stay in touch with your advisor, especially if you are struggling in your courses.
When students have trouble in their courses, they sometimes think the professor does not like them, is disappointed in them, or that other factors are preventing their success. However, we often find that the reasons students struggle (or the solutions to their problems) are within their control. For example, they may be studying in ineffective ways, or not managing their time wisely. A part of succeeding academically is taking ownership of your education and making choices that help you meet your goals. If your grades suffer because you are staying up late to peruse social media rather than to study, then you can change your behavior to bring about a better outcome. Blaming others for not succeeding is easy, but it doesn’t lead to success.
Westminster students are well-known for being incredibly active and engaged in the life of the campus—from student organizations to music ensembles to athletics to study abroad and more, students stay busy. Take advantage of the many lectures, performances, sports and cultural events offered on and off campus. Because engaged students are far more likely to manage time effectively, earn good grades, and persist at higher rates, we recommend you try out at least one organization or activity in your first semester. You must learn to balance out of class activity with academics—an important life skill. Your goal at Westminster is to earn your academic degree, and that is where your primary focus should be.
Take care of your health
It is important you plan for your physical and mental health care needs while attending college. No one plans to become ill, but if it happens, know that our Student Wellness Center
is available for you. Being prepared and becoming familiar with the services available can help you manage illness much easier when it occurs.
Westminster College was founded in 1852, and we are proud of our history. We are pleased that you have decided to join a community of scholars and alumni who care about your personal and intellectual development. You are a Titan, and we expect you to represent the College professionally and positively in all that you do. We want you to enjoy your time at Westminster, but also to appreciate that decisions you make today could have lasting consequences on your future careers—especially in the practically permanent life of the internet and social media.
Professional Development Center
You may have confidently selected a major or you may have no idea at all. Did you know an average college student changes majors three times during their college career and 80% change their major at least one time? The first year is often one of exploration and many students choose or change their majors. The Professional Development Center offers counseling and assessments to help match your interests and abilities to an academic major that is a good fit.
Additionally, you will meet the Professional Development Center staff in your Westminster 101 class where they will introduce you to important resume building strategies. For more information, please visit our Professional Development Center page
Westminster College Counseling Services is committed to the personal growth and development of the student body. Counselors embrace a philosophy of diversity, respecting all students who seek services, providing a safe and confidential place to communicate.
Short term counseling services are free of charge; licensed and certified counselors address a wide range of mental health issues and provide referrals to services off campus. Appointments can be arranged by directly emailing the counselors or through the Student Health Center.
If you currently receive psychiatric services, we recommend that you locate a psychiatrist in the area PRIOR to matriculation for prescription needs, since waiting periods for a first appointment with local providers are no less than three months. For medications that do not require a psychiatrist prescription, a Health Center physician may be able to meet those needs. Please note that our campus physicians do not prescribe for ADD/ADHD. If you currently receive counseling services, and would like to meet with a campus counselor, please be sure to provide a release form from your provider.
For more information, please visit our Counseling Services page
The mission of the Office of Disability Resources is to ensure that all students at Westminster participate in a useable, equitable, inclusive, and rigorous learning environment. Some students want to start college with a “clean slate” and to attempt college without accommodation or support. This may work for some students while others stumble. If you have received academic accommodation in the past and find yourself needing similar assistance, you should seek out the Office of Disability Resources. There someone can talk with you to help identify the appropriate campus resources and accommodations. Students with medical, academic or housing issues can find information at the Office of Disability Resources.
For more information, please visit our Disability Resources page
Diversity & Inclusion
The Office of Diversity & Inclusion serves a variety of functions at Westminster College. Its main purpose is to advance diversity and promote a positive climate for differences of race, gender, culture, sexual orientation, religion and age on campus and in the community. Among its priorities are the recruitment, retention, and success of students of diverse cultures, religion and racial backgrounds. The diversity director’s goal is to prepare students to become effective leaders and productive citizens in the culturally diverse 21st century. With student input, the staff offers activities and experiences that nurture respect for the dignity of all human beings, and a tolerance and appreciation for individual differences.
For more information, please visit our Diversity & Inclusion page
Faith & Spirituality
The Office of Faith & Spirituality provides resources for members of the campus community to develop and grow in their own faith journey. This includes delivering weekly non-denominational worship services and a Catholic Mass on campus; providing a detailed listing of places to worship for most religious traditions in the area; organizing opportunities to participate in local and international volunteer opportunities; and maintaining the most up-to-date schedules of campus fellowship organizations and small groups for students to join.
For more information, please visit our Office of Faith & Spirituality page
The Wellness Center is an integrated health care facility that provides general health services for illnesses and accidents, short term mental health counseling services, and wellness promotion for the students of Westminster. Clinical services are available for undergraduate students who pay the student activity fee.
Registered nurses provide assessment and consultation and a college physician or physician assistant holds daily clinic hours to treat acute illness and injuries. Westminster College strongly encourages all students to carry individual health insurance and to become familiar with their coverage. While most services at the Wellness Center are covered by the student activity fee, diagnostic testing and referral to outside community providers will require the use of individual health insurance.
For more information, please visit our Wellness Center page
Academic Success Center
The Academic Success Center, located in Thompson-Clark, is open for all Westminster students. If you need someone to help you with concepts in a particular course or need help writing a paper, our exceptional peer tutors are available to help you in every subject from biology to Spanish. Or maybe you would just like to talk to students who have “been there, done that” with a course or an assignment and who can share how they improved their time management and study skills. Whatever it is, the Academic Success Center is here to help you succeed.
For more information, please visit our Academic Success Center page
Library & Information Technology Services
From the moment you arrive on campus, LIS is here for you to help with any of your tech and information needs. Whether you need help connecting the wifi or if you are looking for sources to cite in your first research paper, we’ve got you covered.
Stop by our physical LIS Help Desk in McGill Library for assistance, or, if you are the DIY-type, you can check out our online guides on my.Westminster
(look for the word Help in the top menu) or through the Library page
Safety & Security Services
The Westminster College Department of Public Safety provides safety and security services to the campus community 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year. The Public Safety Department is made up of two full-time and 19 part-time members, the majority of whom are retired from public emergency service agencies, primarily state and municipal police. Public Safety officers have a wide range of training and experience in resolving safety and security issues and emergencies. Help is always just a call away.
For more information, please visit our Public Safety Office page