Getting Started

Answers to frequently asked questions by new students at Middlebury.

I know what my first year seminar is. How will I select my other courses?

You will meet with your first-year seminar on Tuesday morning, the first full day of Orientation. Your seminar professor, who is also your adviser, will go over course selection and registration for classes, and you will sign up for individual meetings with him or her for later Tuesday or Wednesday. Some professors structure this first class to be a broad introduction to Middlebury’s academic environment, while others choose to begin exploring the seminar topic immediately.

Following your seminar, all students interested in taking classes in departments that require placement exams will take exams; see your Orientation materials for more details. The results of these tests will help you to plan your class schedule. Later in the afternoon, you will attend the Academic Forum in Kenyon Arena, where all of Middlebury’s academic departments will have faculty representatives available to answer any questions you may have.

After talking through your interests with your adviser, taking placement exams, and attending the Academic Forum, you will register for your remaining courses on-line beginning Wednesday afternoon. You will receive additional information about registration via e-mail.

A normal course load is four courses. Classes meet for a minimum of three hours each week. Some classes, especially in the languages and sciences, meet more often for intensive language drills and laboratory work, and others have evening film screenings.  You’ll need to spend some time experimenting with different courses schedules. The whole process can resemble a jigsaw puzzle at times as you figure out what courses actually fit with each other.  You should use the My Schedule Planner available at http://go.middlebury.edu/catalog to help you consider your options.

The Middlebury campus is large for a school of its size (240 acres), so we allow fifteen minutes between classes. Don’t hesitate to take classes that meet back-to-back; there is ample time to get from one place to another.

The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research (CTLR), centrally located in the Library, will also hold hours during Orientation when students can come in and review course choices with professional staff members and upper-class student advisers.

Will I actually be able to get into the classes I want or need?

It’s entirely possible that you won't get exactly the class schedule you want most. Courses and sections are limited in size to ensure classes of a reasonable size, and courses do fill up and close.

You should read the descriptions of all the 100-level courses in the Catalog. Don’t be afraid to take a calculated risk: the Middlebury curriculum is rich in subject areas which were not offered at your secondary school. You will be advised to explore alternatives and come to registration knowing three or four ways that your first-semester courses will satisfy your needs. You will also be able to take advantage of the add/drop period, which begins on the first day of classes and runs through the first two weeks of the semester.  During the add/drop period, faculty give students permission to add their courses by signing add cards. Add cards are available at the Registrar’s Office (Forest Hall) and in the Commons offices.

I'm confused by Middlebury’s distribution requirement.

Don’t be; it’s not that complicated. We have a course distribution requirement based on eight categories of courses, and a cultures and civilizations requirement involving four categories of courses.  You must take one course in seven of the eight academic categories, and one course in each of the four cultures and civilizations categories.

A listing and explanation of these categories are in the hard-copy Catalog (the Catalog in its most up-to-date form can be accessed on-line through the College’s web page) and pages 11-12 of the First-year Seminar Registration materials you received this summer.

It makes sense to keep course distribution in mind as you choose classes. The requirement that you cannot choose more than one course this term in any one discipline ensures distribution at this point.

Does the first-year seminar count toward the distribution requirement?

Yes. Check the First-year Seminar Registration booklet to see which distribution category or categories (in bold-face capital letters) your seminar covers.

Are there any idiosyncrasies in the Distribution Requirement?

You won't get Foreign Language credit for first-year French or first-year Spanish.  This is because many students have taken French and Spanish in high school, and might choose to repeat that work at Middlebury in order to satisfy the distribution requirement.

Other than that, it's pretty straightforward: one course in seven of eight categories. Note in the course catalog that distribution categories are listed after the course description.

I want to continue studying the foreign language I studied in high school. How do I know my level? How do I know which course to take?

As noted earlier, on the first Thursday of Orientation, placement tests will be offered (see page 28 in the First-Year Seminar Registration booklet for a full schedule and explanation of placement tests). You can also speak with faculty members from particular departments at the Academic Forum on Thursday afternoon.

Does it make sense for me to begin a new language now, or should I wait until I have my feet on the ground?

If you want to study abroad in your junior year in the language you are considering taking, you should probably begin now. If you start next year, you will be required to come to come to Middlebury summer school in order to be qualified for study abroad.

Keep in mind, however, that studying at Middlebury in the summer is a great way to learn languages. Students who begin the "less-commonly taught" languages – Arabic, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, or Japanese - in their first year often take the third year of the language in the summer before going abroad in the junior year.

So if I want to study abroad, I have to be qualified to study in the language of the country in which I am studying?

As simply stated as possible, our study abroad policy is as follows:

a)  If you study in a country whose people speak a language we teach at Middlebury, you must qualify at the intermediate/advanced level (two years or more of college study).
b) If you study in a country whose people speak a language we do not teach at Middlebury (for example, in Scandinavia, Greece, Poland), your program of study must include language study.
c)  If you study in an English speaking country (i.e. the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia), you must be able to meet other conditions established by the Programs Abroad Committee.

Over half of Middlebury students study abroad in their junior year. Most of those students are taking classes in the language of the host country.

May I take two languages?

Yes, but keep in mind distribution concerns. It doesn't make sense to begin two languages in the first semester. First year language study usually has an intense winter term component that would be impossible to accommodate in two languages. Wait until next year to begin a second new language.

May I take two lab courses in the sciences?

Yes, but keep in mind distribution concerns. The wisdom of taking two lab courses depends entirely upon your science background and aptitude.  If you are a very strong science student, and you have an ambition for a career in the sciences, go ahead.  In other cases, your high school record and aptitude scores might indicate that it would be wise to wait and not take two lab sciences immediately.

What about pre-med - and other majors with lots of requirements?

If you plan to be pre-med, you should be sure to see Arlinda Wickland, Health Professions Adviser, during Orientation or in the first week of class in order to familiarize yourself with the pre-med course requirements.  Pre-med requirements are printed in the First-Year Seminar Registration booklet you received this summer (page 9), and are also available on line. You don't have to major in the sciences to be pre-med, but it's important that you start early and take the right sequence of courses.

Other departments, Economics and International Studies, for example, ask you to get started early in order to get through required preliminary courses.  Again, read the Catalog. Talk to your adviser.

Should I worry about my major now?

It's okay if you don't know what you want to major in. The first year is for experimenting, finding out about yourself and your interests.  If you hope to study abroad in your junior year, however, it does make sense to get started in your major this year, so you will have required courses out of the way by then.   Likewise, it is important to start pre-medical courses if you intend to take the MCATs during your junior year.

If you have two or three major possibilities, take classes in your first year in those areas, and you will end up knowing more about your direction at the end of the year. Read the Catalog closely so you know the demands of different departments in which you are interested.

I love Biology; I think I’ll major in it. May I take more than one course in Biology this semester? In any department?

No.  The first year is for spreading out, to experience liberal arts diversity, to "distribute" your courses over the curriculum.  In the second semester, with your adviser's support, it is possible to take two courses in the same department, but keep in mind distribution concerns.

May I take five courses - or six?

No.  First-year students take a maximum of four courses.  No exceptions in your first semester.  The rule for five courses is:  "permission is granted to students who have maintained an average of B or better in the two preceding terms."  If you think an exception is warranted for the spring, see your adviser and then your Commons dean.  Five is the maximum number of courses allowed, and then only with authorization.

How about three courses?

Yes. It is your prerogative to take three courses.  For some students, taking three courses in the first semester makes good sense.  Usually, it is advisable to start with four courses, then drop down to three if the workload is too great, or if one course entirely eludes you. Remember that you have to make up that course credit at some point (unless you have an AP credit, or credit earned from some other college or university prior to coming to Middlebury). International students should take care to maintain whatever full course load your visas require.

A two course load?

No.  Students must be registered for at least three courses at all times. They may drop to two only with the permission of the Administration Committee in the case of extreme personal circumstances (for example, a family tragedy or a serious medical problem).

Should I worry about writing-intensive courses?

Not yet.  Each first-year seminar is writing intensive.  Sometime in the next three semesters, after the first, you will have to take one more writing-intensive class.  They are listed in the hard copy Catalog and on the web. You cannot get writing credit for an additional course beyond your FYS in your first semester.

I’m not an ace on the computer.  Can I get help?

The LIS Computing Help Desk in the Library takes pride in being user friendly. There are student consultants who will work with you, as well as classes for beginners; also, students in your residence hall will be happy to teach you the basics. Make sure you look over the computer materials provided to you at the Welcome Center when you first arrive on campus. Drop in to the Computer Center in the library during Orientation to discuss with the consultants your needs and concerns, or call the Computer Help Desk at x2200.

Am I restricted only to 100-level courses in my first year?

No. It may make sense for you to take courses at the 200 or (rarely) at the 300 levels.  In the natural sciences and languages, students often will "place" higher than the 100 level.  Be sure to talk to department chairs at the Academic Forum on Thursday and to take the placement exams at their scheduled times.  In the humanities and social sciences, occasionally, you can get permission to enroll in upper-level classes, but keep in mind that assessments (tests, essays, etc.) are based on an assumption of academic experience.

When will I find out about my AP credit?

AP credit will appear on your Banner Web transcript. You will be notified by e-mail when it has been posted to your record.  Your adviser will receive a copy of these results.  AP credit guidelines were spelled out in the seminar registration booklet.

I took college-level work before coming to Middlebury. How can I get that credit evaluated?

You should contact the Registrar’s Office in Forest Hall.  You should keep in mind that the rule of thumb is that this study has taken place in a college environment (that is, under the supervision of college professors, with college students in the class). Also, you may not have used this credit toward your high school diploma.

I’m an international student. How about the International Baccalaureate?

Middlebury welcomes students from I.B. schools and awards 5 course credits for students who earn the full I.B. diploma with 36 or more points, and at least three higher level scores of 6 or 7. Partial credit is also available. See a staff member in the Registrar’s Office in Forest Hall for further information.

I have a certified disability. How does that information get to my professors?

Jodi Litchfield is the Coordinator of the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) Office. You should make it a point to see her right away to discuss your disability and the accommodations that make sense, and how best to communicate with your professors.

I need to earn money.  Can I succeed in my studies and still work?

Yes.  The financial aid award, for those students who qualify, is based in part on the expectation that students can earn spending money.  We wouldn't do this if it weren't possible.  Job obligations will, however, require you to be responsible when planning your time.

How about sports?  I love sports but I'm worried they will take up too much of my time.  Should I go out for a team?

Middlebury students should be able to succeed in their studies and commit themselves to a gratifying extra-curricular activity.   An extra-curricular activity is an important part of the education of many students.  Sports practices begin at 4:30 p.m. at the end of the daily class schedule.  The Athletic Department asks for a commitment from its varsity athletes, but understands and wholeheartedly supports the academic priorities of the College.  If you play on a team, it will be important for you to manage your time carefully.