Academic Overview & Resources

Academic Overview & Resources


The beauty of the Penn State system of Commonwealth Campuses is choice. Students have opportunities to explore and determine which campus and major best meet their needs. Students may choose to remain at their starting campus and complete their degree at another Penn State Commonwealth campus. Factors that impact this decision may include the size of the campus, location, involvement opportunities, and housing options. Working with academic advisers, faculty, and staff, students can create a transition plan that works, in addition to academic considerations, seamlessly.

The Penn State Degree

The Penn State undergraduate degree is designed to help students develop a breadth of skills as well as depth of knowledge in a content area. Breadth is structured around general education, and depth is acquired through the major.

General Education Requirements

General education represents the foundation of a Penn State education and is designed to help students develop a breadth of skills and knowledge. For additional information about general education, see the General Education section of the Undergraduate Advising Handbook.


Skills to be Developed

Skill Credits Objective
Writing and Speaking 9 Communicate clearly in both writing and speaking
Quantification 6 Develop proficiency in working with numbers and logic


Knowledge to be Gained

Knowledge Credits Objective
Natural Sciences 9 Understand how scientists reason, draw conclusions, and think critically
Arts 6 Understand and appreciate creative works and their contributions to society
Humanities 6 Develop an understanding of human values and perspectives
Social and Behavioral Sciences 6 Understand and predict human behavior
Health and Physical Activity 3 Gain exposure to knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to live healthfully


Major Requirements

Major requirements differ for each major and in each academic college. Generally, major requirements include prescribed courses (courses all students in the major take), additional courses (courses students choose from a limited list), and supporting courses (courses students choose with help from an academic adviser to fit individual interests and goals).

Other Requirements

Depending on the college and major, a degree program may also include world/foreign language proficiency, internship experience, human diversity courses, and electives.

Declaring a Major and Upper Division Campus Choice

The student’s major choice often plays the most prominent role in determining the upper division campus. “Upper division” refers to the junior and senior years. Most students will choose their major in the spring of the sophomore year. Academic advisers and staff at each campus guide students in exploring majors based on the student’s goals and then plan the final two years at a campus where that major can be completed.

Students first become eligible to declare a major upon completion of at least 27.1 credits (typically at the end of two semesters) and achieving a minimum cumulative grade point average of a 2.00 and third-semester standing for entrance. While many majors can be started and completed at the original campus, others require the student to transition to another Commonwealth campus or to University Park. Therefore, the student’s major decision drives the upper division campus Choice.

At the time a student has successfully completed 43.1 credits (typically at the end of the third semester) the student is eligible for a change of campus for the junior year as determined by the major choice. Students will be notified by email when to both declare their major and initiate the change of campus. Students should consult regularly with an academic adviser to ensure the change of campus process takes place at the appropriate time for the selected major.

Enrollment Controlled Majors

Most majors at Penn State require a minimum cumulative grade-point average (CGPA) of 2.00 and third-semester standing for entrance. Some majors have additional requirements for entrance, such as stronger academic records, completion of specific courses, or demonstration of special talent.  A few majors have more applicants than can be accommodated because of space, faculty, or other resource limitations and are under administrative enrollment control.

Currently, the following majors are under administrative enrollment control for students admitted to the University in summer or fall 2017:

Behrend College

  • Mechanical Engineering

Smeal College of Business

  • Accounting
  • Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Management Information Systems
  • Marketing
  • Risk Management
  • Supply Chain & Information Systems

College of Communications

  • Advertising/Public Relations

College of Earth and Mineral Sciences

  • Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering
  • Energy Business and Finance

College of Engineering

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Architectural Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Nuclear Engineering

College of Information Sciences and Technology

  • Information Sciences and Technology
  • Security and Risk Analysis

To be guaranteed entrance to these majors, students must be enrolled in the college offering the major or in the Division of Undergraduate Studies, and within a designated credit window, complete the required courses and have the minimum cumulative GPA (CGPA) required for the intended major. Other requirements may also apply. Students are strongly encouraged to work closely with an academic adviser and to review the specific entrance criteria for intended majors at

Division of Undergraduate Studies

The Division of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) enrolls and advises students who are exploring majors in multiple academic colleges. Students choosing from more than one possible major may start in the division and, after exploring and selecting a major/college and meeting eligibility requirements, move into an academic college within their first two years.

Academic Advising at Penn State

Penn State students receive academic advising from professional and/or faculty advisers. Students can find their assigned adviser’s contact information in Starfish.

Academic advising contacts at Penn State are initiated by students. Students are encouraged to meet with their assigned adviser at least once a semester and as often as needed to successfully plan and manage their goals. Students are encouraged to seek a partnership with their assigned adviser to help them be intentional about the educational opportunities available at Penn State.

Academic advisers are prepared to:

  • Help students identify and achieve their academic goals
  • Promote intellectual discovery
  • Encourage students to engage in both in- and out-of-class educational opportunities
  • Encourage students to become self-directed learners and decision makers

For additional information:

Academic Integrity

The University expects students to pursue their academics in an honest and ethical manner. Penn State takes violations of academic integrity very seriously. 

Contacting Instructors

Students are expected to contact instructors if they have questions or concerns about course content, policies, or academic performance. College instructors are available during their office hours or by appointment. Office hours are typically listed on the course syllabus (an outline of the course content, expectations, and grading basis). Family members should encourage students to contact instructors directly.

Transferring Credit to Penn State

A student who does advanced work in a secondary school may earn credit through the Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams, which are based on college-level study, depending on the grade earned on the exam and the level of the exam taken. Penn State students may transfer credits to Penn State from courses taken at another institution in order to meet degree requirements. When awarded, all transfer credits are recorded on the student’s transcript, but no grade is recorded, and the student’s grade point average is not affected. Students should discuss with the college adviser the applicability of transfer course credit toward their intended degree. Additionally, because there is a lower- and upper-division tuition differential, students should contact the Office of the Bursar for help in determining the potential impact of transfer credits on their tuition.

Penn State Grading Scale


Grading Scale
Quality of Performance Grade Grade‑Point
Excellent: Exceptional Achievement A 4.00
Excellent: Exceptional Achievement A- 3.67
Good: Extensive Achievement B+ 3.33
Good: Extensive Achievement B 3.0
Good: Extensive Achievement B- 2.67
Satisfactory: Acceptable Achievement C+ 2.33
Satisfactory: Acceptable Achievement C 2.00
Poor: Minimal Achievement D 1.00
Failure: Inadequate Achievement F 0.00
Academic Dishonesty XF 0.00


Items to Know:
SGPA = Semester Grade-Point Average
CGPA = Cumulative Grade-Point Average
Dean’s list = 3.50 SGPA
Minimum acceptable = 2.00 CGPA

Minimal competitive CGPA at application:
Undergraduate internships 3.00
Medical school 3.50
Law school 3.33