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Undergraduate Biology Majors: Frequently Asked Questions


General Questions about Advising, Registration and Graduation :

Q: Where can I find out about general UMBC academic policies?
Q: Where can I find the requirements for graduation?
The Undergraduate catalog http://catalog.umbc.edu
The Office of Undergraduate Education http://www.umbc.edu/undergrad_ed/policy.html
The Registrar’s Office http://registrar.umbc.edu

Q; How do I add a class?
Q: How do I drop a class?
Q: How do I find out about wait lists?
Q: How do I register for classes?
Q: How do I find out about graduation?
For questions about registration, transfer courses, adding a class, dropping a class, wait lists, graduation, graduation requirements, or other general questions, please consult:
The Office of the Registrar http://registrar.umbc.edu

Student FAQ https://wiki.umbc.edu/display/sa/Student+FAQ


Q: How can I determine my progress toward graduation?
Q: How can I see how my courses transferred in?
Q: How can I see an unofficial transcript?
You can use the Degree Audit function from myUMBC > Topics>Advising and Student Support.
Instructions: http://registrar.umbc.edu/services/degree-audit/

Note that Degree Audit fills in all the courses you are currently enrolled in, assuming you will pass them, and uses these classes in calculating credits taken and progress towards graduation.

Q: Why can’t I register for my classes?

A1: Have you been advised, and did your adviser clear you to register? All students must interact with their academic adviser each semester. Then, in order for the student to register, the adviser has to give ‘advising clearance’ in the SA system before the student can register.
A2: Is it too soon for you to be registering? Students may register for classes for the next semester only after a certain date called their ‘registration appointment’. These dates can be found on the Registrar’s web site here:


Registration dates are based on earned credits (not total credits), and students with more earned credits go first.
A3: Did you apply to graduate but not actually graduate? If you apply to graduate, you are automatically locked out of the registration system for future semesters. If you applied but did not graduate, you need to contact the Registrar’s Office and have them reactivate your account.
A4. Do you have a financial hold? You cannot register for classes if you have unpaid bills: this must be taken care of first.

Q: Why can’t I register for a specific course?
The course might be ‘by permission of instructor’, or you do not have all the prerequisites for the course. Sometimes a course you transferred in thinking it qualifies as a prerequisite may not have been deemed equivalent. If you feel the system is in error, you can email the instructor for a course, clearly explain the situation, and ask if he/she will issue you an ‘override code’ that will allow you to bypass the system and still enroll in the course.

Q: How do I get permission to enroll in a closed class?
Typically, you must contact the course instructor to gain permission to enroll in a closed course.

Q: How do I find out whether a class is an AH or SS?
Go to the ‘Class Schedule’ link under ‘Academics’ on the UMBC home page, use the form to find the class you want, then click on it, the information is listed in the ‘Class Attributes’ box.

Q: How do I find out what SS or AH classes are offered each semester?
Go to the ‘Class Schedule’ link under ‘Academics’ on the UMBC home page. At the bottom of the form you can search for classes by Gen Ed type. Note that you have to fill in any two pieces of information in the top panel to make the search work.

Q: I have taken Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/College-Level Examination Program exams. How can I receive credit?
First, an official report of your score must be sent from the appropriate testing agency to the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Admissions. These scores will then be evaluated according to the standards listed in the UMBC Undergraduate Catalog.

Q: I received course credit for Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/College-Level Examination Program exams at my previous institution. Is it possible to receive credit from UMBC as well?
UMBC does not accept another institution’s assessment of AP/IB/CLEP exam scores for credit. In order for a student to receive credit for any of these exams, an official report of the student’s score must be sent directly from the appropriate testing agency to the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Admissions. These scores will then be evaluated according to the standards listed in the UMBC Undergraduate Catalog.

Q: Do grades I receive when I take classes outside of UMBC count toward my GPA?
Not usually. You receive credits toward the 120 credits needed to graduate (and toward the 45 upper level credits needed if the course is upper level), but only your grades in UMBC courses are used in your UMBC GPA calculation.

Q: Can I take a course at a community college during my last semester?
Yes, as long as you have not already transferred in the maximum of 60 credits from a 2-year institution, and you will satisfy the requirement of 30 credits taken at UMBC.

Q: Who is my adviser?
Declared BIOL majors with under 30 credits are advised by the CNMS Advising office. After 30 credits, BIOL majors receive a permanent adviser. You should receive an email from your adviser before the time to register for classes for the coming semester. If you have forgotten who your adviser is, contact the Biological Sciences main office or the CNMS Advising office.
CNMS Advising office: MEYR140B 410-455-1739
Biological Sciences office: BS480 410-455-2261

Q: How often must I meet with my academic advisor?
Once a semester at minimum. Degree-seeking students must meet with their academic advisor before they can register for the next semester’s courses (Fall and Spring semesters). To ensure that students do this, an electronic ‘advising hold’ is placed on the student’s account, which is lifted by the academic advisor after advising has occurred. You do not have to meet with an adviser before taking Summer or Winter session courses, or if you are in your final semester before graduation.

Q: What do I need to do before showing up for my advising appointment?
You should be familiar with the requirements for graduation and for completion of the major.
You can find general graduation requirements here: http://catalog.umbc.edu/content.php?catoid=6&navoid=233
and BIOL major requirements here: http://biology.umbc.edu/undergrad/undergraduate-programs/
and major and minor worksheets here: http://biology.umbc.edu/undergrad/forms-links/
you can monitor your progress with ‘Degree Audit’ http://registrar.umbc.edu/services/degree-audit/

You should arrive with a worksheet for the major filled out with courses you have already passed, and a list of courses you propose to take. Do not expect your adviser to do this work for you, it is your responsibility. Your Biological Sciences adviser will mostly be concerned with your progress towards completing the requirements for the BIOL major, but will be able to answer other questions you have (graduation, careers, etc), or at least be able to point you in the right direction to answers.

Q: Where can I find advising about careers?
Consult: http://www.umbc.edu/advising/



Q: When do I have to apply for graduation?
The deadlines to apply for graduation are: May Graduation – February 15
August Graduation – June 15
December Graduation – September 15
additional data on graduation requirements at http://registrar.umbc.edu/services/graduation/

Q: Can I still ‘walk’ in the graduation ceremony if I have not completed all the requirements for my major or for UMBC?
Starting in the Fall 2015 (December graduation) students will only be allowed to participate in one graduation ceremony and will only be allowed to ‘walk’ if they will complete all the requirements for graduation with courses they are currently enrolled in.

Q: How do I get permission to take a course a third time? What happens if I fail it?
It is UMBC policy that a student may only register for a course two times (thus any course for which you received a grade or a ‘W’ counts). A student wishing to register for a course for a third (and final) time must complete a petition process for the Office of Undergraduate education. The process and deadlines to complete the process can be found here:


The Biological Sciences department adheres to this UMBC policy. Students failing to pass a BIOL major requirement after three attempts will not be permitted to remain in the BIOL major.

Q: What counts as academic misconduct?
Q: I am aware of academic misconduct that occurred in a class, what do I do?
The UMBC policy on academic integrity and academic misconduct is described here:


and here http://umbc.edu/undergrad_ed/ai/overview.html
and definitions of misconduct can be found here: http://umbc.edu/undergrad_ed/ai/documents/ACC2011.pdf
If you are aware of academic misconduct that has occurred in one of your classes, please contact either the professor or a teaching assistant.

Questions about Biological Sciences degrees:

Q: How many credits can I transfer and still graduate as a BIOL major from UMBC?
At least 30 credits of the 120 needed for graduation must be taken at UMBC, and 15 of them must be upper level (3XX or above). At least half of the BIOL courses and electives have to be taken at UMBC (four courses for the BIOL BA, six courses for the BIOL BS). Beyond this, students can use a maximum of 90 total credits from outside sources (AP/IB/CLEP, two year or four year institutions) toward their UMBC degree. A maximum of 60 credits can come from two year institutions.

Q: Can I graduate with a D grade in a class?
All courses required for the BIOL degree (the BIOL/CHEM/PHYS/MATH/STAT courses on the ‘worksheet’) must be completed with a grade of C or better. The only time a grade of D may be used for the BIOL degree is when a student earns a D in their final semester, has applied to graduate, and the same course or a comparable course is not offered in the next academic session. Under that circumstance a student can petition to graduate with a D in a major requirement using the ‘Petition to Waive a Requirement’ form found here: http://biology.umbc.edu/undergrad/forms-links/

Q: I took a Biology class at my previous institution and it did not transfer in the way I expected it to, why is that? What can I do about it?
The Registrar’s Office will compare a student’s class taken at another institution to a database of known equivalencies to UMBC courses. If the course did not transfer as you expected, that means in the past that course was evaluated by the Biological Sciences department and deemed not equivalent to our class. If the class is one that the registrar’s Office has never seen before, you will be asked to provide a syllabus and other information about the class, and to indicate which UMBC course you think it is equivalent to. This information will be forwarded to the Biological Sciences department, where it will be evaluated and the decision given to the Registrar’s Office. If you do not provide enough information, the course may not be deemed equivalent. If you feel an error was made, you can ask that the Registrar’s Office send the relevant information on the course to the Biological Sciences department again, and it may be re-evaluated (although the same decision may be reached).

Q: Can I take an upper level biology course at another school and use it as a lecture or lab elective for the major?
Yes, maybe. First, remember that half of the required BIOL core courses and electives must be taken in residence at UMBC. Second, the BIOL 4XX elective course must be taken at UMBC. However there is no guarantee that a specific upper level BIOL course at another institution will be deemed equivalent to a UMBC course and be allowed for the major. Therefore, students are encouraged to only take courses for which equivalency to a UMBC BIOL course is already established (consult the ARTSYS site for MD community colleges: http://www.artsys.usmd.edu)

Q: Can I be both a double major in BIOC and BIOL, or BINF and BIOL?
Yes! Students who are BIOC or BINF majors who wish to also pursue a BIOL BS or BA degree may use Core BIOL, CHEM, MATH/STAT and PHYS courses from the BIOC or BINF major towards the BIOL degree, but MUST take separate electives for the two degrees. Please note, the university requires students taking two different Bachelors degrees (like the BA and BS) to take a total of 150 credits.

Q: I am going to study abroad, if I take Biology courses, will they transfer in?
Students studying abroad must fill out the Verification of Transferability form from the Registrar’s Office BEFORE going abroad. Students are encouraged to take only General Education Courses and Introductory science/math courses abroad, since these are most likely to transfer in to UMBC. Upper level Biology courses are unlikely to transfer in and be allowed as electives for the major, although the student will still receive the credits for such courses toward the 120 needed for graduation.
VoT Form: http://registrar.umbc.edu/forms/transfer-request-forms

Q: I plan to take one of the courses for the BIOL major at another institution, is this allowed? Do I have to do anything beforehand?
A current UMBC student planning to take a course at another US institution must also fill out the Verification of Transferability form from the Registrar’s Office and have it signed by their academic adviser BEFORE taking the course. If the course is at a Maryland public two year institution, you can check whether the course is equivalent to a specific UMBC course using the ARTSYS web site http://www.artsys.usmd.edu.
VoT Form: http://registrar.umbc.edu/forms/transfer-request-forms

Q: Can I use MATH 155 for the BIOL BS degree?
No. The BIOL BS requires MATH 151. However, if you have already passed MATH 155, you may take MATH 155B and use these two courses in place of MATH 151. To do so you must file a ‘Petition to Waive/Substitute a Requirement’ form, found here: http://biology.umbc.edu/undergrad/forms-links/

Q: If I have passed BIOL 142, can I retake BIOL 141 to boost my GPA?
Q: If I have passed BIOL 302/303, can I retake BIOL 141/142 to boost my GPA?
The Biological Sciences department considers the first two BIOL core courses (BIOL 141 and BIOL 142) to be an academic sequence with the last two BIOL core courses (BIOL 302 and BIOL 303). Therefore, according to the UMBC policy on registration as outlined in the Undergraduate Catalog, a student may retake BIOL 141 after completing BIOL 142, but a student may not retake BIOL 141 or BIOL 142 after completing BIOL 302 or BIOL 303.

Q: If I take a 3xx/4xx course as P/F will it still count for meeting the 45 upper level requirement rule?
It would for graduation requirements. However, the course would not count towards satisfying the requirements for any Biological Sciences department – all courses must be passed with C or better, so a P/F grade would not count.

Q: I want to go to medical/dental/veterinary/pharmacy school. Do I have to be a Biological Sciences or Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major?
Both the BA in Biological Sciences and the BS in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology include much of the pre-requisite coursework required by health professions programs. Many of the students (75% or so) who apply to medical school from UMBC complete a degree in one of the life sciences because they enjoy science, excel in it, and the amount of course overlap is convenient.

However, you do not have to be a Biological Sciences or Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major to pursue these professions. Some students pursue other degrees because they wish to enhance the education that they plan on receiving in professional school. There are mechanical engineers who wish to work on the development of prosthetics and other devices for assisting patients with physical limitations. Health administration & public policy and political science majors may have a desire to address health issues at the local, state, national, and international level. Other students choose a major outside the sciences because they feel that this may be the last opportunity they have to study subjects outside the sciences until they have finished their professional degree.

Medical, dental, and pharmacy schools are looking for well-rounded students who are good critical thinkers and have a combination of good grades, extracurricular activities, health-relevant experience, and high entrance exam scores. You can demonstrate that you have these attributes no matter what your academic major.

Q: I have an A.A./A.A.S.; what kind of GPA/coursework do I need to be accepted into a Bachelor’s degree program in Biological Sciences/Biochemistry & Molecular Biology/Bioinformatics & Computational Biology?
For B.A./B.S. students in Biological Sciences and B.S. students in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, admission to UMBC is considered “acceptance” into the desired program. Continued enrollment as one of these majors is contingent upon the student completing major requirements in accordance with the academic regulations listed in the UMBC Undergraduate Catalog.

For B.S. students in Bioinformatics & Computational Biology, a minimum GPA in a defined group of introductory-level courses (called a “gateway”) is required before students may continue enrollment in the major.

Q: I received course credit for Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/College-Level Examination Program exams at my previous institution. Is it possible to receive credit from UMBC as well?
UMBC does not accept another institution’s assessment of AP/IB/CLEP exam scores for credit. In order for a student to receive credit for any of these exams, an official report of the student’s score must be sent directly from the appropriate testing agency to the UMBC Office of Undergraduate Admissions. These scores will then be evaluated according to the standards listed in the UMBC Undergraduate Catalog.

Q: I switched from the ‘old’ BIOL BA/BS (pre-2010) to the ‘new’ BIOL BA/BS but Degree Audit is still showing me as under the old major requirements, what do I do?
You have to go to the Registrar’s office and file a Change of Major form and write down that you want to change from ‘BIOL BA/BS catalog year 2004’ to ‘BIOL BA/BS catalog year 2010’..