Undergraduate: Frequently Asked Questions

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»Degree Requirements
»Transfer Students/Taking Classes at Another University or College
»Change of Major/Double Major/Minor
»Undergraduate Research
»Tutoring & Academic Support
»Spring 2020-related questions (COVID-19)



As long as you declared your Biology major within the first 10 days of classes, you should receive an email with your advising assignment around the end of October for Spring advising and the end of March for Fall. This email will let you know who your advisor is and how you can set up an appointment. If you do not receive an email, a list will be posted outside the Biology Office (BS480) and the CNMS Advising Office (UC205).

If you did not declare your major by the end of the semester’s schedule adjustment period (10th day of classes), and switched to a biology major, please see the following link: https://cnmsadvising.umbc.edu/about-cnms-academic-advising/cnms-departmental-advising-contacts/.

For questions about registration, transfer courses, adding a class, dropping a class, wait lists, graduation, graduation requirements, or other general questions, please consult the Registrar’s Office.

Some helpful links:

Did you meet with your advisor?  You must meet with your assigned advisor every semester before registering for classes. Once you have this meeting, your advisor will give you “advising clearance” in the SA system, allowing you to register.

Is it too soon for you to register? UMBC assigns “registration appointments” for students based on earned credits (not total credits). You may register for next semester classes only after that date and time has passed. To look at the registration assignments, see the Registrar’s Office webpage:

  • Please note, if you are using your Degree Audit to calculate your earned credits, be sure to subtract your current course load. Degree Audit credits includes completed AND enrolled courses.

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.

Do you have a financial or other hold? You cannot register for classes if you have unpaid bills. You are informed of financial holds in the “Alert” box of myUMBC. Contact Student Business Services for more information. You should still meet with your advisor for advising clearance if you have unpaid bills. Other holds on your account may include missing health records. Contact University Health Services for more information.

At UMBC, students may only register in a course twice before having to seek special permission for a third attempt. Withdraws and transfer courses do count as attempts. If a student wishes to take a class an additional third (and final) time, they must complete a petition process through the Office of Undergraduate Education. This extensive process includes advisor permission, a personal statement, a tutoring contract, and other components. The full process and deadlines can be found here: http://academicpolicy.umbc.edu/home/undergraduate-petitions/. Generally, third attempts are taken at UMBC, and during the Fall or Spring semesters.

If for some reason you do not pass the course on the third and final attempt, you must refer back to your Alternate Academic Plan, as noted on your petition. Talk with your advisor about your options. Note you may be required to change your major or pursue another alternative path.

Your assigned advisor can help you all semester long, not just during registration. If you have general questions or want advice on classes, you can contact the advisor you were last assigned to. However, as the next semester’s registration advising gets closer, they may ask you to hold off, either until your registration advising appointment or to see if you are assigned a new advisor.

Keep in mind that advisors may take a little longer to answer back during summer or winter, or if they participate in other events throughout the year (like new student orientation or research conferences). The CNMS Advising Office is exceptionally busy during summer orientation time.

Regardless of your track, you meet with your assigned major advisor every semester to go over your biology degree requirements. Only your major advisor can clear you for registration every semester. If you are pursuing a health interest, you may be required to meet with a track advisor to go over the additional requirements to your degree. Please note, health interests like pre-med or pre-professional programs are not a major at UMBC.

Pre-professional track students (including pre-pharmacy, pre-nursing, pre-physical therapy, pre-occupational therapy, pre-dental hygiene, and pre-physician assistant) go to the Office of Academic & Pre-Professional Advising. Contact them at arc@umbc.edu or Sherman Hall, 2nd floor.

Students interested in attending medical, dental, optometry, podiatry, and veterinary school should review the PreMedical & PreDental Advising Office website. Visit the website for contact information or email healthproadvising@umbc.edu. The Pre-Med Office holds mandatory freshmen and sophomore meetings each semester.

All students should be familiar with with the UMBC Policy for Undergraduate Student Academic Conduct. Please see the following link for more information: https://academicconduct.umbc.edu/resources-for-students/.



Degree Requirements

No. The BIOL BS requires MATH 151. However, if you have already passed MATH 155, you may take MATH 155B and use the two courses in the place of MATH 151. To do so, you must file a “Petition to Waive/Substitute Program Requirements.” MATH 155B is a 1-credit course that is only offered in the Winter session.

As long as the transfer course has been deemed equivalent to an UMBC  course that meets the upper-level elective, it can be used for the major requirements. A Verification of Transferabilty form must be completed  before enrolling in the course. See Transfer Student section of this FAQ for more information.

Please note that many of the BIOL upper levels do not have direct equivalencies from other colleges/universities. Students can submit a Course Description Review to the Registrar’s Office for confirmation.

At least one BIOL 4XX level elective must be taken at UMBC for the BIOL BA and BS degrees. All biology majors and minors have a residency requirement. Be sure to check your Degree Audit to ensure you are meeting the required number of courses taken at UMBC.

It depends. The Biological Sciences Department considers the BIOL core courses to be an academic sequence:

BIOL 141/BIOL 142  →   BIOL 302/BIOL 303

According to the UMBC policy outlined in the Undergraduate Catalog, a student may retake BIOL 141 after completing BIOL 142, but may not retake BIOL 141 or BIOL 142 after completing BIOL 302 or BIOL 303. In other words, once they start taking the upper level core courses, a student may not go make to take the lower level Core Courses.

Only some of our upper level courses are offered pass/fail. If a course it taken pass/fail, the course will count towards your graduation requirements. However, the course would not count towards satisfying the requirements for any Biological Sciences department program– all courses must be passed with “C” or better, so a P/F grade would not count. More information about pass/fail courses can be found here: https://catalog.umbc.edu/content.php?catoid=12&navoid=558.



Your Degree Audit tracks your progress for you. Found on myUMBC under ‘Guide’ and ‘Classes & Grades,’ your Degree Audit automatically fills in classes you have transferred in, courses you have taken and been graded on, and classes you are currently enrolled in or will be the following semester. The requirements on the Degree Audit include both university requirements (the Gen Eds) and the program requirements (your major). Each section will collapse when completed/enrolled. Please note that Degree Audit always assumes you are going to pass the classes in which you are enrolled; plan accordingly. While Degree Audit is a beneficial tool, students should always track their requirements on their own to help with course planning.

If you have just changed your major, it usually takes a few weeks for the Degree Audit to update. You will have to work with your advisor and fill in the Advising Worksheets to track progress.

For information on how to understand Degree Audit, see the Registrar’s Office website.

The deadlines to apply for graduation are:

May Graduation – February 15
August Graduation – June 15
December Graduation – September 15

Additional data on graduation requirements can be found at http://registrar.umbc.edu/services/graduation/.

Our alumni leave UMBC to pursue careers in a vast variety of fields and positions. Many of our graduates go on to apply to graduate or medical schools,  others enter the workforce as lab technicians or researchers.  Talk with your advisor about your interests (both academic and personal) as well as the Career Center. Your professors can also prove to be a useful resource in determining career paths.


Transfer Students/Taking Classes at Another University or College

The Registrar’s Office usually takes a couple weeks to process transfer requests. Please speak with them to see the progress of your transfer request.

The Registrar’s Office has a database of all the courses that have direct equivalencies to UMBC courses. If you have submitted your transfer credit, and your course either did not transfer or did not transfer as the class you expected, you can petition for reevaluation of the credit.

To do this, you must complete the Evaluation of Transfer Credit/Course Description Review form on the Registrar’s Office website. You will be required to submit a copy of the non-UMBC course’s syllabus, as well as designate the UMBC course you think is equivalent. The syllabus will get reviewed by both the Registrar’s Office and the relevant department, and a final decision will be made on the transfer equivalency. Know that the original decision of non-transferable or transferring in as another course may stand. You can only have a course reevaluated once.

At least 30 credits of the 120 needed for graduation must be taken at UMBC, with 15 credits being at the upper level (3XX or above). At least half of the BIOL courses and electives must be taken at UMBC (four courses for the BIOL BA and six courses for the BIOL BS). As a rule, UMBC will only accept 90 credits of transfer credit from a 4-year institution and 60 credits from a community college. If you have already transferred in the maximum number of credits, you will not be able to transfer in an additional course. See the university’s transfer polices for more info.

If you would like to attend another institution, like a community college, to take a course while you are attending UMBC, you must fill out the Verification of Transferability form on the Registrar’s Office website BEFORE enrolling in the course.

If you wish to take a course at another USM institution or a participating institution through the Baltimore Student Exchange Program, please also complete the appropriate UMBC enrollment forms: http://registrar.umbc.edu/forms/enrollment-forms/.

The Department of Biological Sciences requires at least half the biology classes to be taken at UMBC for the Biological Sciences, B.A. and B.S. majors. This is equivalent to 4 courses for the BIOL BA and six courses for the BIOL BS. Note that BIOL 251 & BIOL 252 only count as ONE in-residency course, not two, for the BIOL BA. The BIOL minor requires three BIOL courses to be taken at UMBC.

It depends. Pre-requisite overrides can be reviewed at the professor’s discretion, on a case-by-case basis. If a course is equivalent, but has yet to be processed by the university, you can ask permission from the course instructor to enroll in a course in which the transfer credit is a pre-req. Instructors may ask to see your unofficial transcript, a screenshot of ARTSYS, and/or a course syllabus to demonstrate the equivalency. If they agree, the course instructor can override the pre-req for you and allow you to register. If the course is already waitlisted, the instructor can still provide the override, but you will still have to wait on the waitlist for a spot in the class to open. Pre-req overrides are not guaranteed. Some instructors may ask that the Registrar’s Office fully process your transcript before you enroll in the course.


Change of Major/Double Major/Minor

Visit the Registrar’s Office website: http://registrar.umbc.edu/forms/records-updaterequest-forms/. An advisor’s signature is not needed for biology majors and minors.

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. Always discuss your double major interests with your advisor. Advisors can provide more information about the benefits and drawbacks of double majors.

Please note, the university requires students taking two different Bachelors degrees (like the BA and BS) to take a total of 150 credits. See the UMBC Catalog for specific double major/degree requirements.

The Department of Biological Sciences offers both a Bachelors of Science and a Bachelors of Arts degree in biological sciences. Both degrees require the core BIOL courses (BIOL 141, 142, 302, 303, and 300L) and chemistry through Organic Chemistry I (CHEM 351). Most importantly, both are sufficient for professional or graduate school admission.


  • Intended for students preparing for health professions program (Pre-Med, Pre-Dental, Pre-PA, etc.),  students desiring general biology degree, students interested in a multidisciplinary undergraduate career
  • Requires 55-57 credits
  • Requires 3 electives, including 1 laboratory elective
  • Elementary Applied Calculus (MATH 155) option
  • Option of Anatomy & Physiology as an elective (must take both BIOL 251 AND BIOL 252 to qualify)
  • Pairs nicely with other Bachelor of Arts degrees for students wishing to double major
  • Complete two Culture courses in fulfillment of GEP requirements


  • Intended for students interested in a technical or laboratory career, or students interested in attending a graduate program in science
  • Requires 67-77 credits
  • Requires 6 electives, including 2 laboratory electives
  • Requires Organic Chemistry 1 Lab (CHEM 351 L)
  • Requires Analytical Calculus (MATH 151), in addition to a MATH/STAT/CMSC elective
  • Option to use undergraduate research as an elective
  • Complete one Culture course in fulfillment of GEP requirements

No. Because the requirements are the same for the BIOL minor as for the Biology Core Courses in those degree programs, you cannot minor in Biological Sciences and be a Biochem or Bioinformatics student.

Yes! But, you must take separate electives. Please keep in mind the many requirement differences between the minor and the major. It may prove a lot of work for some students.


Undergraduate Research

Start with speaking with your academic advisor about your interests: subjects you enjoy, topics you understood well in class, or future goals. Your advisor will have a good understanding of what sort of research is happening around the department.

Your next step is to take a look at the Faculty Directory on the Biology website. Each faculty member participating in research will have a “Profile” and a “Research Group” link next to their name. Read about each of the labs’ focus to find something that may be interesting to you. The right column of the table gives you an idea of the general research area of the faculty member.

Once you find a lab you are interested in, just email the faculty member. Let them know you interests and why you would like to work in a lab. A resume may be required.

Students interested in undergraduate research can find opportunities on-campus and off-. For research on-campus, students are encouraged to look not just at faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences, but also in other departments. Research mentors in Chemistry, GES, or Engineering are just as likely to accept a biology major researcher as someone in the Department of Biological Sciences.

When looking for on-campus research, start by reviewing faculty profiles on department websites. Get an idea of what UMBC faculty are working on, maybe read a paper or two of someone doing work you are interested in. Students are responsible for reaching out to faculty they are interested in working with. Try to personalize your email to them; don’t have one blanket email that you send to several faculty members. Reference the research they are doing that seems interesting to you, what you would like to work on, your post graduation plans, what you would like to get out of research. Include your resume. Know that not getting accepted into a lab right away does not mean that it will not happen. Faculty have different requirements for accepting students–some like to see students complete certain courses before joining, some like lab experience, while others will accept a first semester freshmen.

Students should not limit themselves to just on-campus research. UMBC is geographically close to many other universities, federal & state agencies, private companies, and non-profits willing to work with students. The Career Center can assist in finding opportunities through appointments, UMBCworks, and internship/career fairs. If the Department of Biological Sciences hears of any research opportunities, we also update our myUMBC page.

For both on- and off-campus research, be sure to make an appointment with the Career Center to get your resume updated!

Start thinking about what you might be interested in working on: lab research, field work, data analysis. Your academic advisor can help get you thinking as well. BIOL 398 is the department’s “Co-op Internship in the Biological Sciences.” Interested students should contact the department internship coordinator, Dr. Kevin Omland (omland@umbc.edu). He will refer you to the Career Center to help narrow down your focus and possible opportunities. BIOL 398 cannot be used towards any of the BIOL degree requirements.

Yes and no. Students cannot use BIOL 398 or BIOL 399 towards any of the BIOL degree requirements; they can be used towards upper level elective credits.

BIOL 499 can be used as a BIOL BS upper level lab elective, but only when you take two consecutive semesters of BIOL 499 and one semester of either BIOL 499L or BIOL 497H. See major requirements for more information.

Students who maintain a minimum GPA of 3.25 and complete an independent research curriculum could qualify to receive departmental honors. Interested student should visit the Departmental Honors page and read the Department Honors FAQs.


Tutoring & Academic Assistance

UMBC and the Department of Biological Sciences offer many opportunities for on-campus tutoring–for free!

The Academic Success Center (formerly the Learning Resources Center) is an amazing service. They supply UMBC students with tutoring in the sciences, math, computer science, and writing. Their Math/Science Lab and Writing Center are located on the 1st floor of the A.O.K Library, just behind the Reference Desk. Visit the LRC in Sherman Hall 345 or at http://lrc.umbc.edu/tutor for their full list of resources.

The Biology Learning Center offers assistance for many of the biology courses taught in the department, including BIOL 302, BIOL 303, and BIOL 430. Visit the website for more information on how to make an appointment and find a tutor.

The Chemistry Tutorial Center provides tutoring for chemistry courses offered on campus. For more information: http://chemistry.umbc.edu/overview/chemistry-tutorial-center/.

UMBC and CNMS offer a wide range of academic assistance tools. On the Academic Success Center website, you can find links to Academic Success Meetings, which can assist with things like finding campus resources, time management, or study skills. Academic Advocates can help students navigate campus policies and concerns to keep students on track for graduation. Academic Support Courses, like EDUC 113 and 114 can provide students academic credit while they learn about campus resources and how to improve their academic skills.

In addition to the Academic Success Center, the College of Natural & Mathematical Sciences also offers a student success coach to assist with a wide variety of opportunities for students, including study skills, managing the stress of finals, how to get involved in research, and more!


Spring 2020-related questions

A grade of “P” taken in the Spring 2020 term ONLY will be acceptable for all major requirements for the BIOL BS, BIOL BA, and BIOC major, as well as all biology minors. BINF students must pass their CMSC pre-req courses (CMSC 201, 202, 203, and 341) with a grade of “C” or better; a grade of “P” will be acceptable for all other requirements. Due to the certification nature of Biology Education, BIOE majors should speak with their advisor.

If the real grade in the course would have been a “D”, it is strongly recommended the student retakes the course.

The Department’s official statement can be found here: https://biology.umbc.edu/home/news/?id=92304. Additional updates for Bioinformatics majors can be found here: https://my3.my.umbc.edu/groups/biol/posts/93105.

Grade of “P” can be used towards prerequisites. However, the PeopleSoft registration system does not recognize that a “P” fulfills requirements. If you need course permission, please contact the course instructor. If a course instructor is not listed, please contact the Biology Office.

It depends. Each medical/professional/graduate school have set their own standards when determining eligibility of Spring 2020 “Pass” grades. Students are encouraged to speak with their advisor and contact the programs they are interested in for more information.

The UMBC Pre-Med Office has made this statement: https://premed.umbc.edu/required-prerequisite-courses/spring-2020-grading-and-aspiring-health-professions-students/.