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First Gen Guide to College: Academics

Jump to:  Academic Advising  |  Tutoring  |  Student Accessibility Services

Academic  Success

Students who are individually/intrinsically motivated, are willing and able to learn independently, and develop strong voices and self-advocacy skills find it easier to succeed in college. 

At Illinois Wesleyan University, there are numerous formal resources available to assist students, but don’t underestimate the power of informal connections with peers, faculty, and staff. Relationships with classmates are vital - they provide notes if you miss a class, they can help you study before tests, and can help with homework.


Course Units & Full-time Status

The University awards credit of two types: degree credit, which counts toward the minimum academic course requirement for a degree, and non-degree credit, which is awarded in areas such as physical education and music ensembles (for non-music majors). As a general rule, all courses for degree credit are valued at one course unit of credit, unless specifically stated otherwise in the IWU Course Catalog. A course unit is equivalent to 4 semester hours or 6 quarter hours, and most courses are worth one unit. 

A typical full-time student at IWU enrolls in four courses per semester, earning four units of credit towards graduation, and 16 credit hours per semester. To maintain full-time status, students must be enrolled in at least three course units of credit. On average, IWU students enroll in 4.0 - 4.25  credit units per semester, but this can vary based on degree and major. If a student wants to enroll in less than 4.0 credit units, it is recommended that they contact Financial Aid for more information about their specific circumstances, as some financial assistance is impacted by the number of enrolled units.

At other universities, most courses are worth 3 units, and full-time status is achieved by enrolling in 12 credit hours.


Academic Advising

Many majors, minors, and programs offer some flexibility with what courses you can take and when. If you know your major, a great place to start with registering for classes is to review the Course Plan which is available on every academic website. While these will usually only cover your first three semesters, beyond that, your Academic Advisor (a faculty member in the department you’re majoring in or a designated faculty member if you haven’t declared a major) will be able to help guide with your course selection.


Registering for Courses

Directions for registering for courses are outlined on the Registrar’s Office website. Talk to your academic advisor before registering for courses.


Dropping a Course

Under some circumstances, it may be advisable for you to drop a class after registering for one.   This may include, but is not limited to: finding that the class is not what you expected after attending the first day, finding a different class that works better with your schedule, or finding that you have been accepted into a class that you are waitlisted for. Before dropping a course, it is recommended that you consult with your academic advisor. The process for dropping a class is similar to adding a class, using the Registration screen through your login.  For more information on Registration or the add/drop process, see the Registrar’s website.


Dropping vs. Withdrawing from a Course

Another aspect of academic success is knowing the difference between dropping a class and withdrawing from a class. You can add and drop classes through the first 5 days of class each semester, so it is important to pay attention to the Registrar date deadlines for each semester. If you drop a class within the stated deadline, there will be no record of it showing on your Official Transcript. But if you need to unenroll from a class after the Add/Drop deadline, this is called Withdrawing from a class. You can Withdraw from a class through your online registration system, and a small “w” will be listed next to the class on your Official Transcript to indicate that you Withdrew from that class. There is a Withdraw deadline determined for each semester as well, and if you need to Withdraw after the deadline, you would have to file a Petition with the Registrar’s Office for a committee to review. If your Petition is approved, an additional fee will be added to your account in the Business Office. For more information on the deadlines for withdrawing, and some of the circumstances under which a Petition may or may not be approved, refer to the “Changes in Registration” section of your University Catalog (usually in the Introduction around pages 70 or 71). To get the current form and process to submit a petition, please contact the Registrar’s Office via email at


Professors Office Hours

Professors hold “office hours” throughout the week for students to drop by and ask questions. If you’re not understanding a topic or have additional questions, this is a great time to ask questions. Office hours are usually indicated on the course syllabus and faculty member's web page; you can also see a full list of professors’ office hours on the Provost’s website. If you’re unable to attend a professor’s office hours but still have questions or are confused, email them asking if there’s a different time they would be able to help. 


Tutoring & Additional Help

Tutors & Peer Advisors

Many academic programs offer peer tutoring for a variety of topics and courses. If you don’t see your specific tutoring need addressed below, be sure to consult your course syllabus, professor, or academic advisor for further assistance. 


Student Success Tutors

Schedule a one-on-one appointment with a Student Success Tutor to identify your learning style and explore the methods for note-taking, test preparation, presentations, time management, and more that work best for you. In addition, join the Student Success Tutors every Wednesday at 12pm for the Academic Skills Series.


The Ames Library

The Ames Library is devoted to helping students with their academic and creative development during their time at IWU. While the libraries you may be used to (public libraries, high school libraries, etc.) are frequently used to check-out books for fun, the Ames Library is mainly used as a center for study, research, and reflection. Services and tools available include, but are not limited to: 

  • Library faculty can assist with research consultations and navigate the numerous resources available. Librarians can meet with you online or in-person if you have any questions about how to find the information you need for projects, papers, presentations, and more.
  • Computers in the library - Located on the entry-level/west-side, the Information Commons  area consists of 24 computers, a Bloomberg Terminal, and two copiers for printing and scanning. There are five Project Rooms in the library which are equipped with a Mac mini, webcam, and either a large flat screen monitor or projection.
  • Interlibrary Loan - if the Ames Library doesn’t have a research material you need, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (a connection of libraries that agree to share these resources as needs arise)
  • Equipment Checkout - checkout Kindle eReaders, laptops, video equipment, and other technology equipment. 
  • Assistive Services - these services insure that users with disabilities have equal access to all library resources, services, and personnel. 
  • Lightboard Studio - The IWU Lightboard Studio has an illuminated glass board which allows users to write notes and drawings, without ever turning away from the camera. This studio is a resource for faculty, students, and staff to create videos. Lecture capture, student assignments or projects, and other requests are supported. 
  • Podcast Studio - The IWU Podcast Studio offers a way to produce high-quality audio recordings for content such as; podcasts, online lectures, interviews, oral histories, and more. 


The Writing Center
Located on the first floor of The Ames Library, The Writing Center helps students with all the stages of the writing process, from those first rough ideas through prewriting, collecting supporting material, drafting, and final editing and proofreading. Writing Center tutors are available to help you to improve your writing for courses in all subjects, as well as for co-curricular and pro-professional projects. There are also English as a Second Language tutors and Speech Tutors available through The Writing Center.


Foreign Languages

The Language Resource Center, located on the main level of Buck Memorial Library, provides peer tutoring for all levels of French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. 


Academic Student Organizations

There are various registered student organizations, or RSOs, with an academic tie. These groups allow opportunities for students to get to know others in their departments and those with similar academic interests as them, as well as opportunities to grow professionally. Some of these groups are department based (such as Accounting Society, Student Nurses Association (SNA), and National Association for Music Education (NAfME)), some are honors organizations (such as Pi Mu Epsilon - Mathematics Organization and Tri-Beta - Biology Honor Society), and others have overarching themes (such as Students of Color in STEM and Pre-Health Club).

Accessibility Services

Illinois Wesleyan University is committed to providing equal access to all campus programs, opportunities, and activities for students with disabilities. Determination of eligibility for reasonable accommodations and/or auxiliary aids is based on documentation received from qualified professionals. Documentation provided to Accessibility Services is considered private and will be used for the expressed purpose of establishing protection under the law, determining appropriate accommodations, and ensuring the effective implementation of those accommodations. All provided information will be protected against misuse by others.

Student Accessibility Services secures and maintains documentation of disabilities, as well as determines reasonable accommodations. The Director of Student Accessibility Services collaborates with the student, faculty, and staff to facilitate and implement reasonable accommodations and/or provide needed auxiliary aids.  

Students are responsible for identifying themselves to Student Accessibility Services, for providing relevant documentation, and for requesting accommodations each semester.  Additionally, students are strongly encouraged to contact the office as soon as they are admitted to the University.