Students start off their college years with a wide range of attitudes and emotions: excitement about opportunities; hope for personal growth; eager anticipation about becoming independent; and, perhaps, a bit of anxiety about all the unknowns (Which major should I choose? How will I make new friends at a new school? How will I manage my time… while still having fun?) And yet, in order to succeed and thrive, they’ll need practical guidance along the way.

Among the many tools and services available to students, the humble college catalog stands as a resource that can get—and keep—them informed about the policies, procedures, and processes they will need to follow in order to reach the ultimate achievement of their goals. The catalog also provides insight into the types of activities and organizations in which they can participate, as well as the academic and support services that can help them on their journey towards success.

In The Confident Student, Eighth Edition, author Carol Kanar encourages students to view their college catalog as a reliable tool that provides critical knowledge for the first year of college and beyond. In the exercise “Using Your College Catalog ,” Kanar recommends that students take some time to review their college catalog. As they do so, they’ll pick up important information that can help them plan their academic careers, get involved in college life, and become well-informed members of their campus community.

Students should, at the very least, determine:

  • The number of credits required for graduation
  • The degrees offered by the school (e.g., A.A.; B.A.; M.B.A.; Ph.D; J.D.; etc.)
  • The Grade Point Average that must be maintained in order to avoid academic probation
  • How the school handles incomplete courses: note if a grade of Incomplete is offered, and what happens if a student never makes up the incomplete course
  • The school’s attendance policies
  • The academic background of at least one instructor
  • The process for obtaining a campus parking permit
  • Required coursework (e.g., General Education requirements, transfer requirements)
  • Dates and times of final examinations
  • Dates and deadlines for next term’s registration
  • Required Reading or English course(s) (Note course name and number)
  • Required Mathematics course(s) (Note course name and number)
  • Two or more activities, clubs, or organizations that interest them
  • Name of the college president (pp. 19-20)

What other key information should students know at the beginning of their college journeys? List your ideas below.

Reference: Content adapted from Kanar, Carol C. 2014. The Confident Student, Eighth Edition.  Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.