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Office of the University Registrar

General Guidelines for Developing the Academic Calendar

(Last revised July 2016)

The Academic Calendar at American University is published five years in advance on the Office of the University Registrar’s website. The Academic Calendar is constructed around several basic principles: Spring Commencement occurs on Mother’s Day weekend; the Spring semester classes run for 16 calendar weeks (15 instructional weeks plus 1 week for spring break); Fall semester classes run for 15 calendar weeks plus one week for final exams; and Summer Sessions begin on the Monday following Mother’s Day.

In order to accurately calculate the dates of the academic calendar for any given future year, you must determine if it is a leap year, what the date of the first Monday in January is, and the date of the second Sunday in May (Mother’s Day). With that information, the guidelines below can be applied. While the Academic Calendar begins with Fall, calculating the dates is logically accomplished beginning with the Spring term, understanding that the Fall semester would be the start of the following academic year.

First Day of Classes

Spring classes begin the Monday 17 weeks prior to Mother’s Day, unless that day is Martin Luther King Day, then classes begin on that Tuesday. Another way to calculate this date is to determine if the first Monday in January is on the 1st or 2nd. If the date of the first Monday in January is greater than 2, classes begin on the second Monday of January. Otherwise, classes begin on the 3rd Tuesday of January.


Summer sessions begin the Monday immediately after Spring commencement weekend (Mother’s Day weekend). The 7-week (A) and Online Learning I (E) sessions begin on the first day of the summer sessions. The first 6-week (B) and 3-week (C) sessions begin on the second Monday of the summer sessions. The second 6- week (D) and Online Learning II (F) sessions begin on the eighth Monday of the summer sessions.

If Mother’s Day falls on the 8th or 9th of May, Fall classes begin the Monday 17 weeks after Mother’s Day. Otherwise, Fall classes begin the Monday 16 weeks after Mother’s Day. Another way to calculate the first day of fall classes is to determine what day of the week December 25th is. If the 25th is a Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, the last day of classes is the second Friday in December. Otherwise, the last day of classes is the first Friday in December. From there, simply count back to the Monday 15 weeks prior to establish the first day of classes.

There will not be a Winter term offered. Intersession courses and programs held during Winter break will be considered either Fall or Spring courses depending on the start date. All courses starting before January 1st are considered Fall semester classes, while those starting on or after January 1st will be Spring semester classes. All intersession courses must end by the day prior to the beginning of the Spring semester.


Registration and Refunds

Priority registration begins in October for Spring semester classes and in March for Summer and Fall classes. General registration is open from the end of priority registration through the last day to drop a class.


The Last Day for Registration without a Late Fee will be the Friday before the first day of classes for the term. Late registration is the first five days of each standard semester: Monday through Friday.

During the first 10 business days of a standard fall or spring semester, previously registered students may make registration changes (drop and/or add a course, change sections or change the grading option) without financial penalty.
  • First 10 business days of classes is the 100% refund period – drop without “W” 
  • Third week of classes is the 50% refund period – drop with final grade of “W”
  • The fourth week of classes is the 25% refund period (no refunds after end of fourth week of classes) – drop with final grade of “W”
  • The end of the eighth week of the semester (fall and spring) is the last day students may drop a course without permission of the academic unit– drop with final grade of “W”

Programs and classes that are offered on a non-standard schedule (including Summer Sessions), will follow the formula outlined below based on last date of attendance:
  • Students who attend 13% of a class or less may drop a class for a 100% refund without receiving a "W" 
  • Students who attend more than 13% of a class and less than 20% of a class may drop the class for a 50% refund and receive a final grade of "W" 
  • Students who attend more than 20% of a class and less than 27% of a class may drop the class for a 25% refund and receive a final grade of "W"
  • Students who attend more than 27% of a class and less than 50% of a class may drop the class for no refund and receive a final grade of "W"
  • Students who attend more than 50% of a class may not drop the class without permission from the Associate Dean or Program Director (Graduate) or Vice Provost of Undergraduate Studies (Undergraduate)

The Last Day to Make Changes is the same day as the Last Day to Drop with 100% Refund and without a “W.”

Early warning notices are due to the Registrar's Office by the end of 5th week of classes in fall and spring semesters.


Commencement and Degree Dates

Graduation applications begin on the first day of registration for the term in which a student expects to graduate.


During the fall and spring semesters the week designated for the giving of final examinations shall be preceded by a weekend or by one or two study days.

Final grades are due 72 hours after the final exam.

Commencement ceremonies for spring applicants are held on the weekend of Mother's Day (the second Saturday and Sunday of May).

Commencement ceremonies for summer graduates and fall applicants are held in December as determined by the President’s office.

The order in which the College and Schools participate in Commencement activities may vary each year, and should be coordinated with the President’s office.

The Official Degree Award Date is the last day prior to the first day of classes in the subsequent term, except for the fall semester when the degree date is the last day of the year.


Additional Important Dates

Fall Welcome Week begins the Saturday nine days prior to the start of fall classes and runs through Sunday prior to the first day of fall classes. Spring Welcome begins on Thursday and continues through Sunday before classes begin.


All-American Weekend (formerly Family weekend) is the Friday-Sunday after Fall Break (the weekend after midterms).

The Mathematics Equivalency Exam is held on the second Wednesday of the fall and spring semesters.

The Writing Proficiency Exam is held once in the fall, twice in the spring, and once in the summer, per dates established by the department.

Theses and dissertations are due in deans' offices four weeks before last day of classes, and to the Registrar's Office on the last day of classes (spring and fall). For summer graduates, theses and dissertations are due to deans' offices three weeks before the end of summer sessions and to the Registrar's Office at the end of summer sessions.

Admissions and financial aid deadlines remain the same calendar day each year - September 1, November 1, November 15, January 15, February 15, March 1, May 1, and July 1. The day of the week will vary from year to year.


Holidays and Student Breaks

The academic calendar includes the following university holidays and vacations: Labor Day, Fall Break, Thanksgiving, winter break (Christmas-New Year's holiday schedule per memo of November 2, 2010 from Provost Scott Bass and CFO Donald Myers), Inauguration Day (every four years), Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Spring Break, Memorial Day, and Independence Day.


Winter Break - Beginning in 2011, the University will close between Christmas and New Year’s. Below is the new closing schedule: 

 If Christmas falls on a... The University is closed...
 Sunday Dec 24 - Jan 2
 Monday Dec 24 - Jan 1
 Tuesday Dec 24 - Jan 1
 Wednesday Dec 23 - Jan 1
 Thursday Dec 24 - Jan 2
 Friday Dec 24 - Jan 1
 Saturday Dec 24 - Jan 1

Also consult the US Office of Personnel Management

Each fall semester, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving: "Tuesday classes are cancelled; Friday classes meet."

Spring break is the week following midterms (generally after 8 weeks of classes). Fall Break (no classes, university office open) is the Friday of the 7th week of classes.