Meeting With An Advisor

Email: If you have a questions or concern that you think can be answered via email, please email your advisor at sisadvisors@american.edu. Emails to this address will be filtered to your advisor, so be sure to address the email to the person you wish to receive the email. If you email your advisor at their individual email address, our email response time to you will be delayed.

In Person, Phone, Skype Appointments: You can schedule an appointment with your academic advisor here.

Peer Advisors: If you are hoping to meet with an advisor to create a 4-Year Plan, schedule a meeting with a Peer Advisor here.

If you have a form that requires a dean’s signature, please meet with your academic advisor during EAH or make an appointment. Please do not go directly to the dean as many of these forms can be signed by your academic advisor.

Have any questions prepared ahead of time so that you make sure all your concerns are addressed in your meeting. If you are coming in to discuss next semester’s registration, please plan your intended classes in Student Planning and be ready to discuss each class you want to take. If you have other questions or forms that need to be signed, make sure to bring them with you as well and fill out prior to your appointment if possible.

Express Advising Hours (EAH) are drop-in meetings with the first available advisor on a first-come, first-served basis. This means that you may not meet with your academic advisor during this time. Express Advising focuses on minor issues such as needing a signature on a form, asking basic questions about degree requirements, or if you are having a time-sensitive registration issue. EAH meetings are limited to 15 minutes. If your question requires more time, you will be asked to schedule an appointment with your academic advisor. Regular semester EAH hours are posted here.

During the first two weeks of each semester, we have EAH only. You will be able to schedule an appointment with your advisor immediately following the add/drop period.

We do not require students to meet with their academic advisor unless you are on academic probation, currently taking a leave of absence, or planning your courses for your final semester. However, we do recommend that you routinely check in with your advisor to verify that you are on track for graduation.

General Questions

Your registration date is based on your completed credits. For general date info please review the Registrar’s webpage.

Your priority date and time to register will show in Eagle Service Student Planning. If there is no date listed, and the “Register Now” button is a vibrant blue, it means your registration time has already begun and you may register now. If you are not able to register, but you believe that you should be able to, please email sisadvisors@american.edu.

Your completed credits are listed on your Degree Audit Report (DAR). You can find your DAR in Student Planning under the Progress tab. Your completed credits are shown on the progress bars on the top right of the page.

Prior to registration, we will email and post a list of preapproved courses for regional and thematic area credit for the following semester. Since new courses pop up across the university each semester, there may be a course on the Schedule of Classes that may work for either regional or thematic but has not yet been reviewed by SIS. You can request a review for a course not on the list by emailing the course syllabus to sisundergrad@american.edu. Without a syllabus we will be unable to approve any courses.

We strongly recommend that students have completed at least two, if not all three of your gateway courses before deciding on your primary and secondary thematic areas. For most students this is in the second semester of your sophomore year. In early April each year, the SIS Undergraduate Advising Office hosts a Thematic Area Declaration Week. 

If you have not already done so, you must see an advisor prior to registering for your Senior Checkout meeting. We will discuss your remaining requirements at that time.

Remember that:

  • All courses for your major, University Math, the College Writing sequence, General Education, and AU Core need to be taken for an A-F grade.

    · Each course you take can only satisfy one major requirement. You may use one HOM to satisfy a major requirement, pending prior approval.

    · Students must complete 18 credits at the 300 level or above in their major.

    · Students must take at least one course (3 credits) towards their regional requirement at the 300 level or higher.

Study Abroad

In order to study abroad, you must have completed your math and college writing requirements. You must also have completed SISU-206, SISU-306, 8 out of 10 of your general education courses or two out of five HOM’s. You must complete all your gateways before you reach 90 credits. If you are going abroad in the spring, that means you need to have all your gateways done before you go abroad.

You will work with your academic advisor to figure out where the courses you plan to take will fit into your degree requirements. AU Abroad hosts a database of all courses previous students have taken at each institution. While it is not guaranteed that these courses will be offered the semester you are abroad, it can help you to better understand possible options. Many students take their regional courses while abroad, but it is possible to satisfy other major requirements as well.

Summer Classes

Everyone can register on the first day of the registration period during the spring semester.

Once you are a matriculating student, Math, College Writing, General Education, and AU Core classes need to be taken at AU. A maximum of ten credits total over your four years at AU may be taken at another school through a Permit to Study. Courses taken at schools that are part of the Consortium of local schools must be registered through AU. Prior approval of the courses taken on a Permit to Study or through the Consortium is required. Please speak with your academic advisor for more information.

Graduate School & the Combined BA/MA

While there are some jobs that will require a Master of Arts degree for entry-level positions, you can begin your professional career before acquiring an MA. Many professionals will choose to return to school after working for a few years—or even several years—to complete a graduate program as a means of advancing along their chosen career paths or acquiring the skills necessary to take their careers in new directions. While the BA/MA program allows you the opportunity to attain the professional credentials that may give you a competitive edge in the job market and provide you with a valuable steppingstone for professional growth, it is not a prerequisite for beginning a career in international affairs.

When considering the BA/MA program it is important for you to understand that acquiring a Masters degree is only one-step in a long path toward your ideal career and an advanced degree is only one qualification that prospective employers consider when evaluating a job candidate. For example, professionals first entering the United Nations or the US Foreign Service are typically in their late 20s or early 30s and have acquired significant professional experience. You should, therefore, consider the Masters degree as part of a career path that will also include the Bachelors degree, internships, developing language proficiencies, first and second jobs, as well as the creation of a professional network.

Graduate school is the beginning of your training as an expert in a specific field. Whether your future career is as an academic or a practitioner, your graduate degree is a targeted professional credential. The MA program at SIS is designed to give you a deep expertise in a narrow area. Therefore, unlike your undergraduate degree program, there are few opportunities to take classes outside of your primary area of interest. As you prepare for graduate study, it is important to think carefully in advance about what you hope to gain from graduate school so that you can be sure to select a graduate program and a plan of study that will help you achieve your academic and professional goals.

Your undergraduate education at AU has helped prepared you to begin your graduate study. However, graduate coursework is at least as demanding as your most difficult undergraduate work. Graduate students are not only required to complete a greater quantity of work than undergraduates, but are also expected to submit work of a higher quality. Graduate students commonly read hundreds of pages each week and write papers that are at least 20-30 pages in length. At the graduate level, professors do not assign extra credit or make-up work, and extensions on assignments are uncommon. In general, there are only a few graded assignments each semester and it is imperative that you earn good grades on each assignment. Exceptional time management skills, the ability and desire to be a self-directed learner, strong personal motivation, an understanding of your own learning style and the ability to adapt to new challenges are keys to success in a graduate program.

The graduate school classroom climate is also different than the classes with which you may be familiar from your undergraduate experience. Graduate students undertake programs of study at many different times in their personal and professional lives. Some of your classmates may have jobs or families. Other students will have left jobs to return to graduate school and bring extensive career experience into the classroom. As a graduate student, your professors and your classmates will be your colleagues and a part of your career network. While you will certainly make friends in graduate school, social activities are not as much of a focus as they were in college and networking and professional development events will become increasingly important.

Your professors will also expect more from you as a graduate student. They will assume that you have done the reading and are prepared to offer insightful comments that will contribute to the classroom discussion. Additionally, you will be expected to analyze the assigned texts by drawing comparisons, formulating critiques, and developing original arguments in response to the reading. Ultimately, your professors are training you to contribute unique works of scholarship that will advance the debates of your field.

Students who are ready for graduate school have considered their academic and professional goals carefully and are prepared to undertake a focused program of study that will put them on a path to achieving those objectives. You are most likely ready for graduate school if:

  • You are excited about the opportunity to do independent research
  • You can identify at least one research topic that you would like to pursue
  • You have spoken with faculty mentors about their research interests and professional experiences
  • You have done research about the career paths that interest you in order to determine whether a graduate degree would help you advance your professional goals
  • You understand that having a graduate degree does not necessarily mean you will make more money or have a specific job
  • You can write a strong personal statement that concisely explains your academic interests and professional goals, why a particular program is a is a good fit for your goals and interests, and what you will bring to a graduate program
  • You have considered what is happening in your personal and professional life and believe a graduate program is compatible with your other obligations
  • You have considered how you will finance your graduate program

Applying to a graduate program is different from applying to college and requires that you ask yourself different types of questions. In particular, you want to ensure that you have selected the graduate program that best reflects your academic interests and professional goals. It is difficult and uncommon to transfer between graduate programs and it is important to identify the schools and programs that will be a good fit for you before you apply. In the field of international studies, The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), of which SIS is a founding member, is a great place to begin researching graduate programs.

When you are considering graduate programs it is important to learn as much as you can about prerequisites, the way in which the program is structured, the courses that are offered in your field of interest, the characteristics that make the program unique and the research interests of the full-time faculty. Since original research is a central feature of most graduate programs, your graduate school experience will be more fulfilling if the focus of the program and the expertise of the faculty closely match your own interests. Some programs may offer internship opportunities, study abroad options and campus jobs, but these features are less common in a graduate school than they are in undergraduate programs.

The BA/MA program is an opportunity for advanced undergraduate students to begin a Masters degree program before completing the Bachelors degree. Beginning the MA before completing the BA allows students to take courses that can be used to fulfill both undergraduate and graduate degree requirements, saving students both time and money. Courses that are taken to fulfill both graduate and undergraduate degree requirements are called double-counted or shared credits.

SIS merit awards for graduate students are very competitive. Only a small number of incoming graduate students receive merit-based aid from SIS. BA/MA students are considered for merit awards on a funds-available basis after the established awards have been distributed to incoming graduate students.

While most BA/MA students will not receive merit awards, the BA/MA program does entail substantial financial benefits. By double-counting courses and bundling the cost of graduate coursework taken while still a BA student in the undergraduate bulk tuition rate, students can save on the overall cost of their graduate degrees.

There are two important differences between graduate and undergraduate financial aid. First, need-based grants and scholarships are not available to graduate students. Students who received need-based aid or federal grants as an undergraduate will not be able to extend their aid or grants into their graduate programs after they complete their Bachelors degrees. Graduate students are, however, permitted to borrow more funds each semester than undergraduates through federal financial aid to cover the costs of their educations. The second important difference between undergraduate and graduate financial aid is the number of credits for which students are required to be registered in order to maintain federal financial aid eligibility. While undergraduate students must maintain at least 12 credits per semester to retain their financial aid eligibility, graduate students are eligible for financial aid (including new student loans and deferral of prior student loans) as long as they are registered part-time (at AU, at least 5 credits in a fall/spring semester or at least 2 credits in a summer semester).

Make sure you meet the requirements: Students interested in applying for the BA/MA program in SIS must have at least a 3.5 GPA and are strongly encouraged to have a major or minor in SIS. If you do not meet these criteria, you are still welcome to apply to an SIS graduate program, but you will need to go through the standard application process. Students should apply in the semester in which they will earn between 75-90 credit hours.

Plan ahead and ask questions: Review the degree requirements for the MA program(s) in which you are interested by exploring the SIS website or reading the University Catalog. Program worksheets outlining the requirements for each of the MA programs are also available on the SIS Graduate Advising Office website. If you are unsure of which program you would like to pursue, you are welcome to contact the SIS Graduate Admissions Office (SIS 112, x1646, sisgrad@american.edu) to schedule an appointment with an admissions advisor. Before you apply you must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Advising in SIS. In this meeting, the Director of Undergraduate Advising will provide guidance based on your remaining undergraduate requirements.

Consider the coursework that you’ve already completed: What upper-level (300-, or 400-level) courses have you already taken or would you like to take? Upper-level undergraduate classes are great opportunities to begin working with faculty who may share your academic and research interests. They are also an excellent source of strong letters of recommendation. (Make sure you consult with the Director of Undergraduate Advising before taking higher-level courses.)

Information on when and how to apply is available here.

Upon admission to the BA/MA program, you will need to confirm that you accept the offer of admission by contacting the Graduate Admissions Office. You do not need to pay a deposit, but you do need to submit your confirmation of acceptance in writing.

After you have received your letter of admission and confirmed that you accept the offer of admission with the Graduate Admissions Office, you should contact the Undergraduate Advising Office (x1639) to schedule an initial joint-advising appointment with both your undergraduate and graduate advisor. In this meeting, you will have the opportunity to discuss your academic and professional goals with both advisors and begin planning the courses that you will take as you complete your BA and begin your MA.

Prior to admission to the BA/MA program, you should work exclusively with your undergraduate advisor. Once you have been admitted to the program, you will work with the Director of Undergraduate Advising, and you will also begin working with your graduate advisor. During this first year of the BA/MA program, you will work with both of your advisors to select courses that satisfy the requirements of both of your undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Once you have completed your BA, you will work exclusively with your graduate advisor.

BA/MA students must be registered for at least one credit during their first MA-only semesters. BA/MA students are, therefore, not permitted to defer their admission or take a temporary leave during the semester after graduating from the BA. While BA/MA students cannot take a leave during their first MA-only semester, they are permitted to request a leave later in their programs.

If you are admitted to the BA/MA program but decide not to pursue graduate study in the semester following the completion of your BA, you will forfeit the benefits of the BA/MA program. If you decide to pursue graduate work through an SIS Masters degree program at a later date, you will be required to apply as a regular graduate student and you will not be eligible to double-count any credits from your undergraduate studies.

It is extremely important to make sure that you know which MA program you want to pursue before you submit your application. Once you have been accepted to a MA program, it is possible to transfer programs, but program transfers are neither automatic nor guaranteed. Additionally, credits double-counted or reserved for the program to which you were initially admitted may not apply to your new graduate program.

BA/MA students are only eligible to apply to transfer programs after completing at least 9 credits of graduate-level coursework after being admitted to the BA/MA program. Students interested in applying for a program transfer should consult their graduate academic advisor to review their options and discuss the program transfer application.