FAQs for Undergraduates

Read below for answers to frequently asked questions students have regarding course registration and advising.


What courses should I take for the Fall Semester?

You MUST take the following courses, UNLESS you have some kind of advanced placement:

BE 100 Introduction to Bioengineering. Required of all Bioengineering majors. Register for both the lecture and a recitation section.
MATH 104 Calculus for the Natural Sciences, Part I. Register for both a lecture and a recitation section.
PHYS 140 Principles of Physics I: Mechanics and Wave Motion. Requires MATH 104 as a pre-requisite or co-requisite. Lecture only. If you are a premed student you should register to Physics 150 and a lab section.
CHEM 101 (Lecture) and CHEM 053 (Lab) General Chemistry I and Laboratory. Register for both a lecture and recitation (CHEM 101, take only section 5 or 6 for engineering students) and a lab section.

Freshmen students are allowed to take 5.5 course units (CU) in the Fall semester. The courses in the table above add up to 4.5 CU. Although not required, you can take one more elective course. You can participate in a writing seminar or select another Social Sciences and Humanities course. Dual degree students can fulfill a requirement in their other program. For example, dual degree students with Wharton usually take required economics courses. If you take the Physics lab, the courses in the table will add up to 5.0 CU and this paragraph does not apply to you. The Physics labs (0.5 CU each) can count as one of your technical electives, so you do not lose the CU.

For AP credits and placement exams you must review our AP credit policy.

I tried to sign up for a course but I couldn't get in because the course was filled. What should I do?

You need to do two, possibly three, things. First, keep on trying to sign up for the course. During the beginning of the term, students do a lot of dropping and adding of courses. A spot may open for the course you want when a student drops it. Second, you should contact and/or visit the departmental office of the department offering the course you want to take. Ask whether it's possible to sign up for that course. Sometimes the course is not really full, it's just that the department is controlling the enrollment manually and not allowing the computer system to handle it.  Third, if the first two approaches do not work, speak to the professor teaching the course.

Although you may not get a section on a day and time you prefer, you are guaranteed to get into all required courses.
I want to take more than 5.5 CU the first term and the computer system will not let me. What can I do?

You are not permitted to take more than 5.5 CU the first semester. You are permitted to take more than 5.5 CU in the spring semester if: 1) you have no “F”s and no “I”s; and 2) you have a GPA greater than 3.0.

What courses will I be taking for Spring Semester?

Your spring courses MUST include the following, UNLESS you have some kind of advanced placement, or you have a special circumstance (see the next question below):

SSH Course A SSH course of your choosing.  You may choose a writing course here.
MATH 114 Calculus for the Natural Sciences, Part II
PHYS 141 Principles of Physics II: Electromagnetism & Radiation
CHEM 102 (Lecture) and CHEM 054 (Lab) General Chemistry II and Laboratory

BE 101- Intro to Bioengineering II


Whom should I ask for advice about the Bioengineering program?

Please ask someone in the Bioengineering Department for advice. Do not ask someone outside the Department. Coaches, as well as faculty and advisors in other schools, are not aware of our particular requirements, policies, procedures, and rules. Please also take the time to review the BE Undergraduate Program website.

I am interested in dual major, dual degree, joint degree, or minor programs. Where can I get more information?

First, you should understand the terminology. Dual Major refers to a program in which you satisfy the requirements for two Engineering School departments; this gives you two majors, not two degrees. A Dual Degree refers to a program in which you receive a second degree from another School within the University. A Minor refers to programs in which you take six or more approved courses from another department. A Joint Degree refers to a special dual-degree program that is administered separately. For more information refer to the links below, and see the next question, which deals with dual degrees with the Wharton Business School.

For additional information on: Visit these pages:
Dual Majors Engineering Dual Majors
Dual and Joint Degrees Engineering Dual and Joint Degree Programs
Minors Minoring While a BE Student

Please note that you must be officially admitted into a dual degree or major or other official program in order to receive the major/minor/degree. Do not assume that all you need to do is to take the courses.

I am interested in a dual-degree program with Wharton. Is this possible and how do I go about applying?

There are actually two such programs: a joint-degree program and a dual-degree program.

The joint degree program is the one that is officially called the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology (M&T). Most students apply directly to M&T and enter in their freshman year, but there are a few spots left open to admit students at the end of the freshman year, on a competitive basis. Information on M&T can be found by viewing the program's website.

The dual-degree program is not called M&T. The only way to complete this option is through an application at the end of the freshman (or somewhat later) year. Admission to this program is also competitive, although not quite as competitive as M&T. The two programs are similar, but not identical.

If you are interested in either program you should go to Wharton advising to learn about the courses you need in order to to prepare yourself. You should also go to the M&T office for advice and meet with Ellen Eckert in 111 Towne (eckertel@seas.upenn.edu, 215-8998-4813).

IMPORTANT: You must be officially admitted to M&T or the dual-degree program in order to receive the dual degrees. Admission is competitive. Do not assume that all you need to do is to take the courses. You must apply and be accepted into the program.

Where can I find the complete description of the academic rules and regulations for the School of Engineering and Applied Science?
Can I take courses at another school over the summer? And, if I do this, will the courses count?
Yes, you can take courses at another school, but the credits will not necessarily transfer and appear on your Penn transcript. To find out whether you will receive transfer credit for these courses (i.e. whether they will appear on your Penn transcript for credit), you must request pre-approval for a transfer of credit.  Transfer credit reduces the number of courses you have to take at Penn. Occasionally a student will take a course at another school, but will not receive transfer credit for it. Therefore, it is imperative that you check about the transferability of the course and credit BEFORE you take it.
What do I do if I am accepted in BE but want to transfer to another SEAS department?
First, you should speak with the Undergraduate Chair from that department, so that you can be sure that you are doing the right thing. Second, you need to fill out a form called the Request to Change/Add Curriculum form.
I thought that I selected the BAS (or BSE) program and now find that I am enrolled in the BSE (or BAS) program. How can I fix this?
Both the BAS and BSE have the same requirements for the first two years, so this is not a major problem and it can be easily fixed. Just fill out a Request to Change/Add Curriculum form to make the change.
Do I need my own computer? What kind of computer should I get?
Although a computer is not required, it is very convenient to have your own computer, especially for reading e-mail, writing papers and experimenting with technology. Most students have their own computers. No single computer will meet all of your needs in your Engineering classes, so you should plan to use Engineering labs for at least part of your course work. If you are interested in buying a computer, we can help. See below.

If you choose not to purchase your own computer, you may use one of the many computer labs on campus, including labs at the Engineering buildings and labs in the College Houses. Labs are open from early in the morning to late at night, and some stay open around the clock. We have plenty of computer resources for you to use even if you do not have a computer.

Penn's Computer Connection, the campus computer store, offers computers at special educational prices, preloaded with software you'll need to connect to the network at Penn.

To save space in your room and to connect to the SEAS wireless network, consider buying a laptop rather than a desktop. A CD burner or external zip drive is useful for backing up your homework and projects. For your security, we advise you to purchase a lockdown kit.
Can I bring my own computer to campus?
Yes! For minimum standards and programs supported by the University, visit the Penn Computing website.
What is a "Social Science and Humanities" (SSH) course? Which courses belong to these categories?
To find out about the requirements in the Social Science and Humanities (SSH) sector, visit the Engineering Undergraduate Student Handbook.
I am considering medical school. What courses do I need to take?

All premed students or students considering premed should go to Penn's Premed Office for an orientation about applying to medical schools soon after matriculating at Penn. Also, take the time to visit the BE premed page and look at the requirements listed on the Premed Office site.

As a rule, premed students should not deviate from the premed requirements without consulting the Premed Office.

Where do I find the forms I need to fill out for various academic purposes?
Undergraduate forms can be found online in PDF format.
What happens if I'm not sure about staying in the required BE courses?

I'm not sure about sticking with the required BE courses because:

  • I'm not sure about staying in BE.
  • I am in a special program that requires me to take some other courses.
  • I am considering a dual major/dual degree program and I want to take a course from that major.
  • I am feeling overwhelmed/having difficulty and therefore don't think I should take the regular BE freshman courses.

First, you MUST discuss this with your advisor and receive his/her approval. If you cannot or do not want to take the regular BE freshman courses, then you MUST make up the missing coursework over the summer – at Penn or at another college or university. (For information about taking summer courses at other schools, see above question “Can I take courses at another school over the summer?”) When you start your sophomore year, you must have completed (or have the equivalent of) Math 104/114, Physics 140/141, and Chemistry 101/102 and 053/054. If you are missing these courses, you will lack the prerequisites for your sophomore courses.

How do I withdraw from a course? Or, what do I do if I'm not doing well in a course?
If it is before the end of the fifth week of classes, drop the course on Penn InTouch.  If it's after the fifth week of classes but before the end of the tenth week, you can withdraw from the course by filling out a course withdrawal form.  If you're not sure what to do, please see either your faculty advisor or an advisor in APO in 111 Towne.
What do I do if I want to transfer to the College?

Before attempting to transfer, you should be aware of two things.

First, the transfer cannot be made until you have completed the spring semester of your freshman year. Second, you must have completed 8 CU at Penn and be in good academic standing. To request a transfer to the College, you need to meet with Ellen Eckert (215-898-4813) and complete a transfer application form. 

After that is submitted, you will be advised by someone from the Office of Academic Programs (111 Towne), who will assist you in registering for courses. In order to make sure that you sign up for the right courses, you should speak with Ellen Eckert and the Undergraduate Chair in the department that you think you will eventually end up in. For more information, see the undergraduate handbook.