Student Care and Advocacy offers general consultation related to academic areas: personal circumstances, instructor complaints, grade grievances, withdrawals, withdrawal, re-enrollment, and a variety of other issues. If you have questions about an academic issue or a combination of issues, contact our office for assistance.
Academic Advising can be one of the most beneficial resources to students during their college career. An academic advisor will listen to students as they brainstorm ideas and will help shape a recommended path to academic success. An advisor will assist with the course selection process and will provide guidance and information on curriculum requirements and academic opportunities.
Some Advising Centers require students to make appointments and others do not. For more information, call the center you plan to visit.
Advisors can help with the following concerns.
- Choosing a major/minor
- Changing a major/minor
- Adding/dropping courses/retroactive late drops
- Withdrawal/retroactive withdrawal
- Making a plan for a return to the University after being away for a length of time
- Transferring to another Penn State Campus or any other college or university
University policy states that all instructors organize and conduct their courses in a way that encourages class attendance. A student should attend every class for which the student is scheduled and should be held responsible for all work covered in the courses taken.
Instructors should provide, within reason, opportunity to make up work for students who miss class for regularly scheduled, University-approved curricular and extracurricular activities. Instructors should provide, within reason, opportunity to make up work for students who miss classes for other legitimate but unavoidable reasons.
Students should review their class syllabus and direct any questions regarding class and University policies to their professors, department heads, and academic advisors. If a class will be missed due to an unavoidable absence, the student should contact the instructor as soon as the unavoidable absence is known to discuss ways to make up the work. Any academic accommodations or arrangements to make up missed work must still be agreed upon by the student and faculty member within the confines of the Faculty Senate Attendance Policy. Student Care & Advocacy does not have the authority to approve absences or make-up work.
A student would withdrawal from the University if they want to drop all credits in which they are enrolled. Withdrawing releases enrollment in all courses in which a student is currently enrolled and cancels enrollment in courses the student scheduled for an upcoming semester or session. Students should discuss this option and process with their academic advisors before making this decision in order to fully understand the impact.
In the event of a medical emergency, a student may decide to medically withdrawal from the University for a period of time to receive necessary care. Students who withdraw from the University for medical reasons may petition for a tuition waiver. A letter from the student along with medical documentation supporting the medical need to withdrawal should be submitted to the Bursar’s Office by the student, in partnership with the student’s advisor.
If for reasons beyond a student’s control, the student is prevented from completing a course within the prescribed time, the student may ask the instructor for a deferred grade. If the instructor agrees to this action, the instructor reports the student’s grade as a DF at the end of the semester to delay issuing a grade and to allow the student more time to complete coursework.
Leave of Absence
A student who wants to take a limited time off from Penn State coursework may maintain degree status and ensure that their degree requirements will remain the same by taking a leave of absence. A degree candidate who does not register for consecutive semesters and is not on a leave of absence is automatically withdrawn from degree status and must apply for re-enrollment to resume degree status.
Situations in which a leave is NOT appropriate include:
- If a student does not enroll in summer coursework (enrollment is optional).
- If a student withdraws or is dropped or dismissed (see re-enrollment).
- If a student wishes to interrupt studies during an academic semester (see Withdrawal).
- If a student is enrolled in any Penn State course
The deadline to submit re-enrollment and non-degree applications for a given semester is 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before the first day of classes of that semester.
Re-enrollment is appropriate if you:
- Withdrew from the University
- Interrupted continuous degree enrollment during fall/spring semester
- Were dismissed or suspended for nonacademic reasons
- Invalidated a leave of absence
- Plan to return for a second associate or baccalaureate degree
- Plan to return for graduation
- Voluntarily changed your enrollment status to nondegree
Students who left in good standing and who are re-enrolling in their previous major (providing the major is not controlled) will be approved to re-enroll. Every re-enrollment request will be reviewed and a decision letter will be sent to the student.
Most students will encounter some form of health issue during their time as a student. While we hope these occurrences are minor, there are sure to be situations involving students who are sick, injured, or dealing with significant medical or mental health challenges that disrupt their academic pursuits. Should you encounter these kinds of issues, we can help.
Whether you are dealing with a long-term illness, an injury that leaves you permanently or temporarily disabled, or some other issue, you are encouraged to contact us with questions and concerns about how this may impact your status at the university. We will work to connect you with other resources, advise you on how to manage your condition in relation to school, and offer whatever support we can provide. Our goal is to ensure that you effectively balance your own health and well-being with the academic demands of Penn State.
Short & Long Term Disability Accommodations
Student Disability Resources provides reasonable accommodations and services to students with disabilities who are enrolled at University Park. Students needing to request reasonable accommodations for an ongoing disability should contact Student Disability Resources to schedule an intake appointment with a disability specialist. Student Disability Resources may be able to assist with temporary accommodations. Students should contact that office to discuss individualized need. A student may also choose to work directly with professors to discuss their needs related to a short-term injury or illness.
It is common for Student Care & Advocacy to receive notice from hospitals, residence hall staff, parents, friends, etc. that a student is sick, injured, or dealing with a crisis or emergency. In instances when the student cannot notify their faculty of associated class absences, we send a general notification to the student’s instructors to inform them of the student’s missed class and expected return date, if known. We are happy to serve as a liaison until it’s reasonable for the student to resume his or her studies.
This notification is sent as a courtesy notification that the student’s circumstances are such that it may warrant a valid absence from class. Any academic accommodations or arrangements to make up missed work must be agreed upon between the student and faculty member.
Releases of Information
When a student is admitted to a local hospital, the student is invited to sign a release of information which allows the hospital to notify Student Care & Advocacy of the student’s status and gather assistance in advocating on the student’s behalf, including but not limited to faculty notification & post-hospitalization follow up meetings.
Student Care & Advocacy works closely with Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) to provide students with the support they need, especially when they are managing the academic impact of mental health emergencies or related issues. Many students choose to sign an information release with their counselor so that Student Care & Advocacy can stay informed of their progress and know how best to help. Because mental health issues can cause a great disruption to academic, social, and general well-being, we urge students to utilize the services offered on campus.
Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) addresses the psychological needs and personal concerns of students that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, and emotional well-being by offering a variety of services including but not limited to individual and group counseling.
The Gender Equity Center supports students who have been impacted by sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, harassment, and other campus climate issues. Staff provide education, advocacy, referrals, and crisis intervention/support counseling.
The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity provides education, information, and advocacy services.
The Paul Robeson Cultural Center provides programs and services that encourage the appreciation of the diverse perspectives, experiences, and cultures of many under-represented communities that comprise the population of the University community.
The Multicultural Resource Center provides individual counseling and education services for undergraduate multicultural students and assists students in meeting the challenges associated with education and attaining a degree at a major research institution.
The Collegiate Recovery Community helps students in recovery from alcohol and other addictions.
The Center for Spiritual & Ethical Development offers a welcoming, safe, inclusive environment for the Penn State community to explore a multitude of faith traditions in a compassionate, open-minded setting. The center aims to promote an environment that stretches beyond tolerance to a genuine appreciation of and respect for religious and spiritual diversity.
Additional Resources for Health & Wellness
Student Care and Advocacy assists students with financial issues and connects students to resources around the University. Our office tries to ensure that students are aware of deadlines, procedures, and resources that will help preserve their financial stability.
However, when students experience a personal crisis or an emergency, they may be overwhelmed by the circumstances of the situation and need short-term financial assistance.
Student Emergency Fund
Recognizing that unforeseen financial emergencies will occur for students, Penn State established the Student Emergency Fund to help meet the immediate needs of students experiencing crisis situations.
How does the fund work?
Funds are intended to provide short-term financial assistance to students who are managing demanding academic requirements while struggling with debilitating financial circumstances of an unforeseen nature. Provided in the form of one-time awards, emergency funding is not intended to provide ongoing relief for recurring expenses.
These awards are not loans that students are expected to repay and every request for financial relief will be reviewed on its individual merits. The value of the awards ranges based on a student’s specific needs but typically does not exceed $500.
Who is eligible for assistance?
Students from any Penn State campus location are eligible to request emergency funds. Students must meet the following criteria:
- Be currently enrolled full-time in an undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree-seeking program
- Demonstrate financial hardship due to emergency, accident, illness, or other unforeseen events
- Consider (or have exhausted) alternative funding options for assistance. These may include emergency loans through academic departments, student aid, or other university sources
- Meet with a case manager in the Student Care and Advocacy office to discuss their circumstances and, if applicable, to provide supporting documentation
How can these funds be used?
Examples of why emergency funds might be provided to students include:
- To minimize immediate critical needs of students caused by acute financial stress
- To provide for short-term financial assistance with unusual or unforeseen medical expenses
- To provide support for temporary housing and/or other essential needs such as food, due to displacement by fire or other unforeseen environmental hazards
- To support shelter for a student in a dangerous situation due to acts of violence or other victimization
- To fund travel or transportation of a student or a student’s belongings home due to family emergency, crisis, or death
Will my information be shared?
Information about the student or their circumstances will only be shared with third parties who have a legitimate need to be informed of the student’s information and are positioned to help the student, and only at the explicit request or permission of the student seeking emergency funding support.
In rare cases, awards from the Student Emergency Fund may impact the amount of aid that a student receives from other sources – most often by reducing the amount of student or parent educational loans. However, this only occurs if a student is already receiving financial aid up to their total cost of attendance for the semester awarded.
Additional Financial Resources
Faculty and Staff have a direct link to our students and can contribute to their well-being. Declining academic performance and worrisome behaviors are often indicators that a student may be facing struggles in other areas. Faculty and Staff are often the first to recognize when a student is distressed, distressing, or just needs additional support.
Signs a Student May be Distressed
Signs which may demonstrate a student is in distress and in need of support include but are not limited to the following: If a student is exhibiting concerning behavior, talk to them in a kind, honest, and direct way. The specific behaviors that are the cause for concern should be cited using clear language.
- Disruptive physical, vernal or written behaviors inside/outside the classroom, on/off campus and/or online
- Significant personal distress (academic, family, relationship problems)
- Decline in personal grooming
- Crosses interpersonal boundaries
- Confrontational, easily provoked, angry, unpredictable behavior
- Threatening statements about self or others (direct or veiled)
- Threatening words or behavior toward self or others
- Self-abuse such as cuts, burns, or extreme weight loss
- Suicidal ideas, threats, gestures or known suicide attempts
- Aggressive acts or threats toward a specific group
- Relationship violence/stalking
- Weapon possession
- Paranoia or delusions
- Flat affect or extreme lack of responsiveness
- Excessive class absenteeism
- Uncharacteristically poor academic performance
- Substance abuse
How to Show Concern
- Safety first- If you feel that you or the student are in danger, call 911
- Talk with the student privately in a kind, honest and direct way. Provide specific examples of their behaviors of concern using clear, concrete language.
- Share all available resources and encourage them to seek help.
- Know your limits. Refer to a professional when:
- The distress is hindering the student’s and/or other students’ progress in class.
- You see a worrisome behavior pattern when you interact with the student.
- The problem seems more serious than you are comfortable handling.
- You are worried about the student’s safety.
- You are concerned about the student’s impact on others.
- You feel pressure to solve the student’s problem and/or feel responsible for the student.
- You are over-extending yourself to help the student.
- You feel anxious when the student approaches you.
The Red Folder initiative is a guide to help faculty, staff, and others who interact with students to recognize, respond effectively to, and refer distressed students at Penn State.