School of Theater

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between registration and class sign-up?

Registration refers to the completion of registration forms, completion of all Financial Aid requirements, when applicable, and the payment of tuition and fees. Class sign-up is an in-person process where students sign up for métier courses, including métier courses that are eligible for Critical Studies credit. Only registered students can participate in class sign-up.

What is a course request card? How do I use it?

A course request card will be e-mailed to all registered students the evening before in-person class sign-up. Students will use this form to sign up for their métier classes (including métier classes that are eligible for Critical Studies Credit), and any additional electives. The course request card will need to be signed by the student, the student’s mentor. In addition, all classes on the course request card must be initialed by the corresponding instructor. Once the card is completed, students will go the “computer station” during in-person sign-up to have a member, or representative of the Registrars’ Office enter their schedule into system. Once the information from the course request card has been entered, the student can access their personalized schedule on the student academic services website.

Can I sign-up for Critical Studies classes during class sign-up?

Students will not be allowed to sign up for Critical Studies classes during in-person sign up, except for métier classes that are eligible for Critical Studies credit. Once a student is fully registered, they will sign up for Critical Studies classes according to the online sign-up schedule, which is based on year-level.

Registered BFA and Certificate students, MFA Writing, and MA in Aesthetics and Politics students may sign up for Critical Studies course offerings online according to the following schedule:

  • November 14, 2011 - January 15, 2012: Critical Studies MFA and MA students and BFA and Certificate 4-1 and 4-2 students.
  • November 28, 2011 - January 15, 2012: BFA and Certificate 3-1 and 3-2 students, and Special Non-Degree.
  • December 7, 2011 - January 15, 2012: BFA and Certificate 2-1 and 2-2, BFA and Certificate 1-1 and 1-2 students.

Registration will end on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm. Late Registration ($200 fee) will begin on Monday, December 19, 2011 and will end on Friday, January 20, 2012.

The administrative offices will be closed beginning at 5:00 pm, December 21, 2011 and will reopen on Tuesday, January 3, 2012.

How many units should I take during my first year?

The amount of units an undergraduate student takes varies from school to school, however; BFA students need to take and complete a minimum of 12 total units each semester in order to remain a full-time student. In order to graduate in four-years, students should take and complete at least 15 total units each semester to reach 120 units by the end of their fourth year.

Is there a maximum number of units I can take in a single semester?

Yes. Students can take a maximum of 20 total units each semester. Please note that course load of 20 units would require at least 60 hours of course related work per week. BFA 1 students may not enroll in more than 20 units per semester.

How many Critical Studies units should I take during my first year?

BFA students are required to take and complete five Critical Studies units each semester for the first year in order to reach their goal of 10 Critical Studies units. After the first year, BFA students are expected to complete at least 6 Critical Studies units for each subsequent semester in order to reach the BFA required minimum of 46 units by then end of their fourth year. Please refer to the chart below for year-level goals.

Year Level CS Goal Total Units Goal
BFA 1-1 5 15
BFA 1-2 10 30
BFA 2-1 16 45
BFA 2-2 22 60
BFA 3-1 28 75
BFA 3-2 34 90
BFA 4-1 40 105
BFA 4-2 46 120

What is a year-level?

Here at CalArts, we do not refer to our students as a freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior, but by year-level. For instance, a first year student in their first semester is referred to as a BFA 1-1. The first number refers to the year level, and the second number refers to the semester the student is in. Ex. BFA 1-1: BFA first year, first semester student.

Should I attend the events during orientation week?

Yes. Most of the events that take place during orientation week are required. During these events, students are given critical information regarding their time at CalArts, and their academic and métier requirements. These events also provide students with the opportunity to meet various members of the CalArts community.

Why is Critical Studies important?

A CalArts education is based on both artistic and intellectual rigor. To ensure that each undergraduate has the broad knowledge and cultural sophistication needed for successful art careers in today's world, all candidates for the BFA degree must complete the Critical Studies undergraduate requirements—offered through the School of Critical Studies—in addition to coursework in their individual programs.

Designed to broaden vision and encourage well-informed, innovative artmaking, the Critical Studies undergraduate requirements help students develop analytical, writing, quantitative, computing and research skills and learn about aesthetics, history, philosophy, social sciences, cultural studies, science, technology and special topics related to the arts. 

How do I know what classes to take?

Students can contact the Institute Academic Advisor, and set up an advising appointment. This can be an in-person, e-mail, or telephone advising session. We encourage students to explore the CalArts catalog, which lists the degree requirements for all schools at CalArts. Students are also encouraged to look through the Critical Studies homepage.

First-year required courses

In the first or second semester of the first year, all students must take Writing Arts—a course that introduces students to key concepts underpinning the relation between Art and society. Only students who come to CalArts with AP English credit or Freshman Composition units from a college or university are exempted from the Writing Arts requirement.

First-year students must also take a one-semester Foundation Course, chosen from a variety of subjects ranging from literature to contemporary politics to the biological sciences. Both Writing Arts and the Foundation Course have an intensive writing workshop component. In addition to these two required, first-year courses, students will take one course each semester from the Critical Studies curriculum array. It is strongly advised that these are chosen from our 200 level courses.  See the complete list of requirements

What are the Critical Studies Breadth & Residency requirements?


Throughout the remaining three years, students must get at least two units in each of the following Critical Studies categories:

  • Humanities
  • Social Sciences
  • Cultural Studies
  • Math & Sciences
  • Métier Studies—courses dealing with the history, theory and criticism of the student's chosen art form (maximum 14 units)
  • Other Métier Studies—courses dealing with the history, theory and
    criticism of an art form other than the student's chosen specialty

The remaining units are elective and drawn from other courses offered by the School of Critical Studies, or can be fulfilled through Advanced Placement credits and liberal arts/general education transfer credits from other accredited colleges and universities. To successfully complete the 46 units, it is expected that after the first year, the student will need to take an average of three Critical Studies courses per semester.

Critical Studies Residency Requirement

Effective Fall 2007, students with previous bachelor’s degrees do not have to fulfill the full 46-unit Critical Studies Undergraduate Requirements. They are required, however, to complete at least 12 Critical Studies units in order to obtain a BFA degree from CalArts. All other students will be required to take at least 12 of the 46 credits total in Critical Studies at CalArts. Those students working toward a Certificate of Fine Arts are not subject to Critical Studies Undergraduate Requirements.  View the course requirements here.

Can I take and transfer in Critical Studies courses from a community college? 

CalArts accepts Critical Studies transfer credit from postsecondary, regionally accredited schools, or foreign postsecondary institutions recognized by its national government. A grade of C or better, or Pass must be earned. We will accept the equivalent courses for core curriculum requirements in Critical Studies requirements. Effective fall 2007, a maximum of 34 semester units  will be allowed for transfer towards the CalArts Critical Studies requirements. Students interested in learning more about transfer credit, should contact the Institute Academic Advisor at
(page 10)

Can I receive credit for an examination?

Students presenting scores of 3 or better on AP Exam(s), or 4 or better on IB Exam(s), are granted 4 semester units toward the Critical Studies requirement for each examination in Humanities or Sciences as they relate to Critical Studies core curriculum requirements. Effective fall 2007, a maximum of 34 semester units will be allowed for transfer towards the CalArts Critical Studies requirements.
(page 10)

What does a non-traditional grading system mean?
(page 16)

  • High Pass (HP): Passing with Excellence
  • Pass (P):Passing with Quality
  • Low Pass (LP): Passing
  • Incomplete (I): Temporary evaluation. Through agreement between student and instructor, Incompletes must be made up during the following semester. Incomplete evaluations not made up within the specified period of time will convert to “NC”.
  • Multiple (M):Temporary evaluation assigned in the first semester of a two-semester sequence course. A final evaluation for both semesters of the sequence will be assigned at the end of the second semester.
  • No Credit (NC): Work did not meet the criteria for credit. “NC” evaluations may not be converted to credit bearing grades except by petition to the Deans Council initiated by the instructor of the class or, in the instructor’s absence, the dean of the school offering the course (see below for details). “NC” evaluations do not appear on a student’s permanent record for external purposes. 
  • Insufficient Attendance (NX): Indicates that the student did not attend the class with sufficient frequency. Assumes a minimum allowance of 3 unexcused absences. Refer to individual school handbook for specific policies. “NX” evaluations may not be converted to credit bearing grades. “NX” evaluations do not appear on a student’s permanent record for external purposes.
  • No Grade Recorded (NG): Symbol assigned by automated process to indicate no evaluation was assigned by the instructor. If a final grade is not received within one year after graduation or withdrawal from the Institute, the symbol will be converted to “NC”. 
  • Withdrew (W): “W” grades are assigned by the Registrar only when a student officially withdraws from the Institute during a semester.

If I do not have traditional grades, can a Grade Point Average be calculated?

CalArts does not use a Grade Point Average (GPA) as part of its marking system. However, for external purposes when a GPA is required, the following formula may be considered:

HP=4.00, P=3.00, LP=2.00.

Who is my academic advisor?

All undergraduate students can meet with the Institute Academic Advisor or the School of Critical Studies for questions regarding the CalArts Critical Studies requirements, BFA degree requirements, and policies and procedures. Students are encouraged to meet with an academic advisor at least twice a semester to create and monitor their academic progress.

What is the difference between my academic advisor and my mentor?

Each student is assigned to a faculty mentor from the school in which the student enrolls. The mentor plays a key role in advising and guiding the student in achieving artistic and educational goals. The mentor monitors each mentee’s progress toward fulfillment of program requirements. See the description of an academic advisor above.

How should I prepare for a meeting with my academic advisor?

The advisor/ advisee relationship is a collaborative process. Both the advisor and advisee have responsibilities in this relationship. Students should come to meetings prepared with questions, and something to take notes with. 

Do I need to make an appointment to see an academic advisor?

While the Institute Academic Advisor appreciates when appointments are scheduled, she will see walk-ins for quick questions. Students can always see a Peer Academic Advisor without an appointment.

Where can I find a schedule of classes?

Students can visit and click on current students, scroll down to academics, and click on course catalog and schedules, and choose from the selection. When visiting the Critical Studies schedule of classes, student can click the “c/s type” button on the upper right hand corner, and this will collate all of the like subjects together.

Academic Warning, Probation, Dismissal and Appeal 

I’ve been notified that I’m on Academic Warning. What do I do?

1) First, you need to look at the CalArts Catalog to learn the official policy related to your type of Academic Warning: Units, Métier, or Critical Studies.

2) Based on your type of Warning, you should make an appointment to speak with someone about it. There may be instructions in your letter about who to speak with, but here are a few people to start with.

  1. Métier Warning: Meet with your mentor, program head and/or dean
  2. Units Warning: Meet with your mentor, & the Institute Academic Advisor
  3. Critical Studies: Meet with the Institute Academic Advisor or Critical Studies staff

If you feel that personal problems are contributing to your academic difficulties, then you may also want to make an appointment to see a counselor in Student Affairs.

3) In your letter, there are instructions on how to be removed from Academic Warning. You will need to take steps in your academic and artistic work and personal life to ensure that you can meet the expectations listed in your letter, as well as meet the requirements of your program. You can discuss these instructions with any of the people listed above.

This policy applies when a student does not meet the standards for satisfactory progress defined in the policy on Academic/Artistic Satisfactory Progress.

Please see the Course Catalog for details about warnings at  (page 12)

Last edited by pfraser on Nov 22, 2011
Close Menu
Open Menu