Frequently asked questions
How many credits do I need for an undergraduate degree?
Undergraduate students complete 126 total credits on their way to earning a BFA, as follows:
- Experimental and Foundation Studies: 18 credits
- Degree program: 54 credits
- Liberal Arts: 42 credits
- Non-major studio electives: 12 credits
Students in Architecture earn an additional 30 credits on their way to completing the five-year Bachelor’s in Architecture (BArch) degree program. Brown|RISD Dual Degree students have unique curriculum requirements for completing the program.
Can I take for-credit courses at other schools while at RISD? Are there restrictions on transferring credits toward my degree?
You may take a maximum of 12 credits from other accredited schools after enrolling at RISD. Approval must be granted by your department head or, for Liberal Arts courses, the dean of the Liberal Arts division.
More information about transfer credits is available from the Registrar’s Office.
How many credits do I need to take each semester?
Students must take 12-15 credits each fall and spring and 3 during Wintersession.
Students who do not elect the minimum credits in a given semester will be placed on academic probation. This may jeopardize their scholarships and/or financial aid. International students who do not meet the minimum required credits will be in violation of their immigration status.
Can I take a reduced credit load if I have a special circumstance?
Taking fewer than the minimum credits in any semester requires advanced approval from the Academic Standing Committee. You may be eligible for reduced course loads if you are registered with Disability Support Services, have a documented medical condition and/or have academic reasons determined legitimate by the Academic Standing Committee.
Contact the Registrar’s Office or your academic advisor with questions or if you think you might need to take a reduced credit load in an upcoming semester.
Do my tuition and costs change if I take a reduced semester load?
Students are typically charged full tuition and fees even when authorized to take a reduced credit load. Exceptions may be made in the case of medical or disability-related reductions. Contact Student Financial Services for more information.
How do I add or drop courses?
If you are a first-year student you will need to consult with the dean of Experimental and Foundation Studies. All other students may follow the guidelines below.
In most cases, students can add a course prior to the first day of the semester through Workday. In some cases you will need to obtain signed permission from the instructor, who will then facilitate your registration into the class.
You may drop a course during the drop period via Workday. Never drop courses you’ve been enrolled into by your major department. If your department registered you for a specific course in your major, they can also drop you from the course.
If you drop a class after the drop period ends, it will be considered a course withdrawal, with a resulting “W” grade. To withdraw from a class after the withdrawal period ends, you must submit an exception to academic policy request.
If you stop attending a class, it is very important that you follow the drop process. If you do not follow this process, you will receive a failing grade for the class.
Can I pursue a double major or secondary major?
Double majoring is not an official option at RISD, so student requests to do so are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you want to elect a double major—or a “primary” and “secondary” major—you need to work with both department heads to get written permission for a feasible degree plan.
Students must declare intent to double major by the middle of junior year. Expect to stay at RISD for an additional year.
You must complete requirements for both majors in order to graduate, unless you formally undeclare. To do so, you will need to notify your advisor(s), both department heads, and the Registrar’s Office.
What are ways I can earn credits outside of coursework?
One way is to take an Independent Study Project (ISP). An ISP allows you to complete a faculty-supervised project in an area of interest that supports your course of study. If two students would like to work on a similar project for credit, they can register for a Collaborative Study Project (CSP).
Students earn 3 credits for each ISP or CSP, and can receive a maximum of 9 ISP/CSP credits toward their degree. To elect an ISP or CSP, you must:
- have a GPA of 3.00 or more
- choose a faculty member who will supervise the project
- prepare a proposal outlining the purpose and scope of the project
- complete an ISP/CSP application and submit it according to instructions before the end of the semester add/drop period
What is the Interdisciplinary Study Option?
The Interdisciplinary Study Option (ISO) lets students augment their major with coursework taken outside their home department. You may count 3–12 ISO credits toward your degree. To be eligible to elect the ISO you must:
- be in your junior year
- have a 3.50 GPA or higher
- meet with the relevant department heads to discuss a plan and get permission
- submit and complete an ISO application
Can I get course credit for an internship?
Students are eligible to take internships beginning in the summer after their sophomore year, and can receive 3 credits upon completion. A total of 6 internship credits can count toward your degree.
You may either search for opportunities on your own or consult with your department’s internship coordinator and/or the Career Center. Complete your internship application through Artworks no later than one week into the internship. International students on an F1 student visa must obtain work authorization from the Office of International Student Services before participating in any off-campus internships in the US.
Can I take courses at Brown?
RISD degree candidates may enroll in Brown University courses and vice versa. The course must be approved by the head of your home department or, for liberal arts-related courses, the dean of Liberal Arts.