Information For...

MSW Policies

Policies & Procedures

Successful students are aware of the expectations of them as members of the university community. Therefore, become familiar with the university standards and the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work policies and procedures.

Academic Advisement

Upon enrollment, MSW students are assigned an academic advisor who will provide professional guidance and mentoring, helping you understand academic policies and procedures and how to navigate programs of study, as well as monitoring your progress to ensure completion of required coursework and counseling you on how to improve any performance issues. You should consult with your advisor about any program changes, such as a shift in full-time/part-time status or taking a leave of absence.

Registration

Though information may be provided by the university regarding the registration process, students must follow the registration guidelines and timelines established and distributed by the social work registrar. Registration information is provided each semester via email and the school’s website under Student Affairs.

Attending Correct Class Section: Stability among classes is vital to the ongoing instruction that will take place, and excessive dropping/adding after the first three hours of instruction is disruptive to this process. No one is allowed to sit in on a course for which they have never registered. You should confirm the accuracy of your class schedule on the first day of class. If you inadvertently attend a section for which you are not registered, you should immediately report to the correct section.

Dropping and Adding Courses: Students may drop or add classes any time prior to the start of the semester if class sections are open and available for the proposed changes. Classes in the school are closed after the first day of class, and no changes will be permitted except in extraordinary circumstances. Any special exceptions that occur within the first three weeks of classes require advance approval by the social work registrar's office. Students seeking approval should contact the social work registrar at sswreg@usc.edu.

After the 3rd week of classes (and before the end of the 12th week of classes), students can drop a course; however, that class will appear on the transcript with a mark of “W” (withdrawal). A mark of “W” does not affect a student’s grade point average. Classes cannot be added during this period, and courses cannot be dropped after the 12th week deadline. If a student stops attending a course after the 3rd week of classes and before the end of the 12th week without officially dropping the class, the student may be awarded a mark of “UW” (unofficial withdrawal) by the instructor, which is calculated into the GPA like a grade of F. Students are responsible for all of their registered courses and are expected to either complete all courses accordingly or to withdraw from them by the 12th week deadline.

Students who must withdraw from the program should contact their advisor. All withdrawals must be requested and processed before the end of the 3rd week of classes to be eligible for a refund. Refunds are subject to university guidelines.

Filing a Program Change or Leave of Absence: Students who request a change of program or a leave of absence must contact their advisor. The change or LOA is not approved until all steps in the process have been completed. The student must meet with their academic advisor to review the request. Final approval must be obtained from the registration and student services offices.

Withdrawal from the University

Continuous Enrollment
The university requires that all graduate students remain in continuous enrollment each fall and spring semester until degree requirements are met. In certain circumstances, an anticipated break in enrollment may be covered by a time-limited (one or two semesters) leave of absence. (The university allows a maximum of four semesters for leaves of absence.) Such leaves of absence must be applied for and approved, in advance, by your academic advisor.

Leave of Absence
Students who are in good standing with a minimum 3.0 GPA and making satisfactory progress toward the MSW degree, and have a compelling reason to do so, may request a leave of absence for a stated period, usually not to exceed one year at a time. (The university will permit a maximum of four semesters for leaves of absence.) The request for a leave of absence must be made no later than the last day to drop or add courses. A leave of absence form requesting a leave along with a letter requesting a leave must be submitted to your academic advisor. The request must indicate the reason for the leave and the proposed semester to return. An academic plan will be developed to prepare for your re-entry into the program. Students gone longer than two years will need to reapply for admission through the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Office of Admissions.

Readmission
If you were granted a leave as a student in good standing and making satisfactory progress toward the MSW degree, you must contact the social work registrar’s office at least eight to 12 weeks prior to your approved re-entry semester. The plan for re-entry will be discussed, along with readjustment to program expectations.

A student who leaves the program without notifying the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work has taken an unofficial leave and failed to abide by the continuous enrollment requirement. If it has been longer than four or more semesters and you wish to apply for readmission to the program, you must contact your academic advisor to assist in the planning of your return. You also will need to submit an application for readmission to the school, addressed to the admissions department, along with an updated autobiographical statement and at least two letters of reference. An interview may be requested to make a determination regarding your request to be readmitted. If the decision is in favor of your readmission, your application will be submitted to the Graduate School, indicating the school’s recommendation and approval of your request.

Dismissal
Dismissal occurs rarely and only when all other appropriate alternatives have been exhausted. Circumstances resulting in this decision may include: grade point average falling below 3.0 at the end of the first semester; a field work evaluation that indicates failure to achieve expectations; failure to attend classes or field work on a regular basis; or failure to complete assignments. The student may reapply to the school if they wish. In conjunction with a reapplication, there should be some demonstration that professional and personal growth has occurred.

Attendance

Students are expected to attend every class and remain in class for the duration of the session. Failure to attend class or arriving late may impact your ability to achieve course objectives, which could affect your course grade. Students are expected to notify the instructor by telephone or email of any anticipated absence or reason for tardiness.

University of Southern California policy permits students to be excused from class without penalty for the observance of religious holy days. This policy also covers scheduled final examinations that conflict with students’ observance of a holy day. Students must make arrangements in advance to complete class work that will be missed or to reschedule an examination due to observance of a holy day.

Grading

Final course grades shall be A, B, C, D or F, including designations of +’s or –’s. The university will not record an A+ on your transcript as a final grade. A grade of C- or below is equivalent to failure in all graduate courses, and the course must be repeated.

Within the school, grades are determined in each class based on the following:
1. Grades of A- or A are reserved for student work that not only demonstrates mastery of content but also shows the student has undertaken a complex task, has applied critical thinking skills to the assignment and/or has demonstrated creativity in their approach to the assignment.
2. A grade of B+ denotes work that has demonstrated a more-than-competent understanding of the material being tested in the assignment.
3. A grade of B signifies the student has done adequate work on the assignment and meets basic course expectations.
4. A grade of B- indicates a moderate grasp of content and/or expectations.
5. A grade of C or C+ would suggest a minimal grasp of the assignments, poor organization of ideas and/or several significant areas requiring improvement.
6. Grades between C- and F denote a failure to meet minimum standards, reflecting serious deficiencies in all aspects of a student’s performance on the assignment.

It is expected that students will attend class regularly, participate in class discussions and submit work promptly. Failure to meet these expectations may result in reduction in grades. Grade reports will not be automatically mailed to you at the end of each semester. You may access an electronic report of your grades on OASIS.

Other Marks and Their Definitions:

CR (Credit) Passing mark for non-letter-graded courses. Equivalent to B quality or better for graduate courses; no effect on GPA. Refer to Grading Options and Enrollment Status.
NC (No Credit) Less than equivalent of B quality for a graduate, non-letter-graded course; no effect on GPA. IP (In Progress) Interim mark for a course exceeding one semester.

Incomplete (IN)
Grades of Incomplete should only be assigned in the case where work cannot be completed because of documented illness or some other emergency occurring after the 12th week of the semester.

When an IN grade is given in lieu of a final grade, you and the instructor will negotiate and sign an agreement with regard to what work remains to be completed and within what time frame in order for the IN grade to be removed from the record with a final grade given. While the university permits a time limit of up to one year to complete work for which an IN grade has been entered, the contract between you and your faculty member will determine the terms for completion. If you are unable to meet the terms of the contract, you must renegotiate those terms directly with the faculty member. Failure to do so may result in a failing grade. Students will not be permitted to move forward until all outstanding IN grades have been resolved.

If the IN is not removed within the designated time, the course is considered “lapsed,” and the grade is changed to an IX. An IX will be calculated into the grade point average as 0 points. Courses offered on a Credit/No Credit basis for which a mark of IN is assigned will be lapsed with a mark of NC or NP and will not be calculated into the grade point average. A student may petition the Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures (CAPP) for an extension of time for the removal of an IN; however, extensions beyond the specified time limit are rarely approved if the student has enrolled in subsequent semesters. In all cases, a petition for an extension of time for removal of an IN must have school approval and include a statement from the instructor explaining what is needed to complete the course and why the student should be given further time for completion.

Disputing a Grade
When a student complains of prejudiced, capricious or unfair evaluation, a basis for appeal may exist. Faculty members are required to justify disputed grades. The student must meet with the faculty member to review the grade in question. Every effort should be taken to resolve the matter at this level. If the student is dissatisfied with the instructor’s response, the student may appeal in writing to the director of student services. Such an appeal must be received by the end of the following semester (excluding summer) after the student has received the disputed grade. The MSW Chair will review the matter, and a decision will be given to the student following the review process.

Academic Probation
If at any time your grade point average falls below a 3.0, you will be formally placed on academic probation until grade deficiencies have been corrected. Students must attain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) at the end of their coursework to continue in the program. Exceptions must be reviewed and approved by the director of student services, who will conduct an academic review. All students must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 to qualify for the MSW degree.

Academic Progress Evaluation and Review

Academic Warning and Dismissal of Graduate Students: Advisors and departments take factors other than satisfactory grades and adequate GPAs into consideration in determining a student’s qualifications for an advanced degree. A student’s overall academic performance, specific skills and aptitudes, and faculty evaluations will be considered in departmental decisions regarding a student’s continuation in a master’s or doctoral degree program. Procedures on disputed academic evaluations are described in SCampus.

Professional and Academic Standards: Graduates of the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work must enter the profession meeting the highest professional and academic standards. Consequently, the school bears a responsibility to ensure students meet the standards for acceptable professional and academic performance. As defined by the school, five areas comprise satisfactory professional and academic progress:
• Abiding by the USC Student Conduct Code
• Abiding by the USC policies regarding academic integrity
• Maintaining an acceptable cumulative grade point average
• Acting in accordance with professional ethics
• Mastering professional competencies.

Violations of the Student Conduct Code and policies regarding academic integrity are governed by policies outlined in SCampus under University Governance and Academic Policies. A student’s ability to maintain an acceptable cumulative grade point average, act in accordance with professional ethics (in accordance with the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics) and master professional competencies is initially governed by the school’s procedures for review. Students wishing to appeal must follow procedures the USC Graduate School has set forth and outlined in SCampus under University Governance and Academic Policies.

Students who do not meet satisfactory professional or academic performance requirements at the end of the academic year are notified in writing and are subject to the school’s student review process. A Level III review will be conducted for students who do not meet the criteria for satisfactory during their first year performance with the goal of remediation before or during the next semester of the academic year. Students who do not meet satisfactory professional or academic performance requirements will receive a letter informing them of the need for a Level III review.

Student Review Process: To ensure the integrity of the academic process, every effort shall be made to provide a fair, just and expeditious review process. This document represents the official professional and academic review process for the school. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work has charged the Office of Student Services to inform students of their rights and responsibilities, and to provide information and clarification on the professional and academic review process.

Types of Review

Level I: If a problem is identified with student grades, professional ethics and/or professional competencies, the individual academic faculty will meet with the student. For field placement issues, the field instructor and field faculty liaison/advisor will meet with the student.

Level II: If the problem with student grades, professional ethics and/or professional competencies persists, the individual academic faculty will meet with the student. If field placement issues persist, the assistant director of field education and the field faculty liaison/advisor will meet with the student.

Level III: If the problem with student grades, professional ethics, and professional competencies is still not resolved, the associate dean of field education and the Level II group participants (in cases related to field work) or the director of student services (in cases related to course work) will meet with the student. In case of field education practicum/placement review, improved performance must be met on the date specified in the Student Performance Improvement Plan (SPIP) or the student is subject to dismissal from the program. Please refer to the Field Education Manual (online) for further details on the Field Education student review process. Conditionally admitted students who fail to meet the 3.0 GPA requirement by the end of the first semester, are subject to dismissal from the program. Students placed on academic probation who fail to meet the 3.0 GPA requirement by the end of the subsequent semester are subject to dismissal from the program.

Student Appeals Process
In compliance with the academic policies outlined in SCampus under University Governance and Academic Policies, the school has two levels of appeal for disputed evaluation after the instructor: 1) dean and 2) Office of the Provost. In the school, appeals to the dean will be handled by the MSW Chair.

Student Appeal to the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
Students wishing to appeal to the MSW Chair must submit to the director of student services a detailed narrative explaining the reason(s) for the appeal. The student should also outline the outcome/resolution that he or she is seeking. A written decision will be sent to the student after the MSW Chair. Normally the decision should be sent to the student within approximately 15 days after the review. This time may be extended if necessary. The student should be informed in writing if the decision will be delayed.

Student Appeal to the Graduate School
SCampus specifies the student may appeal to the Office of the Provost. That appeal should be sent to the associate dean for graduate academic affairs in the Graduate School.

Statement on Academic Conduct and Support Systems

Academic Conduct: Plagiarism – presenting someone else’s ideas as your own, either verbatim or recast in your own words – is a serious academic offense with serious consequences. Please familiarize yourself with the discussion of plagiarism in SCampus in Section 11, Behavior Violating University Standards. Other forms of academic dishonesty are equally unacceptable. See additional information in SCampus and university policies on scientific misconduct.

Discrimination, sexual assault, and harassment are not tolerated by the university. You are encouraged to report any incidents to the Office of Equity and Diversity or to the Department of Public Safety. This is important for the safety whole USC community. Another member of the university community – such as a friend, classmate, advisor, or faculty member – can help initiate the report, or can initiate the report on behalf of another person. The Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services (RSVP) provides 24/7 confidential support, and the sexual assault resource center webpage sarc@usc.edu describes reporting options and other resources.

Support Systems: A number of USC’s schools provide support for students who need help with scholarly writing. Check with your advisor or program staff to find out more. Students whose primary language is not English should check with the American Language Institute, which sponsors courses and workshops specifically for international graduate students. The Office of Disability Services and Programs provides certification for students with disabilities and helps arrange the relevant accommodations. If an officially declared emergency makes travel to campus infeasible, USC Emergency Information will provide safety and other updates, including ways in which instruction will be continued by means of blackboard, teleconferencing, and other technology.

Students with Disabilities

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs each semester. You then must obtain a letter of verification for approved accommodations and deliver it to your instructor as early in the semester as possible. You can meet with DSP counselors in Student Union 301 Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call (213) 740-0776 or email ability@usc.edu.

Social Media

Social media is an important part of communications between students in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. The school welcomes this form of active engagement and exchange, which helps us all build stronger connections with each other. The school has adopted some guidelines to ensure that we make the best possible use of these pages, accounts and groups.

Commencement

The university holds a main commencement ceremony each year in early May. The USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work hosts a more personalized ceremony following the university’s ceremony.

Once requirements have been met, degrees may be posted to your official transcript at the end of any semester. Final grades are typically not posted prior to the commencement ceremonies, and only students in good standing at the end of the previous semester with a grade point average of 3.0 or better will be permitted to participate in these ceremonies. Learn more about Commencement.