Courses & Registration

Course Registration Procedure 

Students are responsible for their own registration. Students receive registration materials via e-mail one week prior to the start of Advance Registration. New or transfer students may register during the designated registration period that is held before the start of classes. Information about how to register can be found on the Registration page. 

Registration Hold
Each Nursing student is placed on registration hold before the start of the upcoming registration term. Each student must request registration “signoff” from the primary academic advisor (Program Director or Program Advisor) in order for the registration hold to be lifted and to register for classes. Students are encouraged to meet with their Program Director or Advisor in person. The registration holds are lifted by the Program Director/Advisor. This is an opportunity for students and the Program Director/Advisors to ensure that the plan of study and planned course registration is correct.
Course Selection and Drop Period

Students can use Path@Penn to add, drop, or change a course or section. 

  • Non-clinical courses may be added during the first two weeks of each semester.
  • Non-clinical courses may be dropped through the fifth week of each semester.
  • Clinical courses must be added or dropped within the first week of the semester.

Full refund of tuition and fees is automatic only during the first two full weeks of the term - up to the end of the course selection period as determined on the university academic calendar. For a full refund schedule, please see the Tuition Refund section below for more information.

Students wishing to drop a course after the end of the course selection and drop period will need to request to withdraw from the course.

Please note that should a student fail to attend classes in a course for which s/he is registered, s/he will not be automatically dropped from the course.  Students who fail to drop a course they are not taking, but are still registered for, within the five-week course selection period may receive an F in that course.  No tuition refunds will be issued.

Academic Advising 

For most graduate students, the academic advisor is the Program Director or Associate Program Director. Advisors are the principal source of assistance to students in planning an academic program, seeking advice and dealing with problems as they arise. However, it is the responsibility of the student to maintain contact with the advisor. Faculty will make every effort to help students but cannot be expected to be responsible for problems not brought to their attention in a timely manner.

Tuition Refund 

Full refund of tuition and fees is automatic only during the first two full weeks of the fall and spring terms - up to the end of the course selection period as determined on the university academic calendar.  Fifty percent of tuition and fees is refunded for courses dropped during weeks three and four and must be requested through the Assistant Dean of Admissions and Academic Affairs.  No refunds are given after week four.  Please note that this policy pertains only to courses taken during the fall and spring semesters.  Summer courses operate on a different refund schedule

Course Load 

Full-time status for graduate students is defined as enrollment in three to four-and-a-half course units in the fall or spring semester or two course units in each summer session. Part-time status is defined as enrollment in less than three course units in the fall or spring semester or one course unit in a summer session.

Students registered for one or two course units in a term are classified as part-time, unless only the one or two course units are necessary to complete the degree requirements and the student has previously been enrolled as a full-time student, in which case the full-time classification applies. Full-time status for financial aid purposes is 3 course units.

The maximum course load is typically no more than 4.5 course units in the fall or spring semester and no more than two or three course units in a summer session. Students can request an overload to the maximum course load by emailing their Program Director for permission then submitting the Path Form “Max C.U. Increase”.

Change of Grade Type 

Pass / Fail 

MSN and DNP students are allowed to take elective courses on a pass/fail basis, subject to individual course grading policies. It is the student’s responsibility to consult the instructor and/or syllabus regarding this option since the requirements for “pass” may vary. Core, theory, and clinical courses (i.e. all required courses) may not be taken on a pass/fail basis. 

A maximum of 2 course units (not including required courses) may be taken on a pass/fail basis. For MSN programs requiring courses outside of the School of Nursing (Nursing and Health Care Administration and Health Leadership), an additional 2 course units may be taken pass/fail. 

Students on academic probation may not take any courses pass/fail. 

A letter grade may be changed to pass/fail or the reverse within the first five weeks of class. In the first two weeks, this can be done through Path Forms. After the end of the add period, this must be requested by sending an email to the Office of Student Information at Grade type will not be changed after the 5th week of class.


A student may request that the Office of Student Information change his or her status in a course to auditor, provided that the request is endorsed by the Program Director and the instructor giving the course and is submitted to the Office of Student Information no later than the end of the second week of the term. Courses taken for audit will not count toward degree requirements and are still assessed regular tuition and fees.

Independent Study Courses 

Students may enroll, under the supervision of a faculty member, in an Independent Study for course credit. The purpose of such a course is to allow the student to pursue an area of special interest that may not be covered by an existing course. An Independent Study course may be taken for elective credit only. Permission to count an independent study toward a major must be approved in advance by the Program Director or the assigned academic advisor. Regular tuition is charged for an independent study, as for any other course. The student must design the independent study project with a faculty preceptor, who approves the plan the semester before the study is to begin.

Registration for Independent Study

To register for an Independent Study (NURS 900), complete the Independent Study form, obtain required signatures, and submit it to the Office of Student Services, Suite M-18, or to for processing. The form, which serves as registration for the course, must be submitted by the end of the Course Selection Period.

Grades for independent studies are submitted by the supervising faculty member upon completion of the work. Student and faculty evaluations of the Independent Study must be completed and copies of these evaluations should be submitted to the Office of Student Services.


Summer Sessions 

There are two six-week sessions offered each summer. The first session begins after spring final exams and runs through June. The second semester begins in late June/early July and runs through mid-August.  Some courses are offered in a 12-week format over both summer sessions.  Registration for summer and fall courses occurs simultaneously during the Advance Registration period in the spring semester. Unlike fall and spring registration, summer registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The School of Nursing summer calendar typically differs from the University calendar, and can be found here.

Class Attendance & Absences 

Policies regarding absence from classes are determined by the instructor(s) responsible for the course. Any special circumstances (including but not limited to religious holidays) must be discussed with the course director prior to the start of the semester.

Students are required to attend all clinical components of their course work. Absences from the clinical portion of a nursing course will not be excused except for a documented illness (of the student), family death or critical illness. Students with excessive excused absences from clinical may be asked to share the cost of the make-up clinical hours with the School of Nursing. Excessive absences for any reason may necessitate repetition of the entire course.

Unexcused absences from clinical may result in a failing grade for the course based on the discretion of the course director. If the course director allows a student to make up an unexcused absence from clinical, the student must pay the current rate per day missed.

Course Withdrawal 

After the 5th week of classes, courses may not be dropped. Students may petition to withdraw from the course up until the 10th week of the semester by submitting a course withdrawal form to the course instructor and the Assistant Dean of Academic and Student Affairs. If the withdrawal is approved, the registration for the course remains on the record and the notation of “W” is placed as a permanent entry in the grade section of the student’s transcript. The “W” does not affect the student’s grade point average. A student may only attempt a required Nursing course twice; therefore, only one withdraw per course will be permitted.

After the tenth week of the semester, withdrawals are not normally permitted. Students who have a serious and compelling extenuating circumstance may petition the Academic Standards and Progressions Committee to grant a late withdrawal for a course. Students petitioning for an exception must obtain written support from the instructor for the committee to consider the petition.

Leave of Absence 

MSN and DNP students must request a leave of absence if not enrolled in coursework for one or more consecutive semesters.

A leave of absence for a period of up to one academic year may be granted when circumstances necessitate the interruption of academic work. At the written request of the student, such leaves may be extended for no longer than one additional year. This period may include either consecutive or nonconsecutive terms.

A leave of absence does not automatically change the time limit (5 years) for completion of the program. Students who are on leave for more than two years in total may be withdrawn from the program and asked to re-apply.

Students who are not in good academic standing at the time of the leave of absence will return to the same academic standing status they held (for example, probation) when they left.

Students cannot receive Penn transfer credit for courses taken at another institution while on leave of absence.

The complete leave of absence policy, including the request form, can be found here.

English Language Support Courses 

For students who need additional language support, Penn offers classes to enhance students’ oral and written communication skills. These courses will contribute to their visa status but will not count toward degree requirements.

  • GAS 600 English Language Skills
  • GAS 610 Research Paper Writing

These classes, and NURS 9000 Independent Studies for additional support, CANNOT be used to satisfy requirements in the MSN, DNP or PhD Programs.

Transfer Credit 

Candidates for First Masters Degree 

A maximum of two course units (or their equivalents) may be approved for transfer credit for the MSN and DNP programs.

Eligible courses must meet the following criteria:

  • Taken at the graduate level
  • Taken at an accredited, four-year institution
  • Final grade of B or higher (no pass/fail or audit)
  • Taken prior to admission to the University of Pennsylvania MSN or DNP program
  • Must be taken within five years of matriculation.


  • Courses with a clinical component in which the clinical hours are counted for purposes of the regulatory and credentialing bodies are not acceptable for transfer.
  • Advanced pharmacology courses will be considered for transfer credit only if completed within two years of the expected date of completion of the MSN or DNP program.

All transfer credit decisions are at the discretion of the course faculty.  See Transfer Credit Procedures for the timeline and instructions on submitting course work for review. 

Candidates for a Second Masters Degree or Post-Masters Certificate

Candidates seeking a second masters degree or post-masters certificate must complete a Gap Analysis prior to matriculation. 

Gap Analysis Procedure

The initial step for identifying transfer credit for post-master’s and second master’s degree students will be a gap analysis. A “Request for Gap Analysis” form must be submitted to the student’s Program Director along with course descriptions, syllabi, and official transcripts of the course(s). This form is available through the Office of Student Information. The gap analysis request form will include the current gap analysis fee as set by the OSI fee schedule and must be paid prior to the gap analysis.

The purpose of the gap analysis is to ensure that, upon graduation, the student will have achieved the appropriate competencies for the degree or certificate sought. The Program Director will be responsible for completing the gap analysis. Every effort will be made to ensure that upon graduation from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing the student will meet criteria for certification and licensure in the appropriate specialty area as known at the time of admission to University of Pennsylvania.

Once the gap analysis is completed, the Program Director will review it with the applicant. During the review, the applicant and Program Director will agree on the courses which meet the criteria for possible transfer of credit. Transfer credits will appear in the action column of the transcript. Transfer credits will not be calculated into the student’s GPA.

Following the transfer credit evaluation, a Plan of Study will be developed and finalized by the Program Director and submitted to the School of Nursing Registrar along with a copy of the gap analysis.

Several principles will guide the award of transfer credit and the following criteria must be met:

  • Only courses taken in an accredited School of Nursing are acceptable for transfer.
  • Courses must have a grade of B or better. A grade of pass is not acceptable.
  • Awarded transfer credit cannot exceed 50% of the students


Course Challenge Process 

A course director may decide to offer a challenge exam that if taken and passed will provide the student with credit for completing the course. The challenge exam passing score is 80. Clinical courses and hours MAY NOT be challenged except for those associated with NURS6570 Advanced Physical Assessment and Clinical Decision Making.

The challenge exam may consist of one of the following:

  • Examination
  • Demonstration of skill and critical thinking
  • Scholarly paper.
A copy of the challenge exam or assignment must be on file in the Associate Dean for Academic Programs Office. The staff of the Office of Student Information will administer all challenge examinations. 
There is a fee of $500 per credit unit for the Challenge Exam. There is a fee of $25 per exam for posting of course credit, including completion of paperwork on the examination, assuring signatures have been obtained on checklist, and posting of course completed by challenge exam.

Grade Reports and Transcripts

At the end of each semester, students may access Path@Penn for a listing of final grades.  Through Path@Penn, students can request to receive their grade report by mail from the Office of the University Registrar.  

Transcripts are maintained by the Office of the University Registrar, not by the School of Nursing.  Students can request transcripts through the Office of the University Registrar, or order them online through Path@Penn.

Course Materials

Canvas Learning Management Platform

Canvas is the Learning Management System used at the University of Pennsylvania. Students use Canvas to access their course content, upload assignments, and interact online with their instructors and classmates. Once you register for a course, you will be added to the Canvas site. Please note that sites are published individually by instructors each semester, so you may not see all registered courses in your course listing right away.

Textbooks and Coursepacks

Most assigned textbooks are available in the University Bookstore or Dolbey’s Medical Bookstore. If the course requires a coursepack, it may be available at the Campus Copy Center.

Course / Faculty Evaluations

At the end of each course, students evaluate the course and its instructor. The results of these evaluations are maintained by the Office of Student Information.  

The Penn Course Review is a student-run publication that lists the numerical ratings and general comments for some graduate courses.