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Home > Faculty & Staff > Policies & Forms > Course Substitution > FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can initiate a substitution request?
Students begin the process by asking their advisor to approve a substitution, but only a faculty advisor can submit the actual form.

How do I initiate a substitution request?
Using the online substitution form, enter the student’s information, the course information, and the reason for the substitution. Then choose the deans who must approve the substitution from the drop-down menus. Submit the form.

What happens to the form after I submit it?
The form is sent to the deans who either approve or disapprove the substitution. When both deans have responded, the form goes to the Central Records Office (CRO) and if the substitution is approved, it is posted to the student’s record.

What if the substitution is not approved? Is there an appeal process?
Normally the dean’s decision is final. If there are exceptional circumstances that warrant reconsideration, the faculty advisor should make the dean aware of them.

How do I know if the substitution has been approved?
After you submit the form, you’ll receive an email with a link to a tracking screen.

How do I know if the substitution has been posted to the student’s record?
Substitutions are normally posted by the CRO within 48 hours after they are received. You and the student can check the student’s Degree Progress Report to view the posting in the appropriate section on the student’s record.

When should I request a substitution for a student?
Substitutions are useful when a student has transferred a course to NOVA that meets one of a student’s program requirements, but is not the exact course number that NOVA requires. It may also be used for students who took courses at NOVA under the old quarter system in order for these courses to be counted toward their current program. Substitutions can also be used to apply credit from nontraditional sources such as military experience, PLACE, or CLEP, that have been approved by the Advanced Standing Committee.

Are there guidelines for appropriate substitutions?
A substitution request should not be submitted until after the student has successfully completed the course.
Request the substitution as early as possible in the student’s program; the student’s choice of classes at NOVA will be driven by whether or not the substitution is approved. Do not wait until the student is ready to graduate.

A transferable course must have been taken at a regionally accredited institution. This information can normally be found on the back of the transcript; if in doubt, go to the college’s website to determine regional accreditation.

You can only substitute a course from the same academic area to meet general education requirements; for example, you cannot substitute math for foreign language. You may be able to substitute psychology for sociology to meet the social science requirement because they are both social sciences.

Be careful—some programs, such as the AAS degree in nursing, have very specific general education requirements that cannot be altered due to professional accreditation restrictions. Remember that the Teacher Education specialization must be followed exactly if articulation is to be guaranteed.

For core courses in a student’s major, such as accounting courses in the Accounting AAS degree, you should only substitute courses that are equivalent to required NOVA courses. For example, an accounting elective should not be substituted for AAC 211 Introduction to Accounting because ACC 211 is a core requirement for the major.

You can substitute nontraditional credit (such as CLEP, AP exams, or DANTES tests) for NOVA courses if it has been approved for advanced standing. For specific information, consult the Advanced Standing Manual.

Acceptable substitutions may vary with catalog year.

Can I substitute a higher-level course for a lower-level course?
Yes. This is especially appropriate when the lower-level course is a prerequisite for the higher -level course. Even so, do this only if the subject matter is useful to the student’s program. The most common example of this is that students often want to substitute a higher level IT course for ITE 115 Introduction to Computer Applications and Concepts. In some programs, such a substitution may be appropriate, but in programs where proficiency in the use of a wide range of microcomputer applications is important, the substitution may be denied.

My advisee’s first language is not English. How can he/she get foreign language credit?
If the student graduated from a high school where the instruction is in a language other than English, the student can submit documentation of high school graduation in order to meet a foreign language requirement. Similarly, if students place directly into the 202 level of a foreign language they do not have to go back and take lower-level language courses in order to meet a requirement for two years of foreign language. In this case, it’s the immediate level of competency that’s important. In either case, the student will still have to complete additional credits to meet the overall degree requirement for number of credits earned. Faculty advisors can assist students in choosing appropriate courses to meet the student’s transfer or career goals.

To actually get credit for the foreign language, the student can take a CLEP test. When no CLEP is available for the language, alternate methods of assessment may be approved by the appropriate Division Dean.

How can a student have credits or degrees from foreign colleges or universities evaluated?
NOVA accepts evaluation of foreign credit from recognized evaluation agencies. Students submit their documents to the agency and requests that a copy of the evaluation be forwarded to NOVA. The agency prepares a transcript giving American equivalents for the student’s work. There is normally a charge by the agency for this service, usually recovered by the student in saved NOVA tuition. The student can then request NOVA evaluation of the agency transcript just like a transcript from a U.S. college or university.

There are a number of reputable evaluation agencies and students are free to choose the one they wish to use. Two examples are the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and World Education Services  

Is there a “shelf life” or expiration date for courses that can be used as substitutes?
Yes, in some fields. For example, technology courses must be no more than 10 years old because of the changing nature of the field. There are also age limits for some nursing and allied health courses. If in doubt, check the catalog.

What if a student took courses at NOVA under the old quarter system (prior to Fall 1988)?
These courses do not automatically move to the student’s current program in the Degree Progress report. The faculty advisor must contact the College Registrar and request to have the quarter credits converted to semester credit. Please allow 10 days for the conversion.

How can quarter credits be substituted for semester credits?
One quarter credit = 0.67 semester credit. Normally, a three-quarter sequence taken from NOVA can be substituted for a two-semester course sequence. For example ENG 111-112-113 in the old quarter system can be substituted for ENG 111-112 in the current semester system.

I have advisees who say that they have a math disability or a disability that makes it difficult for them to learn a foreign language.  Can I substitute a course in a different discipline?
Substitutions that are based on a disability require additional documentation and must be approved by a special College committee. Often accommodations can be worked out that make the substitution unnecessary. For more information, contact the Associate Vice President for Academic Services or the Associate Vice President for Student Services and Enrollment Management.