AUWCL Residency Requirement

This policy will apply to students who have matriculated Fall 2017 and later.

To graduate with a Juris Doctor degree, a student must satisfactorily complete eighty-six credit hours with a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 and must meet the law school’s residency requirement. The degree must be earned no earlier than twenty-eight months and, except in extraordinary circumstances, no later than eighty-four months after commencing law study at the law school.[1] Students must also satisfactorily complete six experiential skills credits, an upper-level writing requirement, and all required courses. Students who fail to meet any of these requirements will not be certified for graduation.

For advising on your academic plan, shifting divisions, reducing to part-time load or overloading (taking 16-17 credits in a term), contact the Associate Director of Academic Advising and Policy Development at sstanley@wcl.american.edu.

I.  Definition of Residency Semester

1. A “Full-time Residency Semester” is defined as achieving at least twelve and no more than fifteen credits in the Fall or Spring semester of an academic year. Upon a showing of exigent circumstances, the Office of the Registrar may permit a student to enroll in sixteen or seventeen credits in a given semester.

2. A “Part-time Residency Semester” is defined as achieving at least eight and no more than eleven credits in any semester of an academic year.

3. A “Partial Residency Semester” of fewer than twelve credits for a full-time division student or fewer than eight credits for a part-time division student may be combined with credits from any semester to “equal” either a full or part-time residency semester. Summer credits may be split and applied to separate semesters.

II.  Residency Requirements for Students in the Full-Time Division

To obtain a degree in the full-time division, a student must complete six full-time residency semesters. A full-time student is expected to complete all degree requirements within three academic years, except as noted below.  With appropriate planning and an understanding of the academic, experiential, and professional opportunities that a student may forgo, a student may combine summer residency semesters with each other or with full-time residency semesters to graduate one semester early or to take a reduced course load.

III.  Residency Requirements for Students in the Part-Time Division

To obtain a degree in the part-time division, a student must complete eight part-time residency semesters. A part-time student is expected to complete all degree requirements within four academic years, except as noted below. With appropriate planning and an understanding of the academic, experiential, and professional opportunities that a student may forgo, a student may combine summer residency semesters with each other or with part-time residency semesters to graduate early or take a reduced course load.

IV.  Reduced Final Year Schedule and Early Graduation Options

AUWCL does not encourage students to graduate earlier than the three or four years that is expected of students in the full- and part-time divisions, respectively. Doing so limits professional and practical development opportunities, including sufficient focus and time preparing for the bar examination, meaningful completion of the Experiential Skills Requirement and Upper-Level Writing Requirement, and, in some situations, the ability to participate in a clinic. Students seeking to graduate early are required to meet with an academic advisor before deciding whether to accelerate their degree and to ensure that their residency calculations are correct.

V.  Dual Degrees, International JD, and Study Abroad

For purposes of the residency requirement, all credits for which a student is registered during a semester count toward residency, regardless of the American University school or partner that offers the course.  However, no more than six non-law credits will count toward the JD degree.

VI.  Shifting Divisions

WCL permits students to shift between the full-time and part-time divisions, as needed in extenuating circumstances. A part-time student who wishes to shift to the full-time division after one year and graduate within three years of initial matriculation may do so, upon consultation with and approval from the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of the Registrar. 

 If a student transfers from the part-time division to the full-time division, any semesters completed with eleven or fewer credits must be converted to full-time semester equivalents using credits earned in one or more summer semesters, as delineated in Section II. To convert a part-time semester to a full-time semester equivalent, the number of credits earned over a summer semester must equal or exceed the difference between the credits earned in the part-time semester and the minimum of twelve required to constitute a full-time semester. A student may use credits earned in one summer semester to convert two part-time semesters so long as the number of credits earned over the summer equates to or exceeds the difference in credits necessary to reach twelve for both semesters.

  1. See ABA Standard 311 (b) and Interpretation 311-2 for examples regarding extraordinary circumstances.