Frequently Asked Questions


What is the purpose of the Academic Advising Center?

The Academic Advising Center provides a variety of services to help you achieve your personal, academic and career goals at Northern Illinois University.

We advise you as you develop meaningful academic plans compatible with your educational and life goals. Our academic advising focus is on "deciding" students, students seeking alternative majors and students reassessing their current academic situation.

Why do I need an academic advisor?

Academic advisors help you formulate a successful academic program that helps you translate your goals, interests and life plans into an effective educational and NIU experience. Academic advisors also help you understand and navigate academic requirements, polices, procedures and can help with course selection.

How often should I meet with my advisor?

You should meet regularly with your advisor in order to build an effective advising relationship. You're always welcome to meet with your advisor anytime during the semester, but you must meet with your advisor if you're on academic probation in the current semester. Remember that during peak times (i.e. registration) advisors will be very busy, so it's a good idea to plan ahead and get in early.

What is my Z-ID?

You are assigned a LogonID when you first register at NIU. Your LogonID looks like z954321. This identifier is permanent and identifies you for access to computing and communications services on campus such as software applications on file servers, computers in DoIT and ResTech computer labs, NIU e-mail, MyNIU, your network storage space (H: drive), printers, dial-in services, Blackboard, and wireless network connections at selected sites on the DeKalb campus.

Why do I have an NIU email address?

When you were admitted at NIU, you were assigned a Z-ID number and an email account that is your Z-ID followed by Official correspondence of the university, Blackboard and other sites at NIU will send all their email to that account (regardless of whether or not you have another email account). As a new student, you can choose to use your student email account as your “primary” email address. However, if you use another service (such as Gmail), it's critical to update your student email account to forward to that preferred account. To learn more about your student email account, i.e. set-up, forwarding, etc., go to the DoIT Email and Messaging page.


I'm not sure what to major in, is that okay?

Yes, being undecided about your major is very common for new students. In fact, according to ACT, 65 to 80 percent of college students will change their major at least once! If you're unsure of what you want to major in please take advantage of the many outstanding academic programs and resources at NIU. Advisors in the Academic Advising Center can help you explore your options; that is a primary function of our office! The Academic Advising Center hosts the Exploring Majors Fair each fall semester which is a great resource for students exploring!

Does my major determine my career?

Your choice of major is only one step in determining a career path; it does not determine the rest of your life. There is no one "right" major or career for you. In fact, the average person may change careers several times during a lifetime.

Many students at NIU either change their original major or enrich their chosen major with another major, minor, teacher certification and/or co-curricular experience.

Employers are not always interested in a specific major but will be interested in the experiences and skills you might bring to the organization as well as your academic record.

When do I need to make a decision about my major at NIU?

A formal declaration of major is required by the end of the semester in which 60 semester hours of credit will have been earned. This typically occurs at the end of the sophomore year. It's recommended, however, that you set a goal to choose your major by mid-April of your freshman year. That's when you'll register for your sophomore fall semester classes.

Some students do not make their major decision until after their freshman year. Changing your major and/or declaring your major later than freshman year can affect the length of time it takes for you to graduate. This depends very much on what courses you have taken and the curriculum requirements of the major you choose. Thus, while you may be able to have more time, it's best to decide by the end of your freshmen year.

Where can I get help choosing my major?

On the Northern Illinois University campus, you'll find many services and resources available to help you throughout your major exploration process. There are academic advisors, career counselors, professors, job/internship fairs, libraries and major/career related workshops. Remember, it's fine to be a "deciding" student, but begin an active search for your major as soon as possible.

What courses should I take while I am “deciding”?

"Deciding" students should take courses from three categories: introductory courses in majors of potential interest, general education courses that are broadly applicable to the requirements of many majors and elective courses that are specifically designed for "deciding" students such as CAHC 211, Career Planning. Your academic advisor in the Academic Advising Center will help you select the right courses, assist you in understanding your general education requirements and help you explore all areas of interest.

What are the advantages of starting college as a “deciding” student?

If you complete a thorough exploration and decision-making process during your first year in college, starting out as a "deciding" major will increase the probability that you will make a good choice of major. Also, many "deciding" students graduate with more breadth in their degrees because they complete double majors or add minors to their majors as a result of their exploration. Finally, "deciding" students learn how to research options, evaluate alternatives, make decisions and this can be a valuable lesson learned in college.

What does it mean to “double major”?

A double major may require more semester hours than the 120-semester-hour minimum required for graduation. A student may fulfill the requirements for two separate majors while earning one baccalaureate degree. The student must request entrance into the second major from the appropriate academic department. If the requirements for both majors are fulfilled, both will be indicated on the academic record. For more information about this policy consult the undergraduate catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

What is a minor?

A minor is a limited course of study in a designated subject area that requires less course work than a major. A student may not take a minor offered by the department of his or her major unless this is specifically permitted in the description of the minor. To find out which minors are available consult the undergraduate catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

Should I add minors to my major?

Yes! And, in most cases, you can! A minor usually requires completion of six to seven courses (18-21 credits) in a field of study. One advantage of adding a minor to your academic program is that you can study in multiple academic fields. Also, a degree program that includes minors is much stronger as a credential for graduate school or job application and expands potential career opportunities as well.

What is the difference between a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts?

Candidates for the Bachelor of Arts degree must demonstrate competence in a foreign language equivalent to that attained in two years of college instruction. In some cases this requirement can be met by coursework completed in high school. For more information about this policy consult the undergraduate catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

Requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree vary according to major and/or college. For information about individual requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree, consult the undergraduate catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

Academic Issues and University Policies

How do I calculate my grade point average (GPA)?

The grade point system is used to determine academic standing and to award honors. To compute the GPA, the total number of grade points earned is divided by the total number of the GPA hours attempted at NIU (those for which grades of A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, D, or F are recorded), as in the following example.

Course Credit Grade Points Per Hour Total Grade Points
3 A- 3.67 (3 x 3.67) 11.01
3 B+ 3.33 (3 x 3.33) 9.99
3 C 2.00 (3 x 2) 6.00
3 D 1.00 (3 x 1) 3.00
3 F 0.00 (3 x 0) 0
15 total hr n/a 30 pts/15 cr hrs =2.000 GPA

  • A = 4.00
  • A- = 3.67
  • B+ = 3.33
  • B = 3.00
  • B- = 2.67
  • C+ = 2.33
  • C = 2.00
  • D = 1.00
  • F = 0.00
Can I repeat a course?

You may repeat a course in which a grade of D or F was received. The grade which you earn in the repeat will replace the original grade in the GPA calculation, but both grades will always appear on your official transcript. For more information about this policy consult the undergraduate catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

What is Academic Probation?

First-semester freshmen whose GPA falls below 1.6 for all work attempted at NIU will be placed on probation. All other undergraduate students failing to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.00 for all work attempted at NIU will also be placed on probation. Students placed on probation are required to schedule an appointment for a probation interview with the dean (or the dean’s delegate) of their major college. Students without a major and college affiliation will meet with a staff member in the Academic Advising Center. For more information about this policy consult the undergraduate catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

What is Academic Dismissal?

Students failing to remove academic probation after one enrollment by attaining a cumulative GPA in NIU courses of at least 2.00 will become candidates for academic dismissal from the university. Students failing all of the courses for which they are registered for a single semester, including summer session, will become candidates for academic dismissal from the university. For more information about this policy consult the undergraduate catalog or speak with an academic advisor.

Contact Us

Academic Advising Center
Peters Campus Life Building, room 260
815-753-2902 (fax)


Monday - Friday
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

To schedule an appointment, email us at

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