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Is the Bachelor of Individualized Study (BIS) a valid, recognized degree?

This is probably the most-asked question about our program. The BIS is a valid bachelors degree from an accredited university. It holds the same value as any other bachelor’s degree.  Many of our graduates receive promotions, new career opportunities or continue on to graduate school.  Students in our program also have the option to earn a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts with additional required coursework.

I am thinking of changing career fields, but I am not sure what I want to do. What do you advise?

The ADP students are required to take the IS 200 Introduction to Individualized Studies class first to begin the program.  This course is designed to provide an introduction to the Adult Degree Program, prepare students for college-level writing assignments, examine personal and professional goals and aptitudes then compare the results with career options.  By the end of this course, students will have a completed Program Plan and an academic advisor to help complete the degree requirements.  Be sure to check with your employer to determine if they provide any assistance for tuition, books or time to take classes.

I regret that I did not apply myself when I was in college before. Can I still get into your program if my earlier grades were not good?

The minimum GPA for entering the Adult Degree Program is a C average, or 2.0 GPA. If your GPA is lower, you might consider taking classes at a community college to raise that GPA.  Once you have raised your GPA to the required level, you should contact us to discuss your options.

What will I need to have before I begin taking classes at JMU through the Adult Degree Program?

  • Must have proficient typing/keyboarding skills
  • Must have an up-to-date computer system (desktop or laptop computers)
  • Must have a reliable Internet connection
  • Should have MicroSoft Office or equivalent for Word, PowerPoint and Excel
  • Should have a headset with microphone to participate in asynchronous classes

I am not sure I can find my way around the library and find the materials I will need for my class.

The Carrier and Rose Libraries at James Madison University are both available for use by the ADP students.  In the IS200 course, you will learn more about the online resources available and how to use them.  Each area of study has a representative or Library Liaison who specializes in that specific topic.  Elizabeth Haworth is the Library Liaison for the Adult Degree Program. She is able to work with you individually to teach you about research methods and resources available. Once you enroll in the program, you may call her at (540) 568-5730 or email at to schedule an appointment.

How much will it cost?

The tuition costs are based on the number of credit hours that the student needs to take to complete their degree requirements.  The State Council of Higher education for Virginia (SCHEV) describes a credit hour as a unit of measure representing an hour (50 minutes) of instruction over a 15-week period in a semester.  The credit hour is applied toward the total number of hours needed for completing the requirements of a degree. Most courses at JMU have a value of 3 credit hours each.  Details on the cost per credit can be found at the University Business Office website at

Is financial aid available?

Yes! However, since financial aid is based on complex specific guidelines, we refer all questions concerning scholarships to the Financial Aid office. You may reach them at (540) 568-7820 or 

What times are classes offered?

While many departments are working to offer more of their courses online and at night to benefit those who need them, some departments still only offer theirs primarily during the daytime hours. The majority of ADP students do attend part-time taking night courses online. Many online classes are frequently available during the summer, and increasingly are being offered during the fall and spring semesters.  Please contact the ADP office to discuss the alternatives for taking courses that are not offered online.

I am interested in becoming a teacher. Can the IS program provide teacher licensure?

We have had many students go through our program to teach. The Education department is currently going through changes with the Virginia Standards of Learning for Individualized Study as an approved major; however, it must be obtained through the College of Education. Currently, students may build their concentrations to meet the requirements for teacher licensure, please contact the College of Education at (540) 568-6274.

When and how do I register for classes?

The ADP online courses have registration through our office.  The regularly scheduled courses are available several weeks before the time of registration on the JMU Web site. First, you will log into MyMadison at  to conduct a search for classes being offered any given semester. This will be your most up-to-date listing.

How do I qualify for admission?

Students can qualify to be accepted into the Adult Degree Program if the student meets the following criteria:

  • Be at least 22 years of age
  • Has a minimum of thirty (30) college credits with a letter grade "C" or better. (These credits can be an accumulation of credit from various institutions).
  • Have an overall GPA of 2.0 or better.

How long will it take to complete my degree through the Adult Degree Program?

The average time it takes a student to complete the program is 2.75 years. However, each adult student comes to the program with differing amounts of transferring credits, experiences, and the time available to take courses. Therefore, it is impossible to state a definite length of time for degree completion. A total of 120 semester hours are needed to graduate from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree. 

How will an Individualized Study degree benefit me?

Graduates of the Adult Degree Program are employees of a variety of corporate, industrial and government entities. Many companies and organizations benefit from having their employees complete the program. Forty percent of the graduates from this program go on to earn a Master's degree. Many graduates have completed doctoral degrees.

How will employers and graduate schools view a nontraditional degree?

Previous surveys to our graduates gauge the acceptance of their BIS by graduate schools and employers.  The overall response has been that employers accept all bachelor's degrees as equal for employment purposes; and many students have gone on to prestigious graduate schools such as Harvard University and Washington and Lee.

How can I apply for experiential learning credits?

James Madison University recognizes that not all learning takes place in the college classroom. Individualized Study participants have gained college-level learning from work and volunteer experiences. Students in the Adult Degree Program have the option to submit a professional portfolio providing documentation of this learning for college credit.  To submit a portfolio for prior learning credit, students must complete a three-credit course in Portfolio Development course. Portfolio credit may fulfill college general education or elective requirements.

What is the Senior Project?

The Senior Project is the capstone project in the area of the student's concentration and is completed the semester prior to graduation. The senior project experience is presented to peers and faculty members through the Senior Project Forum, which is held each fall and spring semester. It is an opportunity for the student to present the learning gained from the degree process and Senior Project.

Can you change to another major?

In the Adult Degree Program, you are considered a non-traditional student at JMU.  If you are talking about following a traditional major, you would need to withdraw from the ADP and reapply to JMU as a traditional transfer student competing with all other applicants.  Keep in mind this program is not a back door to get into a traditional degree program. If you are unsure of which program you want, the best thing is to contact our office to set up an appointment to discuss this further.

How difficult will it be to complete 30 upper level JMU credits if you cannot attend regular classes? How hard is it to get into non-traditional classes such as theatre arts, music, etc. other than the "Appreciation" classes? Will I be able to take the classes I need in the evenings? Do the professors usually work with students who have odd schedules?

Getting classes at JMU can be a challenge for traditional and non-traditional students alike. You have probably read studies that discuss traditional aged students needing at least five years to receive an undergraduate degree because of the lack of ability to get into classes. The ADP cannot guarantee the class you want will be available and open every time it is needed. The ADP only has jurisdiction over "IS" classes. However, many students work and go to school part-time and they get a degree. Ways to get a class that looks impossible:

    • If a class you want is closed, contact the instructor and ask for an "override" or "permission to enter the class." Once you get that, you are set!
    • Contact the department administrative assistants. They may have a secret that can help you!
    • Go in person to make your contacts whenever possible. When they see you are an adult student that may make a big difference.
    • Mention you are in the Adult Degree Program. It can help!

How will I find an advisor?

Many JMU faculty are delighted to work with adult students, and advising an ADP student is not a lot of additional work. Advisers assist adult students in identifying and achieving educational goals. Students, with the direction and assigned faculty advisor, will design a unique academic program to their individual continuing education needs. We will help you find your advisor during your IS 200 Orientation class. 

Are the professors understanding of life situations?

The faculty at JMU are different across the disciplines and have different expectations of all their students.  They will have specific instructions in their syllabus on what you need to do should something arise and you need extra time to complete an assignment.  Contacting them immediately and keeping them updated on your situation will go a long way in getting their consideration.  A good key to remember is that for every credit hour worth, the "rule" is you will spend five (5) hours a week working on the class. For example, a three (3)-credit course may require 15 hours outside of the classroom to get the work and studying completed. This will be "Individualized" for each person and each class.

After a program agreement is approved, how hard is it to change? Can I change my program at any time?

The Program Plan can be amended at anytime.  You just need to complete and submit Program Plan Amendment form signed by you and your advisor to the ADP office. Please contact the ADP Office for more information.

Can I take classes at another college or university to fulfill my JMU requirements?

Yes, but you are required to obtain approval before you do. Contact the ADP office before you register for classes elsewhere for more information.

What if I can't take classes one semester?

Life has a way of happening that sometimes derails even the best thought-out plans. If you find yourself unable to take classes for a semester or two because personal or financial reasons, you need to officially withdraw from James Madison University.

  1. Notify the Adult Degree Program Office.
  2. Complete the non-returning student form to the Registrar’s office.
  3. If you are receiving financial aid, contact the Financial Aid office at 540-568-7820 to ensure you complete all the necessary procedures.
  4. Contact the University Business Office, once you receive notification that your withdrawal has been processed, at 540-565-6505 to ensure your account balance is zero

The deadline to submit the non-returning student form is the third Friday of the Fall and Spring semesters. (Note: if you do not take classes during the summer term but have registered for Fall classes during the advance registration period in April, you do not have to submit the non-returning student form.)

A full, step-by-step guide, as well as a link to the non-returning student form, can be found at:

When you are ready to return to school, you will need to submit the Intent to Enroll form to the Registrar’s office by these deadlines:

  • Fall semester – July 1
  • Spring semester – November 1
  • Summer semester – April 1

The Intent to Enroll form may be submitted after these deadlines; however your return to school may be delayed until the next semester in order for the paperwork to be processed.

Additional information and the link to the Intent to Enroll form can be found at:

If you are out for three or more consecutive semesters, you must reapply to the Adult Degree Program by submitting a new admissions application and paying the application fee. Contact the ADP office at 540-568-4255 for further information on the process.