Selecting first-semester courses is an
exciting process. It is the beginning of a student's academic career at
Penn. But it can also be overwhelming. There are a myriad of courses and
academic opportunities from which to choose.
freshmen speak with their pre-major advisors during the summer to
discuss course planning and selection. Students will not be able to
register for courses until cleared by their pre-major advisor.
preparation for this conversation, incoming freshmen will need to
engage with Compass, the primary guide for incoming freshmen throughout
the summer, where you'll be prompted to:
While not required, freshman seminars are an excellent introduction to academic life in the College and are highly recommended for first- or second-semester students. The primary goal of the freshman seminar program is to provide every freshman with the opportunity for a direct personal encounter with a faculty member in a small class setting devoted to a significant intellectual endeavor. Freshman seminars also fulfill College General Education Requirements.
It is recommended that students begin to satisfy the Foreign Language Requirement in their first semester and continue to take courses consecutively until the requirement is fulfilled. Students planning to continue with a language that they have studied previously should read about language placement. Students who decide to start a new language at Penn should anticipate that it will require four full semesters of course work to achieve competency in the language and to fulfill the Foreign Language Requirement.
Students may be able to determine placement at a particular level in a variety of different subjects, either by means of an exam taken before matriculation (A.P., I.B.) or by taking a placement exam offered by a Penn department, usually at the beginning of the semester.
In either case, students should consider the issue of placement very carefully. Determining the proper level at which to begin the study of a subject gives a student the best chance of success in that course. Placement exams are offered at Penn by language, science and the Mathematics Departments. Browse the sections below for more detailed information on these exams.
Students should first complete the Math Diagnostic Placement Exam available through the Canvas system and work with their academic advisor to determine which math course is appropriate, given their previous math exposure and the results of the exam.
Departmental Exams for Credit
All students are eligible to take the Mathematics Department's internal
exams for credit, which are offered at the beginning of the fall
semester. Near the end of the summer, the times and dates of the exams
will be posted near the top of the department's undergraduate web page.
Anyone who has studied calculus should consider taking these exams.
The department keeps no record of those who do not pass; thus, students
who take the exams and fail have lost nothing. The exams are open to all
without charge. More information is available on the Mathematics Department
A student may receive credit for MATH 104 (1 c.u.) by earning:
A score of 5 on the Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus BC exam
A score of 7 on the International Baccalaureate (Mathematics [Higher Level] plus Further Mathematics).
No credit is given for the AP Calculus AB exam regardless of score.
The Mathematics Department does not give credit for foreign examinations,
such as the German Abitur, the French Baccalaureat, and the English
MATH 101 is a half-credit online course that provides students with the necessary foundation in algebra and trigonometry. Students whose high school curriculum and score on the math placement diagnostic exam that indicates Math 101 as an appropriate placement should consult with the Mathematics Department before enrolling.
MATH 103 prepares students with little or no calculus in high school or need to strengthen the foundations of their calculus skills.
MATH 104 is the next course in the calculus sequence. Students may receive credit for MATH 104 with a 5 on the BC Math AP exam or a 7 on the Math with Higher Math IB exam. Students with MATH 104 credit may choose to continue in the calculus sequence for their major or intellectual interest. Some majors (such as Biochemistry, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics) specifically require MATH 104 and 114; otherwise students who need a second semester of calculus may take either 114 or 115. Not all students will need to take a second semester of calculus; when in doubt, consult a pre-major or department advisor.
MATH 114 and more advanced math courses will be appropriate for students with MATH 104 credit and placement through the diagnostic exam. Students who are interested in math or science might also want to consider a more challenging honors version of Calculus, Math 116 and Math 260 (the analogues of MATH 114 and MATH 240). These courses will cover the material more in depth and involve discussion of theory as well as computations.
Note: Students who request a math course may not get the exact lecture or recitation section they want. It may take some persistence to get into the course. The department never turns a student away because a course is full. The student can always be fit in somewhere, although not necessarily in the section or at the time the student prefers. Students who need help getting into a course should contact the Mathematics Department.
Prior to Advance Registration, incoming freshmen must have a discussion with their pre-major advisor about their academic interests and goals, and to plan a schedule for their first semester.
After being removed from registration hold by their advisor, students may enter Advance Registration course requests using Penn InTouch. Penn InTouch requires a student to log on using their PennKey and password. Students who have difficulty using Penn InTouch should call the College Office, 215.898.6341.
The Course Search, Mock Schedule and Registration functions on Penn InTouch allow students to browse courses of interest, plan their schedule for the following semester, and request courses for the fall.
Dennis DeTurck, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, shares some sound advice for incoming students.
Never underestimate yourself
Seek the most challenging courses and
programs of study, and never assume that you aren’t good enough to
succeed in them. The faculty are there to help you stretch your
intellectual muscles and train them. If you get in over your head we can
One of Penn’s strengths is the breadth of its academic
programs, in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the professional
schools. Go beyond the subjects you studied in high school and explore
new territory: try a new language, explore an unfamiliar part of the
world, or follow new directions in science with researchers who are
making ground-breaking discoveries.
When you explore, it’s best to have a map in hand. For
example, many majors require that you take preparatory courses in their
own and other departments. If you want to study abroad you should think
about your language courses. Your academic advisors and the faculty
stand ready to guide you.
Use academic advising well
In partnership with your academic advisor,
you will work to create an academic plan that explores all of your
interests and satisfies all of your intellectual goals.
The College Office (120 Cohen Hall) is the central academic office for the College of Arts and Sciences. All students are welcome.
Make it a priority to get to know at least one of your professors each
semester. Your professors can help you discover your intellectual
passions, give insight into their field, help you to strategize about
major selection, and generally enhance your academic experience at Penn.
Do your own research
It’s one thing to learn about discoveries in
science, social science or the humanities. It’s quite another thing to
make your own discoveries. Graduates report that one of the most
valuable aspects of their Penn education was engaging in a research project,
whether an experiment in cognitive neuroscience, a study of a rare
manuscript, or an analysis of South American trade policies (just to
give a few examples). The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships can help.
Think outside the classroom
Learning at Penn happens everywhere: in the
classroom, to be sure, but also in the college houses, at lectures from
world-renowned speakers, in concert halls and museums, and in the
Philadelphia community. Take advantage of the resources available only
at a great university like Penn, set in an extraordinary city. Here are
Writing Advisors The writing advisors are available to help you perfect your papers.
Public Speaking Communication Within the Curriculum (CWiC) advisors can help students become more effective speakers.
Penn Libraries In addition to the vast collection, Penn's library system offers a wide range of invaluable resources and workshops.
Department of Recreation and Dining Services Sleep,
exercise and eat well. Nourish your mind and your body. Whether it's
working out in the gym, playing intramurals or taking yoga - there are
innumerable opportunities for enjoyable exercise at Penn.
You are living in one of the most culturally rich, exciting cities in the country!
Discover what you love and major in it
During your first three semesters at Penn, concentrate on exploring all of your interests. Use the General Education Curriculum to explore, and use your academic advising network to discuss your ideas. Here are some additional ways to explore majors:
College Majors Listing of majors available to students in the College with links to department and program web sites.
College students need to choose courses, declare a major and define career goals. They will need to examine their performance in different courses, identify their skills and those they wish to develop, and decide what really matters to them. Much of this assessment they will do themselves, but faculty members, academic advisors, career counselors and peers can help.
Students in the College have a strong network of academic advisors available to assist them throughout their undergraduate careers. Read more >>
The College Office 120 Cohen Hall, 249 South 36th St. Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304 215.898.6341 firstname.lastname@example.org
The College Office is home base for undergraduate students in the School of Arts and Sciences.
Advisors in the College Office are available to help with general and special academic circumstances from Monday through Friday, by appointment from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and on a walk-in basis for quick questions from 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
The College Office also:
Provides academic guidance to all College undergraduates.
Processes graduation applications and audit seniors for graduation.