Degree Requirements

Students are responsible for fulfilling all the requirements of their curriculum. Consult the Policies and Procedures for specific classes.

foundational Courses

  • With the exception of the Foreign Language Requirement, none of these requirements may be satisfied with advanced placement credit (including A-Levels, I.B., and other similar credit based on external examination). In addition, credit awarded by departmental exam can also not be used to fulfill any Foundational Approach.
  • The same course cannot be used to satisfy more than one Foundational Approach. However, courses taken to satisfy Foundational Approaches may also be used to satisfy the Sector Requirement and/or requirements for the major or minor.
  • Non-College courses used to fulfill the Foundational Approaches are counted as College courses in calculating total credits needed for graduation.
  • Courses taken to satisfy these requirements must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail.
  • Each of the requirements that make up the Foundational Approaches is satisfied by taking a single course from a list of requirement courses, with the exception of the Foreign Language Requirement (which may require anywhere from 0 to 4 c.u. depending on the student's background in the given language).

Courses may be double counted between a Foundational Approach and the Sector Requirement, and between a Foundational Approach and the major, but not among two or more Foundational Approaches.

This means that the Writing, Quantitative Data Analysis, Formal Reasoning and Analysis, Cross-Cultural Analysis, Cultural Diversity in the U.S. and Foreign Language Requirements must all be fulfilled using separate courses.

Students fulfill the Writing Requirement by taking a critical writing seminar, and are strongly encouraged to do so during their freshman year.

  • Seminars must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail.
  • To satisfy the Writing Requirement, students must earn a minimum grade of C- in the seminar.
  • Seminars may not be used to fulfill any other College General Education Requirement.

Students who transfer to Penn as juniors are eligible to request transfer credit for a writing seminar. The Critical Writing Program’s website will help students determine how to fulfill the Writing Requirement and whether credit from a previous institution is likely to be applicable.

Students fulfill the Cross-Cultural Analysis Requirement by taking a course from the list of approved courses.

  • Courses taken to satisfy the Cross-Cultural Analysis Requirement must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. Any passing grade, from A+ through D, is acceptable in order for a course to fulfill the Cross-Cultural Analysis Requirement.
  • A course used to satisfy the Cross-Cultural Analysis Requirement may not be double counted toward the Cultural Diversity in the U.S., Writing or Foreign Language Requirements. A few courses are approved for both the Cross-Cultural Analysis and the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Requirements; students may count such a course toward either requirement but will still have to take a second course to fulfill the other one. However, a course fulfilling the Cross-Cultural Analysis Requirement may be double counted toward any other General Education Requirement and toward requirements for a major or minor.
  • Pre-college credit, transfer credit, credit away and credit earned studying abroad may be counted toward the Cross-Cultural Analysis Requirement. Advanced Placement credit may not be used to fulfill the Cross-Cultural Analysis Requirement.

Students fulfill the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement by taking a course from the list of approved courses.

  • The Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement can only be satisfied by courses taken at Penn. In some cases exceptions to the restriction on transfer credit may be made for transfer students.
  • Courses taken to satisfy the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. Students must earn a minimum grade of C- in courses taken to fulfill the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement.
  • A course used to satisfy the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement may be double counted toward other requirements in the General Education Curriculum (except for the Writing and Foreign Language Requirements) as well as toward the Major Requirement and requirements for a minor.

A transfer student who wishes to count a course taken prior to matriculation at Penn toward the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement may petition the committee. The committee turns down more petitions than it accepts. To file a petition, the student should:

  • Read the criteria for Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement courses.
  • Send an email to the chair of the Quantitative Data Analysis Education Committee (c/o Kent Peterman in the College Office) stating why, based on these criteria, you believe the course should qualify for Quantitative Data Analysis credit.
  • Using attachments or links, include with your email as much relevant documentation as possible, including exams or assignments, that support your claim that the course is suitable for the requirement. The syllabus should already have been submitted with your request for basic course credit via XCAT.

Transfer students with credit for STAT 111, CHEM 053, or CHEM 054 will receive Quantitative Data Analysis credit without having to petition. Departments evaluating courses from other institutions for transfer students assign these course numbers only if they meet the criteria for the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement.

Students fulfill the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Requirement by taking a course from the list of approved courses.

  • Courses taken to satisfy the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Requirement must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. Any passing grade, from A+ through D, is acceptable in order for a course to fulfill the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Requirement.
  • A course used to satisfy the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Requirement may not be double counted toward the Cross-Cultural Analysis, Writing or Foreign Language Requirement. However, a course fulfilling this requirement may be doubled counted toward any other General Education Requirement and toward requirements for a major or minor.
  • Pre-college credit, transfer credit, credit away and credit earned studying abroad may be counted toward the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Requirement. Advanced Placement credit may not be used to fulfill the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Requirement.

Students fulfill the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement by taking a course from the list of approved courses.

  • Courses taken to satisfy the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. Any passing grade, from A+ through D, is acceptable in order for a course to fulfill the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement.
  • A course used to satisfy the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement may be double counted toward other requirements in the General Education Curriculum (except for the Writing and Foreign Language Requirements) as well as toward requirements for a major or minor.
  • Pre-college credit, transfer credit, credit away and credit earned studying abroad may be counted toward the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement only when departments award credit using the number of a Penn course approved for the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement.
  • Neither advanced placement credit nor credit by departmental exam may be used to fulfill the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement. However, students who receive credit for MATH 104 in either of these ways and who take any Arts and Sciences course that has calculus as a prerequisite or co-requisite may use that course to fulfill the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement.
  • The Foreign Language Requirement is normally fulfilled by completing the fourth-semester level course in a particular language or by demonstrating equivalent competency through language placement. Policies may vary by language program; students with questions should contact the relevant department.
  • Foreign Language Requirement courses may not be used to fulfill any other General Education Requirement.
  • Pre-college credit, transfer credit, credit away and credit earned studying abroad may be counted toward the Foreign Language Requirement only when departments award credit using the number of a Penn course approved for the Foreign Language Requirement.
  • All courses taken to satisfy the Foreign Language Requirement must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. The final course in the competency sequence must be completed with a minimum grade of C- in order to fulfill the Foreign Language Requirement.

If not yet completed, students should plan to fulfill the Language Requirement as soon as possible. Language department websites provide information about placement exams offered in September for students who plan to continue with a previously studied language and/or receive credit for language courses taken at their previous institution.

Language Requirement Substitution

Students who believe that they have a documented disability that precludes learning a foreign language should contact the Student Disabilities Services Office (SDS). A member of their professional staff will explain the assessment procedure, which requires up-to-date neuropsychological testing.

If a student’s disability is verified by SDS, the student should call 215.898.6341 and make an appointment to meet with Dr. Niel McDowell in the College Office to confirm approval of the substitution and to select appropriate substitution courses. The number of courses each student will require will depend upon the number of foreign language classes he or she has completed before applying for the substitution. A full substitution will require four substitute courses.

Substitution courses are selected as follows: The student must choose one geographical area in the world where English is not the primary language and take at least one course in cinema or literature in translation from that country or region. The remaining courses will focus on the culture or literature of that same geographical area. If the student has not taken any foreign language courses at Penn, she or he must also take one class in linguistics or anthropology of language. All classes for the language substitution must be approved in advance by Dr. McDowell.

Courses used as part of the Language Requirement substitution may not also be used to fulfill any major requirement, nor to fulfill any part of the Sector Requirement.

  • The lists of approved courses indicate all courses that fulfill the Sector Requirement.
  • The Natural Sciences and Mathematics sector may be satisfied by taking one course from that sector or an additional Living World or Physical World sector course.
  • In addition to the courses listed in the various sectors, students may use designated freshman seminars and Benjamin Franklin seminars to fulfill the various sector requirements. One freshman seminar may be used in this way as a substitute for a course on the relevant sector list. Up to two Benjamin Franklin seminars or one Benjamin Franklin seminar and one freshman seminar may be used.
  • Non-College courses used to fulfill the Sector Requirement are counted as College courses in calculating total credits needed for graduation.

list of approved courses

Courses taken to fulfill the Sector Requirement must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. Any passing grade, from A+ through D, is acceptable in order for a course to fulfill the Sector Requirement.

  • Most students may double count no more than one course toward both the Major and the Sector Requirement. Students with a double major may double count one course for each major.
  • Students in majors that allow courses from both the Living World and Physical World to fulfill their major requirements are permitted to double count two courses toward the Major and the Sector Requirement—one each in the Living World and Physical World sectors. Majors in which this double counting is permitted include, but are not limited to, Biological Basis of Behavior, Biology, Biophysics and Earth Science.
  • Students who are double majoring must have a minimum of 18 unique course units between the two majors and may count one course from each major toward the Sector Requirement. Students who are triple majoring must have a minimum of 24 unique course units among the three majors. Major departments may have additional rules limiting such double counting.
  • There is no limit to the number of courses that may be double counted between General Education Requirements and requirements for a minor.
  • The same course cannot be used to fulfill more than one Sector (i.e., the seven Sectors must be fulfilled using seven different Requirement courses).
  • Courses being used to fulfill the Language Requirement Substitution may not also be used to fulfill a Sector nor any Major Requirement.

The Sector Requirement may not be satisfied with advanced placement credit (including A-Levels, IB and other similar credit based on external examination). In addition, credit awarded by departmental exam can not be used to fulfill the Sector Requirement.

  • Students who receive an advanced placement credit or waiver in a Living World or Physical World field (physics, environmental science, psychology), and who take a more advanced course at Penn in that subject, may use the additional course to fulfill the relevant sector. In the case of psychology, students who receive an advanced placement waiver for PSYC 001 (Introduction to Experimental Psychology) or successfully complete PSYC 001 at Penn may use any odd-numbered 100-level psychology course to fulfill the relevant sector.
  • Pre-college credit, transfer credit, credit away and credit earned studying abroad may be counted toward the Sector Requirement only when departments award credit use the number of a Penn course approved for the Sector Requirement.

All College students are required to complete a major in the School of Arts and Sciences. This requirement ensures that all graduates of the College develop a thorough understanding in at least one field of knowledge through concentrated study over several years in at least 12 courses.

Students are subject to the specific policies and requirements of a given major in effect at the time they declare that major, and they remain so even if the major requirements are subsequently changed. With the approval of the department or program, however, one may be permitted to abide by the new requirement structure.

College majors Credits Needed by Major

  • Students must have a g.p.a. of 2.0 in major and major-related courses already taken. Some majors require a higher g.p.a.
  • Some departments and programs (including Architecture, Communication and Economics) require specific coursework or other prerequisites before application to the major.

Application to a major should be made in the second semester of the sophomore year, prior to Advance Registration for the first semester of the junior year. Students who have not declared a major by the end of Advance Registration during the spring semester of their sophomore year will not be able to register for the next semester until they have declared. Athletes must be declared by the beginning of junior year to retain eligibility.

When students are ready to declare their major, they should:

  • Update their Academic Planning Worksheet on Penn InTouch, adding the appropriate major. Students should consult the departmental website for the intended major to gather details on requirements.
  • Meet with their pre-major advisor. If there are any concerns or doubts about choosing the right major, they should be discussed at this time. By the end of the conversation, a decision should be made on the major, even if it is tentative. The pre-major advisor will make any needed adjustments to the General Education Requirements section of the worksheet and then change its status from Unofficial to Official.
    NOTE: This is only the first step. An official worksheet does not, by itself, constitute a major declaration.
  • Contact the major program and ask about declaring the major. The steps at this point vary. In some departments, students will speak directly with the undergraduate chair. Some will ask students to fill out and submit an application. Students will be assigned a faculty advisor with whom they must speak before declaration is complete. It is the student's responsibility to be sure that all the required steps have been taken. If not, the student may still find him- or herself on hold for Advance Registration.

School of Engineering second majors

  • SEAS students who would like to declare a second major in the College of Arts and Sciences should contact the relevant SAS department and follow the department's procedure for declaring a major.
  • Students in the College who would like to declare a second major in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences should read further.
  • Most students may double count no more than one course toward both the Major and the Sector Requirement. Students with a double major may double count one course for each major.
  • Students in majors that allow courses from both the Living World and Physical World to fulfill their major requirements are permitted to double count two courses toward the Major and the Sector Requirement—one each in the Living World and Physical World sectors. Majors in which this double counting is permitted include, but are not limited to, Biological Basis of Behavior, Biology, Biophysics and Earth Science.
  • Students who are double majoring must have a minimum of 18 unique course units between the two majors and may count one course from each major toward the Sector Requirement. Students who are triple majoring must have a minimum of 24 unique course units among the three majors. Major departments may have additional rules limiting such double counting.

All courses taken for a major must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. Some departments have a minimum grade requirement for all courses within the major.

  • Only the department or program advisors determine which credits transferred from another institution can count toward the major.
  • At least half the courses in the major must be taken at Penn. Some departments require more.

Transfer students who come to Penn with sophomore standing will have one full semester before they are asked to declare their major. It is expected that most will be able to declare the major at the standard time (March of sophomore year). In the first semester, exploration should be the top priority. Students should browse the websites of prospective major departments for more detailed information of requirements and prerequisites.

At least half of the courses satisfying the major requirement must be taken at Penn.

Transfer students who come to Penn with junior status are expected to have a fairly specific idea of their likely major. They should carefully read about any prospective majors on the department’s website and speak with the undergraduate major advisor or coordinator as soon as possible in the fall. Courses taken in the major should cover material which is new to the student and for which the prerequisites have been taken. The exact time frame of major declaration will depend on the major and the courses the student has previously taken.

Junior transfer students who are athletes must declare their major as soon as possible after arriving on campus in order to be eligible for athletic competition.

At least half of the courses satisfying the major requirement must be taken at Penn.

  • College students pursuing an engineering major DO NOT earn a dual degree. They earn a single degree from the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Because College students who pursue an engineering major do not earn the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree, they do not receive professional certification and are not thereby qualified to sit for any certification exam in Engineering.
  • The engineering major does not fulfill the College’s Major Requirement for graduation and must be declared as a second (or third) major. College students pursuing a major in engineering must have a major in the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • For College students pursuing an engineering major, the graduation requirement of at least 16 courses in the College of Arts and Sciences outside of the College major still applies.
  • Policies governing academic actions (Mandatory Leave of Absence and drops), academic standing (probation), and petitions are those of the College of Arts and Sciences.

SEAS majors for college students

  • College students must complete at least two semesters of coursework at Penn before they may declare an engineering major. In addition, College students must declare an engineering major no later than the fifth semester at Penn.
  • Each of the engineering majors available to College students has specific prerequisites that must be completed before the major can be declared.
  • College students must be in good academic standing to be eligible to declare an engineering major. In addition, College students must have a minimum 2.0 cumulative g.p.a. in prerequisite and related/required courses for the intended engineering major.
  • Course requirements and contacts for SEAS majors available to College students are found here.

Free Electives, by definition, fulfill neither General Education Requirements nor the Major Requirement, but are counted toward the total number of credits required for graduation. Students should consult with their academic advisor to discuss how their Free Electives fit into their overall curriculum, and how many they are likely to need.

A maximum of 8 c.u. of Free Electives may be taken on a pass/fail basis, though normally it is not recommended that students take that many pass/fail courses (two or three is more typical).

Credits Needed for Graduation by Major