Degree Requirements

The requirements for the Bachelor of Arts & Sciences in the College provide a flexible structure that is designed to inspire curiosity and frame opportunities while drawing you toward two distinct goals: general education across the wide range of the arts and sciences and specialized education in a major.

The General Education requirement develop skills and approaches to knowledge and engages you in the intellectual work of disciplines in a variety of fields across the arts and sciences. The General Education requirements are made up of Foundational Approaches and Sector requirements. 

The Major requirement provide an opportunity to know a segment of human knowledge deeply, with a sufficient grasp of its modes of thinking and analysis.

The Elective requirement give you the freedom to pursue interests that may lie outside the major and that extend beyond those addressed in the General Education Curriculum.

Because the College curriculum fulfills a Bachelor of Arts degree, students are required to complete a minimum number of c.u. in the Arts & Sciences

The overall c.u. requirement are determined by the primary major and ensure a broad education across the University with a specialization in the Arts & Sciences and a manageable number of courses taken over four years. 

Students are responsible for fulfilling all the requirements of their degree. Consult the Policies and Procedures for requirements specific to your class year.

 

  • 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-Arts & Sciences courses used to fulfill the Foundational Approaches are counted as Arts & Sciences courses in calculating total credits needed for graduation.
  • Courses taken to satisfy these requirements must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. Please note the exception to this policy for spring and fall 2020 and spring 2021.
  • 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 first 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 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 any other Foundational Approach. 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 with any Sector and with requirements for a major or minor.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 not be double counted toward any other Foundational Approach. However, a course fulfilling the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement may be double counted with any Sector and also with requirements for a major or minor.

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 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 any other Foundational Approach. However, a course fulfilling the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. Requirement may be double counted with any Sector and with requirements for a major or minor.
  • 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 for a course to fulfill the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement.
  • A course used to satisfy the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement may not be double counted toward any other Foundational Approach. However, a course fulfilling the Formal Reasoning and Analysis Requirement may be double counted with any Sector and with requirements for a major or minor.
  • 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 1400 (MATH 104 prior to Summer 2022) 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.
  • 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.

Note: Because of the pass/fail policies for Spring and Fall 2020, and Spring 2021, courses taken pass/fail in which the student earned a "P" can be used to satisfy the Foreign Language Requirement during these semesters.

If not yet completed, students should plan to fulfill the Language Requirement as soon as possible. Language department websites provide information about placement exams  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 Disabilities Services Office. 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 Disabilities Services, 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 the student 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 no foreign language course has been taken at Penn, the student 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.

  • Courses that fulfill the Sector Requirements can be found in Path@Penn.  See Registration Tips.
  • Students in the classes of 2024 and earlier may take any course in the Natural Science Across Disciplines list in order to fulfill sector VII,  or they may do so with a second Living or Physical World course. Students from the Class of 2025 and later must take one course from the Natural Science Across the Disciplines sector list.
  • In addition to the courses listed in the various sectors, students may use designated first-year seminars and Benjamin Franklin seminars to fulfill the various sector requirements. One first-year 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 first-year seminar may be used.
  • Non-Arts & Sciences courses used to fulfill the Sector Requirement are counted as Arts & Sciences courses in calculating total credits needed for graduation.

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.

  • 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).
  • Each major has a designated Sector course that will be auto-completed upon the declaration of the major. Students are expected to use the Sectors to explore the majors and will most likely use a Sector course to fulfill a requirement in the major upon declaration.
  • Students that declare more than one major will see one Sector per major auto-completed upon declaration. Should both majors share the same Sector, the second major will complete a second sector if a course being used in the major carries another Sector designation. Courses will remain applied to the major in the degree audit and the sharing between the Sector and the major is represented as a complete requirement.
  • Students in majors that allow courses from both the Living World and Physical World to fulfill their major requirements will have both Sectors auto-completed—one each in the Living World and Physical World sectors. Majors in which this double counting is permitted include, but are not limited to, Neuroscience, Biology, Biophysics and Earth Science.
  • Major departments may have additional rules limiting double counting between more than one major.
  • There is no limit to the number of courses that may be double counted between General Education Requirements and requirements for a minor.
  • 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.
  • Students in the Class of 2024 and earlier who receive an advanced placement waiver for PSYC 0001 (PSYC 001 prior to Summer 2022) Introduction to Experimental Psychology or successfully complete PSYC 0001 at Penn may use any odd-numbered 1000-level psychology course to fulfill the Living World sector. Students in the Class of 2025 and later who receive an advanced placement waiver for PSYC 0001 (Introduction to Experimental Psychology) may use one of a selection of higher-level Psychology courses to fulfill the Living World 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.

The major and concentration within a major also determines a portion of the Arts & Sciences courses required at graduation. See Credits Needed By Major for more detail.

College majors

  • 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.

All College students are expected to declare a major by the spring of sophomore year.

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

  • Make time to meet with a representative of the major department or program in which they wish to declare.
  • Look at that department or program's website, as many of them provide instructions on how and whom to contact for major declaration.
  • Students should note that some departments and programs require more than one meeting in order to complete the major declaration process, so they should be sure to follow all the instructions completely.

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, Neuroscience, 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.

Please note the exception to this policy for spring and fall 2020 and spring 2021.

  • Only the department or program advisors determine which credits transferred from another institution can count toward the major.
  • At least half the course units 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 College major will determine the College of Arts and Sciences requirements for the degree.
  • Policies governing academic actions, academic standing 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.

Electives, by definition, fulfill neither General Education Requirements nor the Major Requirement, but are counted toward the total number of course units required for graduation. Students have a required number of Arts and Sciences electives and depending on the major, there is room for exploration beyond the Arts and Sciences. Certain key courses in Computer Science, Statistics, Design and Fine Arts also play a substantial role in the Arts and Sciences Curriculum and count as “College 16 CU” requirement and fulfill the Arts and Sciences electives. Students should consult with their pre-major advisor to discuss how their Electives fit into their overall curriculum, and how many they are likely to need. 

A maximum of 8 c.u. of Electives outside the major and general education requirements 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

Because the Bachelor of Arts degree is fundamentally an Arts and Sciences curriculum,  students are required to complete a minimum number of c.u. in the Arts & Sciences across the entire degree including General Educationminor,  major, and Elective requirements.

At least 16 of the course units outside the major must be in the Arts & Sciences. Students in dual degree programs are only expected to take 14 Arts & Sciences c.u. outside their primary major.

The total number of Arts & Sciences c.u. required across all the requirements for the B.A. degree is determined by the 16 Arts & Sciences c.u. outside the primary major and by the number of Arts & Sciences c.u. required in the major or major concentration.

In some cases, students may need additional c.u. beyond the major and Arts and Sciences in order to complete the total number of c.u. needed for the degree. In those cases, students can choose courses from across the University. 

Courses in the Bachelor of Arts Degree are considered Arts and Sciences c.u. if they are:

  • Courses offered by a department or program in the School of Arts and Sciences (with the exception of courses for the BAAS program)
  • Courses in the Communication Program in the Annenberg School
  • Advanced placement credits given by the above departments and programs
  • Transfer and credit away credits
  • Credit Away credit given by the above departments and programs
  • Non-Arts & Sciences courses used in the General Education requirements or non-Arts & Sciences courses that are cross listed with an Arts & Sciences undergraduate department or program will be counted as Arts & Sciences c.u. in the B.A.  They can be identified by the “College 16 CU (AU16)” attribute in Path@Penn

List of Arts & Sciences Courses Attributes

Students who are unclear as to whether a given course is in the College should consult with an assistant dean in the College Office.

Non-Arts & Sciences courses are any courses not covered by the considerations above .

Depending on the major or major and concentration, students may elect to take between zero and four non-Arts & Sciences course units that can count towards the overall B.A. degree.  Students can take more non-Arts & Sciences courses beyond the minimum allowed in the degree at their own discretion and as their course load allows. 

Students can take non-Arts & Sciences courses as long as they meet the prerequisites, co-requisites, and have met the criteria to enroll in that particular course outside of Arts & Sciences. Students should be aware that other undergraduate and graduate schools at the University of Pennsylvania have their own curricular rules that Arts & Sciences students must follow. In some cases, students may not be allowed to register for a course because a major, minor, or concentration is required. In other cases, students may not be allowed to select pass/fail or even to participate due to curricular reasons set by the other school. 

The College does not award  credit for ROTC or Preceptorial courses.

As part of the commitment to interdisciplinary programs, the School of Arts and Sciences has a special partnership with the Weitzman School of Design to offer three majors to Arts & Sciences students, resulting in a Bachelor of Arts degree in either Design (DSGN), Fine Arts (FNAR), or Architecture (ARCH).

These majors require fewer overall Arts & Sciences c.u.

Courses that are DSGN, FNAR, or ARCH but are not cross listed with a course from the School of Arts & Sciences and/or do not have the "College 16 CU (AU16)" attribute in Path@Penn will not be counted toward the overall Arts & Sciences requirement need for each respective major whether they are inside or outside of the major.

Students in these three majors should consult with Path@Penn to monitor their Arts and Sciences course requirement as they complete their degree.