Sophomore Plan of Study

Sophomore Plan of Study

Applying to be a Biology Major

Students are introduced to the study of biology at Swarthmore by taking Biology 001, Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Biology 002, Organismal and Population Biology. Either course may be taken first. A diversity of advanced courses, some offered in alternate years, affords the student the opportunity of building a broad biological background while concentrating, if he or she chooses, in some specialized areas such as cellular and developmental biology, animal or plant physiology, microbiology, neurobiology, genetics and evolution, ecology, or ethology.


Students must submit a Sophomore Plan of Study during the second semester of their sophomore year to the Registrar. This application includes a list of the biology courses the student plans to take during the next two years as well as a short essay explaining the rationale for the sequence and selection of courses and seminars. The department chair and the academic coordinator provide information about the major at a presentation scheduled by the Dean's Office early in the spring semester before the sophomore applications are due.

Course entry requirements

  • Three courses in Biology (may include one CR [credit] from an Advanced Placement Examination). If the student does not have AP or transfer credit, both Bio 001 and Bio 002 are required.
  • Chemistry 010 or placement approved by the Chemistry and Biochemeistry Department.
  • Mathematics/Statistics Math 25. Alternatively, the combination of Math 15 and Stat 11 may be taken instead of Math 25. (Note that Stat 11 counts as one of the two required NSE electives.)
  • Completion of courses in the specified list (below) of NSE electives one course for entry, and a second for completion.


Applicants must have an average grade of C (2.00) or better in Biology 001 and Biology 002 (or if AP credit is given, in the first 2 Biology courses taken at Swarthmore); in addition, the applicant must have an average grade of C (2.00) or better in all courses taken in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering at Swarthmore College (Biology, Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Mathematics & Statistics, Engineering, and Computer Science). Unpublished grades in biology for the first semester of the freshman year will be considered in the C average requirement; passing grades of CR in other courses in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering are acceptable.


Students who have not completed the requirements for acceptance to the major will be deferred until the end of the fifth semester.  Students who have not completed all requirements for acceptance to the major by the end of the fifth semester will no longer have priority in lotteries based on their sophomore plan, and will need to re-apply for the major before the last day of classes in their junior year.

Summary of Sophomore Plan Requirements


BIOL: Bio 1 & 2 (or AP) and a 3rd Bio credit
CHEM: Chem 10
MATH: IF Math 25 THEN one course from the NSE Elective List* OR.... IF Math 15 THEN the course from the NSE Elective List must be Stat 11


GROUPS: Gr. 1, 2 & 3 Bio courses (Chem 38 counts as Gr. 1)
CAPSTONE: 2 cr. seminar (two of these for honors students) and Bio 97 (or Bio 199/180 for honors students)
A SECOND COURSE FROM THE NSE ELECTIVE LIST (In other words, all Bio majors will need to plan for TWO courses from this list -the first for ENTRY and the second for COMPLETION)

Astro 016
Chem 015 or above
Comp Sci 021 or above
Engi 005 or above
Math 26 or above
Phys 003 or above, with the exception of Physics 029
Stat 11 or above