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.

Applying to be a double major

Students are permitted to double major in Biology or a special major in Biology (e.g., Psychobiology) and another department if they have and maintain a grade point average (GPA) of 2.00 in all courses taken in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering Division. All other requirements are the same as for the Course Major in Biology, including the senior comprehensive examination.


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.
  • Two courses in Chemistry (not Chem 001), including introductory Chem 010 and at least one semester of Organic Chemistry. (CR from AP or placement in Chem 010 is also acceptable).
  • Two courses in Mathematics or Statistics (not Stat 001 or Math 003) or the completion of calculus II (Math 23 or 25). The Biology Department strongly recommends a course in statistics for majors. (CR from AP or placement in math is also acceptable).


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.


Applicants who have completed all requirements including obtaining appropriate grades are accepted as a course major in Biology. Applicants who are in the process of completing all these requirements are accepted contingent upon successful completion of the missing courses. Others who will not complete these requirements by the end of the current semester are deferred until the requirements are met. A student who has been deferred should re-apply for the major when most or all of the requirements have been met. If the faculty in the Department of Biology feel that the student will have difficulty completing the requirements for application for the major, the student is neither accepted nor deferred at this time and may apply later when most of the requirements have been met. All students who have applied for the Major in Biology and who have been accepted or deferred are assigned an advisor in the Department of Biology.