Requirements

As you plan your program you must take into account, in addition to your other goals, the need to satisfy the College's graduation requirements. These requirements are designed to ensure a broad liberal arts educational experience. The full list of graduation requirements can be found in section 07.1 of the college catalog. For purposes of planning your first semester, the requirements you should be thinking particularly about are the:

A. Division Distribution Requirement
B. Writing Requirement
C. Natural Science and Engineering Practicum (NSEP) Requirement
D. Physical Education and Swimming Requirement
E. Foreign Language Requirement
F.Requirement Exemptions for Transfer Students

A. The Division Distribution Requirement

The academic departments of the College are each assigned to one of three divisions as follows:

Humanities: art (art history and studio art), classics (literature), English literature, film and media studies, modern languages and literatures, music and dance, philosophy, religion, and theater.

Natural sciences and Engineering: biology, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics and statistics, physics and astronomy, and psychology courses that qualify for the natural sciences and engineering practicum.

Social sciences: classics (ancient history), economics, education, history, linguistics, political science, psychology (other than natural sciences and engineering practicum courses), and sociology and anthropology.

Note: A few courses do not satisfy the divisional distribution requirement. These are identified as such in the catalog or the official schedule of courses.

To meet the distribution requirements, a student must earn degree-applicable credit in the following areas:

  • Complete at least 20 credits outside of one major subject before graduation.
  • Complete at least three courses in each of the three divisions of the College. In each division, the three courses must be at least 1 credit each and may include up to 1 AP credit or credit awarded for work done elsewhere.
  • Complete at least two courses in each division at Swarthmore; these courses must be at least 1 credit each.
  • Complete at least two courses in each division in different departmental subjects; these courses must be at least 1 credit each and may include AP credit or credit awarded for work done elsewhere.

Courses that have been excluded from counting toward the degree do not count toward the distribution requirements. Students are advised to complete at least two courses in each division within the first 2 years.

    B. Writing Requirement

    Writing-intensive courses are designed to help students grow as writers in particular disciplines. These courses are "Writing" or "W" courses, and are designated as such in both the catalog and the course schedule.

    To meet the Writing Requirement, a student must:

    • Complete at least three Writing courses or Writing seminars, and those three must include work in at least two divisions;
    • students are advised to complete two Writing courses in the first 2 years.

    C. Natural Science and Engineering Practicum (NSEP) Requirement

    All students must take at least one course in the division of Natural Sciences and Engineering that has a laboratory component, designated as a "practicum" or "NSEP." NSEPs are designated in the college catalog and the course schedule. 

    D. The Physical Education Requirement

    Students are encouraged to enjoy the instructional and recreational opportunities offered by the department throughout their college careers. As a requirement for graduation, all students not excused for medical reasons are required to complete 4 units of physical education by the end of their sophomore year. In addition, all students must pass a survival swimming test or complete a unit of swimming instruction. Most physical education courses are offered for a half a semester and earn 1 unit toward the 4 units required for graduation. A complete list of physical education opportunities including how many units each earns is available from the Physical Education and Athletics Office. More information can be found in the Physical Education and Athletics section.

    To ensure that all students complete the PE requirement and swim test by the end of the second year, students who fail to do so will not be eligible to participate in the spring housing lottery for junior year and will not be eligible to pre-register for courses. 

    E. The Foreign Language Requirement

     To fulfill the foreign language requirement, a student must either have:

      • successfully studied 3 years or the "block" equivalent of a single foreign language during grades 9 through 12 (work done before grade 9 cannot be counted, regardless of the course level);
      • achieved a score of 600 or better on a standard achievement test of a foreign language;
      • passed either the final term of a college-level, yearlong, introductory foreign language course or a semester-long intermediate foreign language course; or
      • learned English as a foreign language while remaining demonstrably proficient in another.

          F. Requirement Exemptions for Transfer Students

        Students who enter Swarthmore as transfer students must fulfill Swarthmore's requirements for the first 2 years, including the natural sciences and engineering practicum. Transfer courses can be applied toward these requirements if specifically approved by the registrar. Transfer students who enter Swarthmore with 8 credits of college work are exempted from one of the three required writing courses and have the credits-at-Swarthmore requirement reduced from 2 in each division to 1 in each division. Transfer students who enter Swarthmore with, at most, four semesters remaining to complete their degree are exempted from two of the three required writing courses and are exempted from the requirement that in each division 2 credits be taken at Swarthmore. Transfer students can either apply transfer PE units toward the 4-unit physical education requirement or opt for a reduction in the PE requirement based on the student's transfer status, but transfer students cannot both transfer PE units and receive a reduction in the requirement. The optional reduction in PE units depends on the transfer class of the student. Transfer students who enter Swarthmore as sophomores can opt to complete 3 units of physical education and pass a survival swim test (a reduction of 1 PE unit). Transfer students who enter Swarthmore as juniors can opt to complete 2 units of physical education and pass a survival swim test (a reduction of 2 PE units).