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How to Plan Your Classes

Student speaks with professor during class advising period

At first glance, planning your classes can seem like a formidable task; with so many compelling course offerings each semester, how do you narrow it down to four or five? Fear not, for this guide will help you navigate the selection process with confidence. Your academic advisor and Student Academic Mentors (SAMs) are also good resources to utilize as you build your perfect schedule.

1. Familiarize yourself with the degree requirements outlined in the course catalog.

At Swarthmore, we believe in a broad liberal arts education that cultivates the whole person. To that end,  students need to fulfill distribution, physical education, and foreign language requirements in order to graduate. Luckily, there are countless ways to get this done, and we want to help find the path that’s right for you.

2. Browse the course schedule [pdf] for the upcoming semester and consult academic program pages for detailed course descriptions.

Some helpful abbreviations to know:

Cred: Number of credits earned, either 1 or 1.5. A semester load is anywhere from 4 to 5 credits per semester, and permission is required to do more or less.

Dist: The academic distribution to which the course belongs, which includes Social Sciences (SS), Humanities (HU), Natural Sciences (NS), and Natural Sciences and Engineering Practicum (NSEP).

Enr. Lim: Enrollment limit per section. Some classes are small and fill up quickly!

FYS: First-Year Seminars, which replicate honors-style classes and are only open to first-year students. They are limited to just 12 participants, and discussion is largely student-led.

Student speaks during seminar

First-Year Seminars help students develop the learning skills that will support them throughout their college experience.


3. Organize potential courses using the academic advising worksheet [doc], if needed.

Make sure to have a backup plan in case you don’t make the lottery for your top choices. Don’t forget that the first semester of your first year is pass-fail, so we encourage you to indulge your intellectual curiosity!

4. Meet with your academic advisor to review your course selection and receive an official sign-off.

Each entering student is assigned to an academic advisor, usually a faculty member who does not chair a department. Some administrators also act as academic advisors, including members of the dean’s staff.

5. Using the mySwarthmore portal, preregister for classes during the allotted window of time. 

Choose the four academic courses and physical education class you plan to take, keeping in mind the 4.5 credit limit enforced during preregistration. You should also consult the “Degree Audit” page on mySwarthmore, which functions as a checklist for each individual student listing the graduation requirements for their major, what they’ve done, and what they need to do.

After lotteries are completed, check your status and see what courses have not reached their enrollment limit. You should meet with your advisor if you need to make a change in your schedule. Courses can also be added or dropped during the first two weeks of the semester using the appropriate form. 

Tri-College Consortium and UPenn Courses

Swarthmore also belongs to the Tri-College Consortium with Bryn Mawr and Haverford colleges, and offers cross-registration with the University of Pennsylvania for expanded academic offerings.


Physical Education

Whether through varsity athletics, club sports, or regularly scheduled classes, there are many ways to fulfill the physical education requirement.