Majors, Minors and Honors

Major and Minor Options and Restrictions

Course minors are available to students with certain restrictions as to the number of majors and minors that a student could pursue. Departments and programs were invited (but not required) to develop minors. Outlined below are the options and restrictions for choosing a major or majors and possible minor or minors.

  1. A Major is Required. Students are required to have one major to graduate. A second major, minors, and Honors are optional.
  2. Optional Second Major. Students may have up to two majors; a student with two majors may not have a minor.
    • Exception: A student who chooses an Honors major plus minor may have a second major outside of Honors if that second major is the same subject as the Honors minor. This is the only circumstance in which a student may major and minor in the same subject. For more information about special majoring in Honors, refer to the Registrar's webpage.
  3. Optional Minors. Students may have one or two minors, if they have only one major.
    • A minor may be completed in course or as part of an Honors program.

    • Most departments and programs, including interdisciplinary programs, will offer course minors. The departments or programs that will not offer course minors are Comparative Literature, Economics, Political Science, Sociology & Anthropology, and Studio Art. (These departments or programs will continue to offer Honors minors.)
    • A student who chooses an Honors major plus minor may have an additional course minor outside the Honors Program. For more information about special majoring in Honors, refer to the Registrar's webpage.
  4. Special Majors are available.
  5. The Overlap Constraint. Minors will include at least five credits, four of which may not overlap with the student's major or other minor. The overlap rule applies to any two entities taken at one time but not collectively to three entities taken together (it is a pair-wise not a global overlap rule). This means that a student who has a major in Medieval Studies, for example, and minors in English and Women's Studies, must meet the overlap rule in each possible pairing but not in the three taken together. So a course might overlap between Medieval Studies and English and a different course might overlap between Medieval Studies and Women's Studies. There is an optional Overlap Checksheet to help in planning non-overlap.
    • Exceptions to the overlap rule:

      The overlap constraint is not applicable to courses that departmental majors or minors MUST take in other departments; e.g. Mathematics courses required for an Engineering major are not automatically excluded from a minor defined by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
      For an Honors major who is also a double major, the overlap constraint does not apply to the relationship between the Honors minor and the second major since these will always have overlapping fields. Thus an English Honors major who is a History Honors minor and also a History course major as part of a double major is not violating the constraint.

      Overlap between two majors: If a student has two majors and one is an interdisciplinary special major, no more than 2 credits may be double counted with the student’s other major. However, the double-counting limit is not applicable to courses that students are required by their departmental major to take in other departments.

All majors, minors, and interdisciplinary minors must be approved by the departments or programs.

Sample programs:

Major: Biology
Minor: Philosophy

Majors: History, Chemistry

Major: Art History
Minors: French, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Honors Major: Political Science
Honors Minor: Black Studies

Honors Major: Linguistics
Honors Minor: Sociology and Anthropology
Course Minor: Music

Honors Major: English
Honors Minor: History
Course Major: History

The Sophomore Plan of Study

Students are encouraged to take full ownership of their academic experience and to make deliberate decisions about their academic careers.  This is well illustrated by the process of applying for a major at Swarthmore.  Students in the spring of their sophomore year should meet with departments in which they may major to learn about the opportunities and expectations of each department.  Students should then submit a Sophomore Plan of Study, including a brief narrative reflecting on their interests in the field and their goals for their education, as well as a list of courses they plan to take in their remaining time at Swarthmore.

All students are expected to have an approved major by the end of their sophomore year.  Students may apply for a departmentally based major, a major in an established interdisciplinary program, or a special major.  Students who want to minor in a subject and/or participate in the Honors Program normally include these applications at the same time they submit their Sophomore Plan of Study.

Sophomore plan narratives and applications for major for the class of 2020 are due by noon on March 5, 2018.

Dropping a Major or Minor

Students who wish to drop a major or minor should be instructed to talk to their department advisors. They will be required to fill out the appropriate form, which includes getting approval from the department and indicating a new plan.

The Honors Program

Swarthmore's Honors Program began in 1922 under the leadership of President Aydelotte. It was modeled on the tutorial system at Oxford where Aydelotte had been a Rhodes Scholar. Many of the program's features remain what they were in 1922: faculty working with small groups of dedicated and accomplished students; an emphasis on independent learning; students entering into a dialogue with peers, teachers, and examiners; a demanding program of study in major and minor fields; and an examination at the end of two years' study by outside scholars. The Honors Program rests on the principle that judgment concerning the achievement of honors at the College should be based on an independent evaluation of a student's work, and it is from this principle that the external examination derives. Please find more details about the Honors program in the college catalog and online at: Swarthmore College Honors Program