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Registration Guide for First Year Students: Class of 2026

First year students enjoying gravimetric analysis lab.

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Swarthmore College

Studying Chemistry and Biochemistry at Swarthmore: Frequently Asked Questions

Registration Guide for First Year Students: Class of 2026

Many first-year students have questions regarding the general chemistry curriculum at Swarthmore. This guide is designed to make sure that students have the proper information before attempting to register for CHEM 010 or CHEM 010 HN.

         General Information for Incoming Students:

  • There is no Chemistry Readiness Exam. All students interested in CHEM 10 are encouraged to enroll.
  • The Chemistry & Biochemistry Department does not grant any credit for AP or IB exam scores.
  • There is an honors version of CHEM 010 (CHEM 010 HN) that is intended for those who have had intensive chemistry experience in high school (AP or IB chemistry or the equivalent).
  • CHEM 010 HN is available to anyone interested in taking the class regardless of class year.
  • AP or IB exam scores alone do not grant entrance into CHEM 010 HN. Students must take the Honors Placement Exam if they wish to enroll in this course. More details on the exam are outlined below.
  • If you are not interested in CHEM 010 HN you do not have to take the Honors Placement Exam.

The Honors Placement Exam is available on Moodle. If you are interested in being considered for enrollment in CHEM 010 HN, you should take this exam by 3:00 pm on Wednesday, August 19, 2022. Students who miss this deadline should contact Prof. Chris Graves (cgraves1@swarthmore.edu).  

Chemistry Honors Placement Exam:

What is it?

The Honors Placement Exam is used to determine eligibility for CHEM 010 HN. Entrance into CHEM 010 HN is competitive and this exam is the sole method for gaining entrance into the course. Students with the highest scores on the exam will be invited to enroll in CHEM 010 HN.

Who can take it?

The exam is open to all interested students.

Who should take it?

Anyone interested in being considered for enrollment in CHEM 10 HN. Keep in mind that 10HN is designed for students with an extensive (at least two years) background in high school chemistry and who are interested in exploring the subject in greater depth and with more mathematical rigor.

If I take the exam, am I committed to taking CHEM 010 HN?

No. Taking the Honors Placement Exam does not commit you to taking the course, but it is the only way to be invited to take the course.

Exam Results

Honors Placement Exam: Students who are eligible to take CHEM 010 HN are notified by email prior to registration by Prof. Chris Graves (cgraves1@swarthmore.edu).

If you have questions about the exam or courses, please contact Chris Graves (cgraves1@swarthmore.edu).  

Registering for CHEM 010 HN

CHEM 010 HN will be taught once per week in a combination laboratory and seminar style. CHEM 010 HN students will conduct the same laboratories as CHEM 010 students and will use the lab period for seminar-style discussions during weeks that there is no wet lab. CHEM 010 HN will meet on Wednesdays from 1:00 to 4:30 pm. If you are invited to enroll in CHEM 010 HN and choose to do so, you only need to register for the CHEM 010 HN course and do not need to register for a separate lab section.

Registering for CHEM 010 and CHEM 010 Lab

Please Note:

We anticipate high enrollment in CHEM 010 and the CHEM 010 Labs in Fall 2022. We may run a lottery on Friday afternoon following registration. All registrations are subject to lottery.

Some students may find themselves unable to register for one of the courses or the lab on August 26 due to enrollment caps. If you are unable to register and would like to be added to the waitlist, please send an email to both Prof. Kathryn Riley (kriley1@swarthmore.edu) and Dr. Maria Gallagher (mgallag2@swarthmore.edu), including all choices for lecture time and lab sections that fit your schedule.

CHEM 010 requires enrollment in a section of CHEM 010 laboratory. You can register for any lab section. Six laboratory sections are available to students, with labs held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons (1:00 to 4:30 pm) as well and Tuesday and Thursday mornings (8:00 to 11:15 am).

The following are some common questions from students about the CHEM 010 laboratory:

How do I choose a lab section?

A student must register for a lab section when registering for a CHEM 010. Labs are capped at 24 students and are filled on a first come, first served basis. This means that popular sections might fill up. Students should not rely heavily on securing a spot in one specific laboratory section when planning their schedules.

I have a class at 11:20 am on Tuesday and Thursday. Can I still take a morning lab?

Morning labs are scheduled until 11:15 am. If a student has a class at 11:20 am, they should let their laboratory instructor know. We will work with that student to make sure that they get out of lab in time each week to make it to their next class.

The morning labs start at 8 am. That upsets me. Why should I still take a morning lab?

Historically, most students who take the morning labs end up preferring that time for future lab sections when it is available. The labs tend to be smaller, which means less waiting for equipment and more personalized attention from instructors and teaching assistants, so the lab experiments take less time. Also, taking a morning lab by definition frees up an afternoon for the student who can then use it for other activities or just for some free time.

The only labs that work for my schedule are full. What do I do?

If a student cannot get a lab section they want, but are very interested in taking CHEM 010 this semester, they should sign up for a different lab and contact Dr. Maria Gallagher (mgallag2@swarthmore.edu) immediately about the issue. We will work with the student on finding a way to fit CHEM 010 into their schedule.

Once the student has contacted their instructor, they will be added to wait lists for all laboratories that fit their schedule. These wait lists are filled on a first come, first served basis. For the first week of labs we can accommodate the student with another time slot (students must attend lab the first week of classes). We typically do have a few spots open up in the first week due to drops or schedule changes.

I really, really, really need to take CHEM 010 this semester, and the only lab that fits my schedule is full. Can you just make an exception this once?

CHEM 010 labs are capped at 24 students for safety reasons. This is a hard rule and there are no exceptions. Unfortunately, due to finite resources and widely varying demand for CHEM 010/010 HN, we cannot guarantee that all students will be able to find a lab section that fits their schedule.


If you have further questions, please, check the following FAQ document:

Studying Chemistry and Biochemistry at Swarthmore: Frequently Asked Questions