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Registrar's Guide to Degree Requirements

Also see:

The catalog Degree Requirements (chapter 9)
The catalog Program for the first and second years (chapter 7.2)
Graduation Policies from the Registrar
Remote Degree Finisher
Commencement

Registrar's Guide Topics:

32 Credits Requirement
Distribution Requirement
The Writing Course Requirement
The PE Requirement
The Foreign Language Requirement
The NSEP Requirement
The 20-Credit Rule
The Major Requirement
Average Grade of C requirement
The Senior Year Rule & Four Semester Rule
Paid all outstanding bills and returned books & equipment

32 Credits Requirement

Registrar's Guide to the 32 Credits Requirement

  • The Rule: see the Degree Requirements in chapter 9 of the catalog.
  • The semester course credit is the unit of credit at Swarthmore. One semester course credit is normally equivalent to 4 semester hours elsewhere. Upper-class seminars are usually given for 2 semester course credits. A few courses are given for 0.5 credit.
  • The Registrar recommends:

    Take normally four (4) credits per semester for normally eight (8) semesters

Distribution Requirement

Registrar's Guide to the Divisional Distribution Requirement, the "3 in 3" rule

  • The Rule: see Educational Program chapter section 7.2 of the catalog.
  • While the Distribution Requirement technically includes the Writing Requirement (see below), the NSEP requirement (see below) and the 20 credit rule (see below), most of the time when we talk about Distribution we mean what I call the "3 in 3" rule.
  • The "3-in-3" Rule:

    Complete 3 full-credit courses in each of the 3 divisions...

    from at least two different subjects in each division...

    and at least two of the three in each division have to be taken on the campus at Swarthmore.
  • The Registrar recommends:
    Take at least two courses per semester toward fulfilling the 3-in-3 rule, until it is done.
    Take courses in different Divisions each semester (until done with a division).
  • Keep in mind...

    Writing Courses and NSEPs also count for distribution

    If you are expecting AP (or other non-Swarthmore) credit, 
    • AP credit is limited to certain conditions listed in the AP and IB credit Guide
    • Eligible AP credit must be of 1.0 credit awards (half credit does not count toward distribution)
    • AP credit can count for the "different department" part of the distribution requirement
    • for AP (or transfer credit) only one credit per division counts towards the 3-in-3 rule (the other two credits must be done at Swarthmore)
  • 3-in-3 rule courses need be at least 1.0 credit and specified as counting toward a division in the Course Schedule
  • Note: Half-credit courses do not count toward the 3-in-3 rule, Non-divisional interdisciplinary courses do not count toward the 3-in-3 rule, but 1.5 credit Language courses do count toward Humanities distribution
  • For the "at Swarthmore" part of the requirement (two in each division), courses must be taught on the campus at Swarthmore.  "At Swarthmore" excludes Trico, Penn, transfer credit and AP/IB credit. Those can be the third credit, but none of those count for the "at Swarthmore" part of the requirement.
  • What is a "non-distribution" course?

    Courses without approval to count in a division (Humanities, Natural Science and Engineering, or Social Sciences), or courses of less than 1.0 credit are "non-distribution" courses.

    Interdisciplinary Courses without distribution status

    Many courses coded as part of an inter-disciplinary program are non-distribution.  This is by design since many inter-disciplinary programs intentionally span more than one division.

    Non-distribution courses can count toward other requirements according to the rules of the requirements.  They might count toward a minor. They all count either inside or outside for the 20-credit rule, and they all count toward the 32 credit requirement.

Writing Course Requirement

Registrar's Guide to the Writing Course Requirement

  • Read the catalog rule in chapter 7.2:
  • The Writing Requirement has two parts:

    a) Take Writing courses from 2 divisions (of the 3 divisions)...

    b) Take 3 designated Writing courses
  • Cautions:

    Two divisions means they can't all be in the division of your major

    Look for the Writing label, they have to be specially approved

    Writing courses have to taken on the campus at Swarthmore (not trico, not study abroad)
  • The Registrar recommends:
    Try to finish the requirement in the first 3 semesters
  • Here's why...

    The Writing Course designation means the course includes explicit attention to teaching writing -- not just doing it.

    Most designated Writing Courses are introductory in nature and are appropriate for first-year or second year students

    Many designated Writing Courses are First-year seminars, and those are only open to first-year students

    After sophomore year, the attractiveness of other course options can make it challenging to schedule designated Writing courses

    Most upper level courses with a lot of writing are NOT designated Writing Courses because the courses focus on content without explicit attention to teaching writing
  • WARNING: Look for the label!

    Designated Writing Courses are labeled
    • In the Course Schedule the label "W" is the last thing in the course title.
    • In the Course Catalog the label "Writing Course" follows the course description
    • The other way to know is to look on the approved list.

The PE Requirement

Registrar's Guide to the PE Requirement

  • The catalog chapter

    Short version: Swim test (or swim class) plus 4 PE units

    Note that the PE requirement should be done by the end of the sophomore year
  • The Registrar recommends:
    Complete at least 1 PE unit per semester until the requirement is done
    For Swimming either pass the swim test, OR complete a Swarthmore swimming class (the swim class earns a PE unit and fulfills the Swimming requirement at the same time)
  • PE units are only available from one of these four ways:

    1) PE classes offered by the PE department or

    2) PE Dance classes offered by the Dance department or

    3) Varsity sports or

    4) Student Activity Groups and Clubs approved by the PE department for PE units
    • There is a limit of 2 units of club sports or SAGs any student can apply to the PE requirement of 4 units
    • Seniors are not allowed to take club sports or SAGs toward fulfillment of the PE requirement
  • Note that working out on your own does NOT earn PE units.

The Foreign Language Requirement

Registrar's Guide to the Foreign Language Requirement

  • The catalog rule -- see #4
  • The Registrar recommends:
    Fulfill this requirement before the junior year.

    If you think you have fulfilled the requirement but your degree audit does not indicate fulfillment, meet with the registrar to explain -- you may need to provide additional documentation.
  • If you are not already done with the requirement (see your Degree Audit), the requirement is fulfilled by successful completion of the second-half of a year-long, college-level, introductory language course, or a higher level course.

    You can take language courses here at Swarthmore, at trico, or elsewhere if approved.

The NSEP science lab requirement

Registrar's Guide to the NSEP Requirement

  • The catalog rule
  • The Registrar recommends:
    Consider taking an intro science NSEP in your first year
  • NSEPs are labeled in the Schedule and Catalog
  • NSEPs count toward NS distribution as well as NSEP
  • Explore the subject as a prospective major

The 20 credit Requirement

Registrar's Guide to the Twenty course-credit rule

  • The Rule: see the Educational Program chapter of the catalog.
  • The Registrar recommends:
    For the first two years take courses in a variety of subjects
  • You will need by graduation 20 credits in subjects different from your major

    For regular (non-special) majors, sum the credits with four-letter subject codes which are different from your major's four-letter code

    There are different rules for special majors

    The 20 credits can come from all kinds of degree-applicable credit, and it all counts without limits based on type of credit

    AP credit counts (outside your major subject)

    Transfer credit counts (outside your major)

    Half-credit courses count (outside your major)

    OCST (Off-Campus Study) credit, as opposed to department or program credit, does not automatically count either inside the major or outside the major, but it can count outside the major if the registrar manually approves it to be outside the major, which the registrar can check for you if you have not fulfilled the 20 course rule otherwise. The determination is based on course content.
  • For double majors, the 20 course credit rule is calculated as if you had only one major

    You only have to complete the rule once, from the perspective of either one of your majors (not both)

At least one Major is Required

Registrar's Guide to the Major Requirement

Average Grade of C Requirement

Registrar's Guide to the Average Grade of C Requirement

  • The Rule: see the Degree Requirements in chapter 9 of the catalog.
  • The Registrar recommends:

    Do the best you can in all your courses, always trying to get a C or better grade in all your letter-graded courses
  • How to calculate your GPA

  • For the purposes of achieving the C average graduation requirement, a student with more than 32 credits may use the Swarthmore credits within the highest graded 32 credits (including transfer credits, even though transfer grades do not count in the Swarthmore grade average).

The Senior Year Rule and Four Semester Requirement

Registrar's Guide to the Senior Year and Four Semester Requirement

  • The Rule: see the Degree Requirements in chapter 9 of the catalog.
  • The Registrar recommends
    Either do the familiar eight semester path, or...

  • For more on the senior year, read: the Senior Year rule

  • Regarding the four semester rule, note that what is counted is semesters of full-time enrollment on the campus at Swarthmore

    • Therefore, junior transfers normally cannot study abroad, but after the four semesters at Swarthmore, junior transfers can finish their degrees remotely following the senior year rules

Paid all outstanding bills and returned books & equipment

Registrar's Guide to the Paid outstanding bills Requirement