Academics - Distribution Requirements

Distribution Requirements

Students must take at least one full-credit course (or the equivalent) for a letter grade (unless the course is only graded Credit/D/Fail, i.e., some courses in theater and dance and music) in each of the following five distribution areas:

  • Mathematical, Computational, or Statistical Reasoning (MCSR). These courses enable students to use mathematics and quantitative models and techniques to understand the world around them either by learning the general tools of mathematics and statistics or by applying them in a subject area.
  • Inquiry in the Natural Sciences (INS). These courses help students expand their understanding of the natural sciences through practices associated with questioning, measuring, modeling, and explaining the natural world.
  • Exploring Social Difference (ESD). These courses develop awareness and critical understanding of differences in human societies (such as class, environmental resources, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation). ESD courses build the analytic skills to examine differences within a society and the ways they are reflected in and shaped by historical, cultural, social, political, economic, and other processes.
  • International Perspectives (IP). These courses assist students in developing a critical understanding of the world beyond the United States. IP courses provide students with the tools necessary to analyze non-US cultures, societies, and states (including indigenous societies and sovereign nations within the United States and its territories), either modern or historical.
  • Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). These courses help students expand their understanding of artistic expression and judgment through creation, performance, and analysis of artistic work in the areas of dance, film, music, theater, and visual art.

First-year seminars, independent study courses, and honors projects do not fulfill any of the five Distribution Requirements. Further, these requirements may not be met by Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credits and may only be satisfied with courses taken at Bowdoin. These requirements should be completed by the end of the student’s fourth semester in college. A course will be counted as meeting a Distribution Requirement if a student earns a grade of D or better; courses will only be counted if they are taken for a letter grade, though courses will count if they are required to be taken for a Credit/D/Fail grade. Students may not count the same course toward more than one Distribution Requirement. Also note that the requirement of completing a first-year seminar will only be met if the seminar is taken for regular letter grades.