Location: Bowdoin / Office of the Dean of Student Affairs / Advising / Student Tip Sheet

Student Tip Sheet

Below is material that will be helpful in assisting first-year students in their course selection.  The information below is designed to give students information on quantitative skills, writing and specific information for all academic departments.

Africana Studies Anthropology Archaeology Art History
Asian Studies Biology Chemistry Classics
Computer Science Dance Earth and Oceanographic Science (formerly Geology) Economics
Education English Environmental Studies Film Studies
French Gay and Lesbian Studies Gender and Women's Studies German
Government History Italian Latin American Studies
Mathematics Music Neuroscience Philosophy
Physics Religion Romance Languages Russian
Sociology Spanish Theater Visual Arts

The Baldwin Program for Academic Development provides new students with assistance in making the transition from high school to college. Many students arrive with little or no exposure to, or experience using, the reading, time management and study strategies that will make them successful at Bowdoin College. Others benefit from the opportunity to meet with a successful upper-class student to go over their semester calendar and better understand expectations and available resources. Students of all backgrounds and levels of academic achievement can benefit from an early introduction to the Baldwin Program Resources.


For all students in Writing Project courses, trained student Writing Assistants read drafts of two or three papers, write comments on them, and discuss them in half-hour conferences with the writers. Writers revise their papers, taking the Assistant’s feedback into account, and submit them to the course professor for further comment and a grade.

Beginning in mid-September, the Writing Project also offers 45-minute conferences to students writing papers in any course in our Writing Workshop.  Workshop conferences are held in the Center for Learning and Teaching, 102 Kanbar Hall on Sunday evening through Thursday afternoon. Writers can get more information and reserve conferences on our website at http://www.bowdoin.edu/writing-project or they can drop in to the Workshop for a conference as time permits.

The following information will be helpful in explaining the approach taken by departments in advising first year students about their curriculum and the sequencing of classes:


First-year students interested in Africana Studies can enroll in a number of first-year seminars as well as Africana Studies 101, Introduction to Africana Studies, which is offered in the fall (and is required for the major/minor).   Because Africana Studies is an interdisciplinary program, there are courses cross-listed in other departments that would be appropriate for first-year students (e.g., Music 121, History 139); for a full listing of these courses, please consult the course catalogue and the other sections of this document.


For most students, the best place to begin the study of art history is AH 100: Introduction to Art History. Students must enroll for both the lecture and a weekly discussion section. Students with significant background in art history may wish to enroll at the 200 level; if a course has a pre-requisite, students should contact the instructor directly to discuss their preparation and interest in the course.


Students thinking about a potential Asian Studies major should be advised that majors are required to take two years of language in East Asia or the equivalent of one intensive year of a South Asian language. Introductory Chinese and Japanese classes can only be taken in the fall semester and continue sequentially in the spring. Taking Japanese or Chinese language their first semester will help students prepare for an Asian Studies major and make it easier for them to study abroad in Asia if they so wish. Students who have studied Japanese/Chinese in high school should have received a placement recommendation based on their performance on the placement test this summer and their language consultation. If a student was unable to take the placement exam, they should consult with someone in Japanese/Chinese as soon as possible.


Based on the online biology placement and the quantitative skills tests, and AP/IB exam results, the Biology Department has recommended either Biology 101 (the first semester of a two semester sequence) or Biology 109 (a one semester course) for each student who submitted these materials. Students with 4 or 5 on the AP biology exam or 6 or 7 on the higher level IB biology exam are automatically placed in Biology 109 and do not need to take the placement exam.

Students should have taken the placement and Q skills tests prior to arriving on campus. Recommendations are not listed for students who did not take one or both tests; these students will need to complete these tests before enrolling in either Biology 101 or 109.  Both tests are still available on Blackboard and should be taken as soon as possible. Students should let Pam Bryer (pbryer@bowdoin.edu; x3072) know when they have completed the online tests so that their recommendations can be added to the list.

AP5/IB7 students

The Biology Department awards one AP credit to students who received an AP score of 5 AND a grade of B- or better in Biology 109 (or a 200-level biology course in the exception described below).

Although we strongly recommend that all students start with Biology 101 or Biology 109, students who earned a 5 on the AP biology exam or a 7 on the higher level IB biology exam who also have significant research and scientific writing experience may be prepared to take a 200-level biology course. These students can apply to enter a 200-level biology course without taking Biology 109.

The application includes: taking the online Biology placement and Q skills tests, filling out a laboratory and analytical skills checklist and submitting a laboratory/research portfolio described in a letter they received over the summer. After reviewing these materials, during orientation we will invite students to take a 200-level biology without having taken Biology 109, if they have a background that we think may allow them to succeed.  We expect that only 3-5 students will meet the criteria to take a 200-level biology course without Biology 109.

Registration for a 200-level biology course that has space available will require the professor’s signature.  Therefore invited students should make an appointment to talk with the course professor during orientation (or Phase I registration in November for classes taught in the spring).  The students should also be advised to avoid overburdening themselves with laboratory classes, particularly in their first semester (e.g. if a student in invited to take a 200-level biology class also places into Chemistry 225:  Organic Chemistry or another 200-level laboratory science class).

We are happy to speak with any student (or advisor) with questions or qualms about placement or our introductory biology courses. Please contact Pam Bryer (x3072).


All students intending to enroll in any chemistry course must have taken the Chemistry placement exam. Based on the results of this and other exams, including the QSkills exam, the SAT and AP or IB scores, the department will make recommendations for each student's entry into the chemistry curriculum. The recommendations include entry at one of three points:  Chemistry 101, Chemistry 109, or a 200-level chemistry course. Chemistry 101 is a fall-semester course for students with weak backgrounds in chemistry. Chemistry 101 typically leads to Chemistry 109 in the spring. Chemistry 109 is a one-semester course, taught during both the fall and spring semesters, and is appropriate for the majority of students entering Bowdoin. Finally, 200-level chemistry courses typically are recommended for students who have scored a 4 or 5 on the advanced placement exam. Students should consult with a chemistry faculty member at the Academic Fair or at some other time during Orientation to assure their appropriate placement. In the past, students with 4s or 5s on the Chemistry AP exam who enrolled in Chemistry 101 or 109, as opposed to starting with a 200 level course, found these courses to be a repetition of their previous course work and not challenging and conversely students who chose to enroll in 200-level courses during their first year were typically very successful in those courses.

Chemistry courses numbered in the 050's are meant to fulfill the INS requirement and assume no previous science background. They are appropriate for students who do not intend to take further courses in Chemistry at Bowdoin.


Members of the Classics Dept. faculty are always happy to meet with students    individually to discuss placement and sequencing of courses. Because of the numerous options for majors and minors offered by the department, students interested in the discipline should talk with a faculty member about the differences.

Students interested in beginning Latin and/or classical Greek should enroll in the appropriate 101 course. Because of the sequential nature of language study and the pattern of offerings in the department, students should plan on taking both semesters of the language they are interested in during one year (i.e., 101 followed by 102 in the spring).

There is no placement exam. Students who have already studied Latin and/or Greek in high school will be advised about appropriate placement during the language placement meeting held on Sunday, August 30 from 1:30-3:00. Students unable to attend this placement meeting should contact a faculty member in the Classics Department to arrange for a placement interview. Most first-years continuing Latin enroll in Latin 203 or 205/6, though those with exceptionally strong backgrounds are welcome in the 300-level course. Most first-years continuing Greek enroll in Greek 203, but the department makes placement recommendations on an individual basis.

All 100- and 200-level courses listed under the Archaeology and/or Classics rubrics are open to all students, and spaces have been set aside in all of these courses for first-year students.

Courses in Archaeology are particularly prone to fill quickly (other regular offerings in the department such as Classics 101 and 211/212 fill up, too). Students who are unsuccessful in gaining admission to one of these courses should contact the professor and ask to be put on a waiting list; meanwhile, they should consider taking another course in the department to demonstrate their interest in the discipline and make themselves better prepared for other courses in the department.


CS 101, the introductory course, is aimed at first-year students and assumes no computer science background. It is an introduction to computer science that focuses on basic programming in Java. It is the first course in the CS major sequence, but it should not be viewed as a course only for students intending to major in CS. Many first-years who have taken it to satisfy a general interest in computer science have found it to be a rewarding, albeit challenging, course. There is a weekly 1.5 hour lab that, later in the semester, typically requires time outside of the lab period to complete. Students with sufficient programming experience in a language such as Java, C, or C++ may be able to skip CS 101 and go directly into CS 210, the second course in the introductory sequence. Students who would like to explore this possibility should contact the department.


EOS 050 (Fall), EOS 101 (Fall), EOS 102 (Spring) and EOS 104 (Spring) are aimed at first-year students, assume no previous science background, meet the INS requirement and meet the division requirement for natural science and mathematics. EOS 104 also meets the MCSR requirement. Any one of the introductory courses, other than EOS 050, may lead toward the Earth and Oceanographic Science major. EOS 200, Biogeochemistry, is a required course for the major - we urge potential majors to take this course before taking other upper level EOS courses. Students considering an EOS major might also plan to complete one of the required contributing science courses, Biology 102 or 109, Chemistry 109, Physics 104, or Math 181 in their first two years.

EOS 102 (Oceanography) and EOS 104 (Environmental Geology and Hydrology) are cross-listed with Environmental Studies (ES 102 and ES 104) and meet the introductory science course requirement for ES. Students may receive credit towards both the Earth and Oceanographic Science major and the ES coordinate major by taking EOS 102 or EOS 104.

Courses in Earth and Oceanographic Science encourage students to make connections between the physical and the biological worlds, studying human and environmental linkages between these two worlds. These courses provide a wonderful opportunity to get off campus and explore Maine. Maine is geologically rich with coastal exposures of metamorphic rocks, ancient volcanoes, rock and gem quarries, an extensive fault system, fossils, sand beaches, glacial sediments and landforms, bedrock aquifers, inland waters and nearby bays. Across the geology curriculum, students complete small research projects or work with community partners to apply their learning to problems of environmental and local importance. These projects not only expand students’ scientific knowledge, but also strengthen their quantitative, writing, and presentation skills.


Students with low Q-Skills scores should refrain from taking Economics 101 during their first semester at Bowdoin and may want to take Math 50 before taking Economics 101.  Students who have taken AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics and received a 4 or 5 should take a 200 level elective if they want to take an Economics course in the fall term.

Econ 100 is intended for students who just want some exposure to Economics, but do not plan to continue. Econ 100 does NOT serve as a pre-requisite for any Economics course. Students who think they might want to major or minor in Econ, or just take several Econ courses, should take the "traditional" intro sequence: 101 and 102. Students who take Econ 100 and decide to continue in Economics must take both 101 and 102 before proceeding with a major or minor. Also note that beginning with students in the class of 2011, Econ 255 (Microeconomics) is now a pre-requisite for Econ 256 (Macroeconomics).


Students who have an interest in studying education (including those who hope to become certified secondary school teachers) should take Education 101 either their first or second semester. The course is frequently overenrolled but the Department offers one section every semester.  If students express an interest in becoming certified to teach in public schools, they should speak with an Education Department faculty member during their first year at Bowdoin.


First-year students are eligible to take 100-level courses as well as courses from the department’s roster of first year seminars. There are four options at the 100-level this year, each of which represents an introduction to literary studies from a different angle: fall semester, “Introduction to Poetry”(English 104) or “Introduction to Narrative: Short Fiction”(English 109); spring semester, “Introduction to the Black Novel in the United States” (English 107) or “Introduction to Drama” (English 106). There are ten options for first-year seminars: eight in the fall and two in the spring.

There is no hierarchy or sequence to the 100-level courses or to the first-year seminars. All of them are considered gateway courses to the major, and students must take one of these courses (either a 100-level course or a first-year seminar) as a prerequisite to 200-level courses.

First-year students who fulfill the prerequisite by taking one of these courses in fall semester may take 200-level courses in the spring semester.

AP credits will not count towards the English major or minor, but students who received scores of 4 or higher on the English Literature AP Exam (not the English Language exam) will receive one AP credit upon the successful completion of an English first-year seminar or literature course with a grade of B or higher.


The Environmental Studies program offers a coordinate major. Students major in environmental studies and also have a disciplinary major, either in a departmental major such as biology, economics, history, etc, or in a program major such as Asian studies, gender and women’s studies, etc. Courses taken to satisfy the College’s distribution requirements or to fulfill the requirements of the second major may be double-counted toward the environmental studies major requirements, except as noted.

First year students interested in environmental studies should consider taking ES 101, Introduction to Environmental Studies, the gateway course, in the fall. In addition to ES 101 the major requires a core course in environmental science (ES 201/Bio 158/Chem 105- Perspectives in Environmental Science, offered in the spring); one social science course (see the ES website for courses that meet this requirement); one environmental humanities course (ES 203/History 242- Environment and Culture in North American History, offered in the spring); one senior seminar, and three courses within a concentration (see the website for more information).

Students who received a score of 5 on the Environmental Science AP Exam meet the prerequisite for ES 201--Perspectives in Environmental Science. Upon successful completion of ES 201 with a grade of C- or higher, one AP credit will be awarded. This credit is in addition to and does not preclude the students from receiving credit for other courses taken to fulfill the prerequisite for ES 201.

The program also offers a minor, which consists of five courses (see the website for more information)


First-year students interested in film studies can enroll in either Film Studies 201: History of Film I  (Fall 2009) or Film Studies 202: History of Film II (Spring 2010). It is not necessary to take these courses sequentially and students can choose to take only one of the two courses if they wish. Students who choose to minor in film studies need to take five courses, four of which must be courses offered in the Department of Film Studies. Film Studies 201 and 202 may be counted toward the minor. Both of these courses fulfill the Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) distribution requirement.


To minor in Gay and Lesbian Studies, students must take a total of five classes: the core course (GLS 201) and four classes cross-listed in other departments.  These must include at least one from the social sciences and one from the humanities, and no more than two courses can come from a single department.  Because of the advanced nature of the material, GLS 201 is not open to first-year students.  Students who are interested in taking a GLS course during their first year are encouraged to sign up for a cross-listed first-year seminar or 200-level course.


Students can pursue a major or minor in Gender and Women’s Studies.  The major consists of ten courses, including three core courses: GWS 101 (Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies), GWS 201 (Feminist Theory), and GWS 301 (Capstone Seminar).  GWS 101 is taught every semester; GWS 201 is taught every fall; and GWS 301 is taught every spring.  The minor consists of five courses (GWS 101, GWS 201, and three electives).

In terms of the path to the major (or minor) in Gender and Women’s Studies, students may begin with the introductory course (101) or with one of the many 200-level courses offered in GWS and by affiliated faculty in other departments and programs.  As long as a course has a GWS designation (it may be, but is not necessarily a primary designation), it counts towards the major or minor.

The Gender and Women’s Studies major also offers opportunities for study abroad, independent study, and honors.  Interested students are encouraged to contact Anne Clifford, Program Administrator (acliffor@bowdoin.edu) or Jennifer Scanlon, Director (jscanlon@bowdoin.edu) with any questions.


First-year students considering either beginning or continuing the study of German should be encouraged to take a course during their first semester. Those who have studied German before entering Bowdoin must consult with the department for placement. If a student was unable to complete the placement questionnaire and/or attend the consultation during orientation, they should consult with someone in German as soon as possible. In their conversations with advisees, faculty advisors may presume that two years of high school German roughly equals one year of German at Bowdoin; i.e., students with two years of prior German instruction will most likely be advised to enroll in 203, four years in 205 (or higher, if AP), and so on. Especially students with no prior exposure to the language are encouraged to begin their study in the first semester, because doing so will allow them to take full advantage of options open to them, including study in a German-speaking country. German courses numbered 205 and higher count for the International Perspectives requirement. German 101 is open to those with no previous study in the German language. German 151(ESD), 152 (IP, VPA), 154 (IP, VPA) and German 156 (ESD, VPA) are taught in English and are open to all students with no previous language study required.


If students are interested in government, they should be encouraged to take one of the department’s first-year seminars, if possible. If students want to get a solid background in a specific subfield, they can take one of the introductory lecture courses (150 in the fall and spring, 160 in the fall, and 120 in the spring). More advanced students may want to consider a 200-level course but, due to course limits, they may not be able to get in.


Most students should consider starting at the 100 or first-year seminar level. Those with a strong background from high school should also consider 200 level courses. History courses are offered in regional concentrations.  We encourage students to explore offerings in non-western history (Africa, Asia, and Latin America) early on, as well as to remember Europe.  Students should take care not to take too many U.S. history courses early, as no more than five courses in a regional concentration may count toward the History major.  History professors are always ready to speak with students about courses and the History curriculum.

The History Department's listing of courses open to first-year students.


A good place to begin is History 252 (Colonial Latin America) or History 255 (Modern Latin America). Those courses offer an excellent overview of the region and do not presuppose any background in the subject matter. For the major, students should address the language requirement early on (up to Spanish 209 or 210), and take either Anthropology 101, Economics 101, or Sociology 101 (a 200-level course on Latin America in one of those areas is required).


What follows is the information sent by the Math Dept to the incoming class. This in turn is followed by further advice from the Math Dept about the sequencing of courses.

Based on your response to the Mathematics Department's questionnaire mailed to you last spring, we have determined your corresponding prerequisite equivalent. The following table identifies some appropriate courses to take for each prerequisite equivalent.

Prerequisite Equivalent        Appropriate Courses to Take

       A             Math 161 or any math course with no prerequisites.

       B             Math 171 or Math 204

       C             Math 172 or Math 204

       D             Math 181 or Math 204

       E            A math course in the range 200-229.

Note that we offer courses in many different mathematical areas. Calculus is a traditional entry sequence (Math 161, 171/172, 181), but we also offer introductory courses in statistics (Math 155) and biomath (Math 204). In the table above, the term “math course" should be interpreted as any course offered by the Mathematics Department.

  • If you have returned your questionnaire and your ID does NOT appear on the list, then your prerequisite equivalent is “A”.

  • If Bowdoin has received your mathematics AP test scores, then an asterisk (*) appears before your ID.

  • You will have an opportunity to consult individually with members of the Mathematics Department about which course you should take during Orientation – Monday, August 31, 10:30 a.m. in the  Searles Science Building.

  • If you feel that your prerequisite equivalent is not appropriate and you want to register for a math course having a different (for instance, lower) prerequisite, you will need the instructor's signature to do so.

  • Due to an unusual staffing pattern this year, there will be 9 calculus sections during the fall 2009 semester and only 7 during the spring 2010 semester.

1) Recommended sequence of courses in mathematics, detailed descriptions of these courses can be found in the catalogue:

Most incoming students who take mathematics will go into the calculus sequence: 161, 171 (or 172), and 181. Where they start in the sequence is determined by the extent of their secondary school calculus and their general ability as measured by grades and SATs. The mathematics department issues a recommended calculus placement for all incoming students who have sent us their mathematics questionnaires.

Some students will choose instead to enroll in the introductory statistics course: 155. However, students considering a major in mathematics should not enroll in this course as such students will likely take 225 and 265, the mathematics major level probability and statistics courses, as sophomores or juniors.

Mathematics 200, Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning, is available to many incoming students. It requires only the equivalent of one semester of calculus (161), though some mathematical sophistication is needed. There are other 200 level mathematics courses that are open to students who have demonstrated strong ability in mathematics. Such students are encouraged to meet with the Chair of the Department to discuss their options.

2) Recommended introductory course for someone with no knowledge in mathematics:

Mathematics 155 is a general introduction to statistics. Only minimal mathematics background is assumed for the course. It is a good class for students who want to satisfy the Mathematical, Computational, or Statistical Reasoning requirement.

Mathematics 161, the first calculus course, is offered every semester and does not require any previous exposure to calculus. However, students who are weak in high school algebra skills will often struggle in this course. The Mathematics Department does provide extra assistance for such students.

3) Recommended introductory course for someone with advanced knowledge in mathematics:

Most students with advanced knowledge in mathematics have taken the equivalent of a year of calculus and are thus ready for Mathematics 181 (third semester calculus). Such students can also consider Mathematics 200.

Students who wish to go beyond these courses in their first semester are strongly urged to speak with someone in the mathematics department (preferably the department chair or the instructor of the desired course) before registering. A very advanced student can begin their mathematics program in almost any department course depending on the student's background.


The Humanities Divisional (c) requirement is met all music courses.  The Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) requirement is met by all music courses except 131, 285-9 (private lessons), and 271-279 (ensembles).

100-level courses other than 101 and 151 require no prior musical experience. 101 and 151 require a placement exam, which is available online through Blackboard. Students wishing to consult about music theory placement may come to Gibson 101 between 4 and 5 pm on Sunday August 29.

200-level courses have prerequisites or require instructor permission. 151, 203, and 243 can be entered by first-semester first-years either by passing the placement test or by instructor approval.

Ensembles are auditioned, except for the Concert Band. Students in ensembles receive a half credit per semester on a credit/D/fail basis (some ensembles allow un-enrolled students to participate). The same course number is used for every semester of enrollment in the same ensemble.

Ensemble audition and rehearsal information is posted on the first floor of Gibson Hall.

Private Lessons (Individual Performance Studies) are available by audition: complete beginners on instruments may take lessons, but not for credit. Voice students, however, may take beginning lessons for credit if an aptitude for pitch is demonstrated in the audition. Students receive a half credit per semester, graded A-F. Course numbers for lessons function as follows. For the first semester, use 285; for all semesters thereafter on the same instrument, use 286. If a second instrument is studied, use 287 for the first semester and 288 for following semesters. If a third instrument is studied, use 289 for all semesters.

Students sign up for lessons by visiting Department Coordinator Linda Marquis in Gibson 103.


Students interested in majoring in neuroscience should begin by taking Introductory Biology and/or Introductory Psychology, both of which are required for the major. These courses serve as prerequisites for the two introductory level neuroscience classes, Neurobiology (Biology 213, fall semester) and Physiological Psychology (Psychology 218, spring semester),  either of which will prepare students for entry into the mid-level lab courses that form the core of the neuroscience major.  We encourage students interested in majoring in Neuroscience to speak with faculty in the Neuroscience program early in their Bowdoin career, particularly if they are interested in studying abroad.    

Students are also encouraged to consult with the Chemistry department about their placement into chemistry courses, as a semester of Organic Chemistry is also required for the major.


In all Philosophy courses, there’s a great emphasis placed on writing skills and careful reading of texts. The goal is to understand complex ideas and arguments and to produce clear, precise, jargon-free prose. There is no single “Intro” course. It’s generally good to start with a first-year seminar or a 100-level course. Students seeking a background in the history of philosophy are advised to take Phil 111 and 112, which cover ancient Greek philosophy (presocratics to Aristotle) and early modern European philosophy (Descartes to Kant) respectively.

There are no prerequisites for 200-level classes, and many first-year students have done well in them. However, the topics at the 200 level are generally more focused and the material is more challenging, so first-year students are advised to discuss with the instructor whether a given class is suitable for them.

Logic (223) feels more like a math or computer science course, because a formal language is introduced and put to work. The point of it is to distinguish valid from invalid arguments. Many philosophy majors tell us they wish they’d taken logic earlier in their college careers, because it has made them better at framing and analyzing arguments in other classes. First years may take it and many have done well.


Physics has a placement test to assess student readiness for Physics 093 (Introduction to Physical Reasoning), Physics 103 (Introductory Physics I) or Physics 104 (Introductory Physics II). Students should have taken the on-line test prior to arriving on campus. However, if a student has neglected to do so, the test is still available on Blackboard and should be taken as soon as possible.

Physics 093 is a course for students interested in a physics or engineering related major who need to work on quantitative reasoning and advanced problem solving before beginning calculus based physics. The departmental placement exam is intended to identify students who might benefit from this focused instruction on study skills for the physical sciences. Physics 093 is a general course that is designed to prepare students for success in introductory chemistry, computer science, and calculus as well as physics.

Physics 103 is the first semester of laboratory-based physics. It requires good problem solving skills and quantitative literacy. Students in Physics 103 are not expected to have taken any previous physics courses but should be ready for a fast-paced introductory course that emphasizes independent learning. Students can enroll in Physics 103 concurrently with Mathematics 161. Please encourage first-year students who concurrently enroll in 103 and Math 161, or any students concerned about their level of mathematical preparation, to make themselves known to the course instructor. Some proactive attention is often all that is needed to help students with less mathematical background succeed in physics.

Physics 104 is the second semester of laboratory-based physics. Advanced placement credit is available for students with qualifying scores on the AP exam. Students who have a strong background in Mechanics but no AP scores can be placed in Physics 104 after taking the departmental placement exam. However, such students do not get AP credit for Physics 103.


The first course is Psychology 101: Introduction to Psychology, which will serve as a prerequisite for all other psych courses. If a first-year student is interested in a psychology major or minor, we recommend they take this course in the fall of their first year. We also offer a first-year seminar, Psychology 010: What’s on Your Mind? An Introduction to the Brain and Behavior. This course does not serve as a prerequisite for other psychology courses, so students who take this course and then decide to pursue a second course must take Psychology 101. Psychology 10 might be of particular interest to those students who are especially interested in learning more about neuroscience or biopsychology (or psychology in general) but do not anticipate a neuroscience or psychology major

If a student has a score 4 or better on the AP exam, or a score of 5 or better on the IB Higher level exam, they can skip Psyc 101. For these students, we recommend Psyc 210, 211, or 216 in the fall; or any of the spring 200-level courses that have Psyc 101 as a prerequisite. Students with AP/IB credit are advised not to take Psyc 251 in the fall of their first-year. Note that students with AP/IB credit who decide to take 101 will lose their AP/IB psych credit.


The religion department at Bowdoin is exceptional in that it does not require students to take Religion 101 in order to enroll in its intermediate or upper level courses.  Although none of the department’s courses reflect an assumption that students have a background in the particular subject area, the courses are academic in approach and require that students engage course materials with intellectual rigor.  In other words, religions are not evaluated from the perspective of one’s own religious assumptions, convictions, and practices but treated as texts, practices, and institutions requiring historical and cultural contextualization.  Religion courses at Bowdoin require a fair amount of writing and classroom participation. They provide students with an excellent opportunity to sharpen their analytic problem solving and writing skills.  Moreover, as the study of religion is interdisciplinary, our courses expose students to various disciplinary approaches in the humanities and social sciences.  The ability to test and compare theoretical tools in various fields and to apply these to a topic in religion assists students in the process of selecting a major.

The department consistently offers first year seminars in the fall semester for incoming students.  These are designed to afford students ample opportunities for discussion and writing on topics that are multifaceted, controversial, timely, and of particular interest to college students.  One first year seminar may count toward the religion major.  First year students are welcome to enroll in our intermediate seminars.  All students are encouraged to enroll in the fall semester of our sequenced intermediate level courses.  The religion department at Bowdoin is one of the few departments that regularly offer courses in which students closely examine a particular topic or area over the course of a year.  

Religion 101 (Introduction to the Study of Religion), which is offered every spring, is comparative in approach and lays out the theoretical contours of the field.  Since it is excellent preparation for intermediate and advanced level courses in the department, potential majors should enroll as early as possible in this course. Students are introduced to a theme or topic in at least two religious traditions and to various methodologies and specialized vocabularies employed in the field.


The language programs are very carefully sequenced, beginning with a placement exam that can be given at any time (students typically take the placement exam over the summer), with very clear pre-requisites.

French: Placement recommendations are based on information provided by the student and her/his placement test score. Students should enroll in the recommended course but may move between course levels in the first weeks of classes should they feel they have been misplaced. Students are strongly encouraged to begin their language study at Bowdoin in the fall semester, as language courses are sequential, the first course of the sequence (101, 203, and 205) being offered ONLY in the fall semester. Waiting would in most cases push their French studies back a full year. Students are encouraged to talk with a member of the department should they have any questions about courses or their placement.

French 101 is open to students with no previous exposure to the language. All other first-year students who studied French in high school (with the exception of those who received a 5 on the AP or a 5 or 6 on the IB) should have taken the placement exam prior to arriving on campus. However, if a student was unable to do so, the test is still available on Blackboard. S/he should download the test and return the completed test to someone in the department as soon as possible.

Students who received a 5 on the French AP or a 5 or 6 on the IB automatically place into the 207-210 level. French 207-210 are not sequential. Students may take them in any order. Students who place into 207 or 209, offered in the fall semester, also place into 208 or 210, offered in the spring semester. Incoming students will receive one course credit for an AP exam on which they scored a 4 or a 5 or an IB exam on which they scored a 5 or 6 once they have completed at least one French course at Bowdoin. 'French majors and minors are required to take either 207 or 208 AND either 209 or 210 or 211.

Italian: First-year students considering either beginning or continuing the study of Italian should be encouraged to take a course during their first semester, as language courses are sequential, the first course of the sequence (101, 203, and 205) being offered ONLY in the fall semester. Waiting would in most cases pushes Italian studies back a full year. Students are encouraged to talk with a member of the department should they have any questions about courses or their placement.  Italian 101 is open to students with no previous exposure to the language. Any first-year students who studied Italian in high school should have taken the placement exam prior to arriving on campus. However, if a student was unable to do so, the test is still available on Blackboard. S/he should download the test and return the completed test to someone in the dept. as soon as possible. Incoming students will receive one course credit for an AP exam on which they score a 4 or a 5 (once they have completed at least one Italian course at Bowdoin). Most students start at the Elementary level (Italian 101), but some have enough experience to start in Intermediate Italian (Italian 203) or the first semester of Advanced Italian (Italian 205).

Spanish: First-year students who plan to study Spanish at Bowdoin should be encouraged to take a course during their first semester. All first-year students who have studied Spanish in high school should have received a placement recommendation by the time they meet with their advisor. Students with an AP score of 5 should register directly in Spanish 205. Students should talk to their Spanish instructors during the first week of classes if they feel they’re at the wrong level. They should, however, try to register in their assigned course so that they can have a better chance of getting that course since Spanish courses tend to fill up pretty quickly. If a student was unable to take the placement exam prior to arriving on campus, they should consult with someone in Spanish as soon as possible since the system will not let them register for Spanish without a placement recommendation from Spanish. Incoming students will receive one course credit for an AP exam on which they scored a 4 or a 5 (once they have completed Spanish 205 at Bowdoin with a grade of at least B-). Those who are in doubt about their placement (or who did not receive a placement because they did not complete the entire placement test) should seek advice as early as possible from a Spanish professor.

Spanish 101 is exclusively for students who have studied less than one semester of Spanish in the past and did not speak Spanish at home. Spanish 102 is offered in the spring semester only. Spanish 203 is offered in the fall semester only. Spanish 204: one section is offered this fall, two sections are offered every spring. Spanish 205: three sections are offered this fall, one section is offered every spring. All Spanish 101-210 courses require a one-hour-per-week discussion session in addition to the regularly scheduled classes. The times and places of these discussion sessions are determined during the second week of classes.


All first-year students who are considering studying Russian should be encouraged to take a course during their first semester: this will guarantee that they will be able to major in Russian should they so choose, and also travel to Russia junior year. Russian 101 is open to students with no previous exposure to the language; students who have previously studied Russian have to consult with a member of the department for placement. As a general rule of thumb, two years of high school Russian equals one year of college Russian; the department, however, always decides placement on a case-by-case basis. Heritage speakers (i.e., students of Russian origin who have spoken the language at home but have not studied it formally) are encouraged to take our upper-level courses (Russian 309 and higher), but they, too, should consult with the department before enrolling. Every year, the Russian Department offers several courses on literature and culture in English translation; these courses are open to all students without prerequisite, and fulfill various distribution requirements.


The Sociology/Anthropology department offers several courses appropriate for any first-year student. This fall the sociologists are offering two first-year seminars (Soc 10 and Soc 22), in addition to two sections of Intro to Sociology (Soc 101) and War and Media (Soc 120). In the spring they are teaching Soc 101 and a first year seminar. The anthropologists are offering Intro to Anthropology (Anth 101) both in the fall and the spring, as well as Intro to World Prehistory (Anth 102) in the spring. None of the 100- level courses or first-year seminars assume any prior work in sociology or anthropology. All other courses in the department require one of the three introductory courses as a prerequisite (different 200-level courses require different ones), so students interested in taking sociology or anthropology courses should take the relevant introductory courses as soon as possible.



1. Students may take the 111-112, 211-212, and 311-312 courses more than once; that is, they do not automatically proceed to a different level (course number) and are allowed to take the same sequence several times.

2. Students should always come to the first class, especially studio classes, if they want to take but were not placed in a course. Early on students inevitably move between classes to find their appropriate level.

3. Students are highly recommended to take introductory 100 level or appropriate 200 level courses that include creative work/performance, particularly if they want to pursue an Independent Study at some point.

4. Although Dance 221: Intermediate Ballet requires students to have taken Dance 121: Introduction to Ballet, the Intermediate course may be appropriate for students with dance experience prior to Bowdoin.  Such students are encouraged to seek the permission of the instructor to enroll in the course.


For Students with no previous theater experience, we recommend Theater 101: Making Theatre. This course will expose students to all aspects of the art form, including performance, design, theory and the creation of original work. It excites the theatrical imagination and provides an excellent foundation for future course work. If a student knows they are specifically interested in acting, design or stagecraft (technical theatre), they are encouraged to enroll in the 100-level courses that are offered in those areas - no previous experience is required. Students interested in interdisciplinary work and the connections between theater, dance, and other art forms should take our new 100 level course, Narrative and Performance. Students interested in acting are encouraged to follow the performance track of Theatre 120, 220, and 225 in order to enroll in 300-level performance courses. Any 100-level course in the department fulfills the prerequisite needed for upper-level work. Students should be aware that the performance-based courses, while not reading and writing intensive, require, on average, four hours of outside class time per week for rehearsal. Additionally, attendance in these courses is mandatory.


We advise anyone considering a Visual Arts major or minor, or joint major involving Visual Arts, to take Art 150 (Drawing I) as soon as possible, but any course with a 100 number is a good place to begin. Drawing I is the prerequisite to the other requirements for the major or minor, but we also offer a variety of courses without prerequisites. Any of these--Drawing I, Architecture I, Photo I, Printmaking I, or Sculpture I--are the courses we recommend to someone with no background--or even with a fair amount of background--in the subject. These courses presume no previous knowledge or aptitude beforehand; only a strong interest in the subject and the willingness to work.

Recommended sequence of first-year courses:

First Semester

Required Offerings: Drawing I (which should be completed by the end of the first semester, second year at the latest)

Electives: Architecture I, Photo I, Printmaking I, Sculpture I

Second Semester

Required Offerings: Drawing II, Painting I

Electives: Photo II, Print II

We often get requests from students who have AP credits or previous experience asking if they can waive or skip Drawing I or other intro courses, which we strongly discourage and rarely permit. Whatever a student's previous background, it's in the nature of visual arts studies--and the fact that every studio teacher approaches the material from a unique perspective--that intro courses are not redundant. These courses are also key to building a cumulative perspective on the visual arts curriculum at Bowdoin and providing a unique foundation for the courses to follow.