Location: Bowdoin / Office of the Dean of Student Affairs / Advising / The Guide to Choosing Courses

The Guide to Choosing Courses

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 1101 {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 1281 {121}, History 1241 {139}); for a full listing of these courses, please consult the course catalogue and the other sections of this document.


Students have the opportunity to study Arabic for four years at Bowdoin. Arabic at the elementary and intermediate levels is taught intensively, ensuring that students have acquired a solid foundation in Arabic grammar and vocabulary by the end of their second year of study. Third-year Arabic expands upon this foundation, and provides additional exposure to authentic reading and audio-visual materials. Fourth-year Arabic allows students an in-depth exploration of topics related to the history, literature, and culture of the Middle East and North Africa, from both the medieval and modern periods. Courses at the fourth-year level are reading intensive and are conducted entirely in Arabic. Topics for fourth-year Arabic in coming semesters include Contemporary Arab Thought, The Arabic Literature of Islamic West Africa, Modern Arabic Poetry and Poetic Theory, Classical Arab Historians and Biographers, Jihad: Doctrine and Historical Development, The Arabic Literature of Islamic Spain and Sicily, The Literature of the Lebanese Civil War, Arabic Poetry of Umayyad Damascus, and Contemporary Arabic Fiction from North Africa.


For most students, the best place to begin the study of art history is AH 1100 {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 2000 {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.


First-year students with an interest in Biochemistry should consider introductory courses in Chemistry and/or Biology, which are both required for the Biochemistry major.  Please consult the Tips for Biology and Chemistry for information about entry points into those areas. A typical Biochemistry major has completed two semesters of organic chemistry (for which Chemistry 1102 (102) or 1109 (109) are prerequisites) by the end of the sophomore year.


Based on the online biology placement, the quantitative skills tests, and AP/IB exam results, the Biology Department has recommended either Biology 1101 {101} (the first semester of a two-semester sequence) or Biology 1109  {109} (a one-semester course) for each student who submitted these materials.  All students must take the Biology online placement exam prior to enrolling in Introductory Biology.  If students have not yet taken the Biology on-line placement exam by the time Advisors are assisting them with their course choices, Advisors should advise such students to go to Blackboard immediately.

First-semester students should have taken the placement and Q-Skills tests prior to arriving on campus; subsequent semester students should make sure to take the placement exam prior to asking their Advisor to sign their course card for enrollment into any introductory biology course so that they may receive a placement.  Students must complete these tests before enrolling in either Biology 1101 {101} or 1109 {109}, and must enroll in the course we recommend. Placement tests are still available on Blackboard and students who have not taken one should complete them 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.  Students who have completed one or more semesters at Bowdoin since first taking the placement test may retake the test; these students should let Pam Bryer know, so that the previous score for their exam can be cleared from Blackboard.

AP5/IB7 students

Although we recommend that all students start with Biology 1101 {101} or Biology 1109 {109}, students who earned a 5 on the AP biology exam or a 7 on the higher level IB biology exam, and also have laboratory experience, may be prepared to take a 2000 {200}-level biology course. These students can apply at the beginning of their first year to enter a 2000 {200}-level biology course without taking Biology 1109 {109}.

The application includes: (1) taking the online Biology placement and Q-Skills tests, (2) filling out a laboratory and analytical skills checklist, and (3) submitting a laboratory/research portfolio described on the Biology Placement Blackboard site. After reviewing these materials, we will invite students to take a 2000 {200}-level biology without having taken Biology 1109 {109}; if they have a background that we think may allow them to succeed. We expect that only a few students will meet the criteria to take a 2000 {200}-level biology course without Biology 1109 {109}. 

Registration for a 2000 {200}-level biology course that has space available will require the professor’s signature. 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 invited to take a 2000 {200}-level biology class also places into Chemistry 2225 {225} Organic Chemistry or another 2000 {200}-level laboratory science class).

We are happy to speak with any student (or Advisor) with questions 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 1101 {101}, Chemistry 1109 {109}, or a 2000 {200}-level chemistry course. Chemistry 1101 {101} is a fall-semester course for students with weak backgrounds in chemistry. Chemistry 1101 {101} typically leads to Chemistry 1109 {109} in the spring. Chemistry 1109 {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, 2000 {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 1101 {101} or 1109 {109}, as opposed to starting with a 2000 {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 2000 {200}-level courses during their first year were typically very successful in those courses.

Chemistry courses numbered in the 10--'s {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 Department 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 1101 {101}. Latin 1101 {101} is offered in the fall and Latin 1102 {102} in the spring; however, Greek 1101 {101} is offered in the spring, with Greek 1102 {102} offered in the fall. Because of the sequential nature of language study and the pattern of offerings in the department, students should plan on taking both semesters of Latin during one year; students interested in the elementary Greek sequence should plan to take 1101 {101} in the spring and 1102 {102} the following fall.

There is a Latin placement exam that can be downloaded from Blackboard. Students who have already studied Latin and/or Greek in high school will be advised about appropriate placement during the language placement meeting held during Orientation. Students unable to attend this placement meeting should contact a faculty member in the Classics Department to arrange for a placement interview. Most first-year students continuing Latin enroll in Latin 2203 {203}, though those with exceptionally strong backgrounds are welcome in the 3000 {300}-level course. Most first-year students continuing Greek enroll in Greek 2203 {203}, which is offered in the spring semester, but the department makes placement recommendations on an individual basis.

All 1000 {100}- and 2000 {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 (as do other regular offerings in the department such as Classics 1101 {101} and 2211 {211}/2212 {212}). 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 1101 {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 1101 {101} and go directly into CS 2101 {210}, the second course in the introductory sequence. Students who would like to explore this possibility should contact the department.


Earth and Oceanographic Science courses enable students to make connections between physical and biological worlds and to study human and environmental interactions.  Bowdoin’s geographical location near Maine’s mountains, rivers and coast means classes can readily access these outdoor natural laboratories. In many courses, students complete research projects and/or work with community partners to apply their learning to problems of environmental and local importance. 

EOS 1105 {101} (Fall), EOS 1505 {102} (Spring), and EOS 1305 {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 1305 {104} also meets the MCSR requirement. Any one of the introductory courses may lead toward the Earth and Oceanographic Science major. EOS 2005 {200}, Biogeochemistry, is a required course for the major - we encourage potential majors to take this course in their sophomore year. 

Earth and Oceanographic Science is a popular coordinate major with Environmental Studies. EOS 1505 {102} (Oceanography) and EOS 1305 {104} (Environmental Geology and Hydrology) are cross-listed with Environmental Studies (ES 1102, ES 1104 and ES 1515) for joint EOS and ES credit, and meet the introductory science course requirement for ES.


Students with low Q-Skills scores should refrain from taking Economics 1101 {101} during their first semester at Bowdoin and may want to take Math 1050 {50} before taking Economics 1101 {101}. Students who have taken AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics and received a 4 or 5 should take a 2000 {200}-level elective if they want to take an Economics course in the fall term.

Econ 1100 {100} is intended for students who just want some exposure to Economics, but do not plan to continue. Econ 1100 {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: 1101 {101} and 1102 {102}. Students who take Econ 1100 {100} and decide to continue in Economics must take both 1101 {101} and 1102 {102} before proceeding with a major or minor. Also note that Econ 2555 {255} (Microeconomics) is now a pre-requisite for Econ 2556 {256} (Macroeconomics).


Students who have an interest in studying education (including those who hope to become certified secondary school teachers) should take Education 1101 {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 1100 {100}-level courses, as well as courses from the department’s roster of first-year seminars.  There are three options at the 1100 {100} level this year, each of which represents an introduction to literary studies from a different angle: fall semester, “Introduction to Poetry” (English 1105 {105}); spring semester, “Introduction to Drama” (English 1106 {106}) and “Introduction to Narrative” (English 1114 {114}). There are nine options for first-year seminars: eight in the fall and one in the spring.

There is no hierarchy or sequence to the 1100 {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 as a prerequisite to 2000 {200}-level courses.  First-year students who fulfill the prerequisite by taking one of these courses in fall semester may take 2000 {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 1101{101}, Introduction to Environmental Studies, the gateway course, in the fall. First year students are encouraged if possible to take the prerequisite to ES 2201{201}, an introductory level science class during their first or second semester which would complete all the prerequisites for taking any of the intermediate level core courses.

In the spring students should consider taking the ES core course in environmental science ‘Perspectives in Environmental Science (ES 2201{201}/Bio 1158{158} /Chem 1105{105}); and the environmental humanities core course ‘Environment and Culture in North American History’ (ES 2403{203}/History 2182{242}).

Students who received a score of 5 on the Environmental Science AP Exam meet the prerequisite for ES 2201{201}--Perspectives in Environmental Science. Upon successful completion of ES 2201{201} with a grade of B- 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 2201{201}. See the ES webpage for additional major requirements.

The ES Program also offers an ES minor, which consists of five courses (see the website for more information).


First-year students interested in film studies can enroll in Film Studies 1101 {101}, Film Narrative.  Film Studies 1043 {023} (East Asian Genre Cinema), Film 1151 {151} (The Literary Imagination and the Holocaust), or Film 2201 {201} (History of Film 1, 1895 to 1935). Students who choose to minor in film studies need to take five courses, four of which must be courses offered in the Film Studies Program. One course must come from another department's offerings, and at least one course must be at the 3000 {300} level or be an independent study.  No more than two courses below the 2000 {200} level (including Film Studies 1101 {101}) will count toward the major.


To minor in Gay and Lesbian Studies, students must take a total of five classes: the core course GLS 2001 {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 2001 {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 1000 {100}-level course. Please direct any questions to the chair of the program, David Collings (dcolling@bowdoin.edu).


Students can pursue a major or minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. The major consists of nine courses, including three core courses: GWS 1101 {101} (Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies), GWS 2201 {201} (Feminist Theory), and GWS 3301 {301} (Capstone Seminar). GWS 1101 {101} is taught every semester; GWS 2201 {201} is taught every fall; and GWS 3301 {301} is taught every spring. The minor consists of five courses (GWS 1101 {101}, GWS 2201 {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, 1101 {101}, or with one of the many 2000 {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 or Kristen Ghodsee, Director with any questions.


First-year students considering either beginning or continuing the study of German are strongly 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 2203 {203}, four years in 2205 {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 2205 {205} and higher count for the International Perspectives (IP) requirement. German 1101 {101} is open to those with no previous study in the German language. German 1151 {151} (ESD), 1152 {152} (IP, VPA), and German 1156 {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 (1100 {150} in the fall and spring, 1600 {160} in the fall, and 1400 {120} in the spring). More advanced students may want to consider a 2000 {200}-level course but, due to course limits, they may not be able to get in.


Students have considerable leeway in choosing where to begin their historical studies at Bowdoin. Some students begin at the introductory level (1000-level courses) or in a first-year seminar. Others, especially those who took AP or AP-equivalent history classes in high school, begin with intermediate level lectures (2000-2499). A list of all history courses open to first-year students can be found here [link: http://www.bowdoin.edu/history/courses/first-year/]. Because the history department is committed to providing students with a variety of historical perspectives, we encourage students to explore offerings in non-western history (Africa, East Asia, Latin America, and South Asia) early on. Students should consider taking one intermediate seminar (2500-2999) by the end of their sophomore year. Potential majors considering study abroad should plan to meet with a history professor sooner rather than later to ensure they make good progress on the major. History professors are always ready to speak with students about the curriculum. 


A good place to begin is History 2401 {252} (Colonial Latin America) or History 2402 {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 2409 {209} or 2410 {210}), and take either Anthropology 1101 {101}, Economics 1101 {101}, or Sociology 1101 {101} (a 2000 {200}-level course on Latin America in one of those areas is required).


A course from the calculus sequence (Math 1600, 1700/1750, 1800) is the traditional entry into the study of mathematics at Bowdoin. However, introductory courses in Quantitative Reasoning (Math 1050), Statistics (Math 1200, 1300) and Biomathematics (Math 2108) are also possible choices. Advanced students can begin at even higher levels. (Note: Math 2108 will not be offered during academic year 2013-14.)

To help you enroll in the correct entry course, the Mathematics Department has used the information you supplied in the Mathematics Placement Questionnaire as well as your score on the Quantitative Reasoning Placement Examination to identify appropriate courses to begin your study of mathematics at Bowdoin. There are five placement recommendation levels, labeled with a letter between A and E:

Course placement recommendations

       Level       (the recommended calculus course is in boldface)

           A               Math 1600 or Math 1050, Math 1200, Math 1300.

           B               Math 1700 or Math 1200, Math 1300, Math 2108

           C               Math 1750 or Math 1200, Math 1300, Math 2108

           D               Math 1800 or Math 1200, Math 1300, Math 2108

           E               Any math course in the range Math 2000 to Math 2208.

Your Course Placement Recommendation is Binding.

The only mathematics courses for which you are allowed to register are those indicated by the placement recommendation provided to you and your advisor by the Mathematics Department.  Indeed, Bowdoin’s computerized registration process will not permit you to register for any mathematics course other than those on your official placement recommendation list.

Clarifying or Altering your Course Placement Recommendation.

If you believe your course placement recommendation might not be accurate or you wish to register for a mathematics course not on your recommendation list, you should consult individually with members of the Mathematics Department during the Mathematics Orientation meetings on Monday morning, September 2, in Searles Hall. You should start by attending the meeting for students with your specific course placement recommendation. Ultimately a change in your course placement recommendation will become official only when you receive approval from the Chair of the Mathematics Department.

Relevant Information about Specific Non-Calculus Courses

(detailed descriptions of these courses can be found in the catalogue).

Math 1050: If your mathematical background indicates the need for additional preparation prior to enrolling in other quantitatively intense courses, you may be invited to enroll in Math 1050, Quantitative Reasoning. The purpose of the course is to provide a firm foundation for further classes in mathematics, science, and economics. Admission into Math 1050 requires instructor permission. This course satisfies the MCSR distribution requirement.

Math 1050 is offered every semester.

Math 1200 and 1300: These introductory statistics courses assume only a minimal background in mathematics and are therefore available to all incoming students. Given the minimal background needs along with the importance of statistical knowledge, these are highly appropriate classes for satisfying the MCSR Distribution Requirement. However, if you are considering a major in mathematics you should not enroll in either of these courses since you will likely enroll later in Math 2206 and Math 2606, the mathematics major level probability and statistics courses. In addition, if you are considering a major in psychology or economics, you should probably refrain from enrolling in either Math 1200 or Math 1300 since psychology and economics each have their own discipline specific statistics courses.

Math 1200 is offered only in the fall semester while Math 1300 is offered every semester.

Math 2108Biomathematics is the study of mathematical methods driven by questions in biology. The prerequisites for the course include a background in differential calculus (the equivalent of Math 1600) along with a year of high school or college biology.

Math 2108 will not be offered during academic year 2013-14. It will next be offered in Fall 2014.

Math 2000 to 2208: Students with highly advanced preparation in mathematics will be recommended for a course numbered between 2000 and 2208, and possibly even a course numbered beyond 2208. If you are in this category you are strongly encouraged to attend the session for advanced students during the Mathematics Orientation meetings on Monday morning, September 2, in Searles Hall. At this session you will learn about your full range of course options and will receive individual advice based on your mathematical preparation and academic goals.

The following mathematics courses in the range 2000 to 2208 currently have openings available for first-year students during Fall 2013: Math 2000, Math 2020, and Math 2206. The following courses are currently full, but a small number of openings might appear prior to registration: Math 2109 and Math 2208.


Distribution Requirements.  The Humanities (c) requirement is met by all music courses, and the VPA requirement is met by most music courses (please consult the course catalogue for more information).

Prerequisites and Placement Exam.  Courses below the 1000 level and all 1000-level courses other than 1401 {101} usually do not have prerequisites and require no prior musical experience.  Placement into 1401 and 2402 or 2403 {202} is only possible through the theory placement exam on Blackboard; after taking the exam, first-year students should consult with the department in Gibson 101 between 2:45 and 3:15 pm on Sunday, Sept. 1.

Most 2000-level courses have prerequisites or require instructor permission.  Students with an unusually strong theory background should consult with the instructors of 2401 {203} and 2501 {243} for possible permission to take these courses without the prerequisites.

Music Ensembles.  Most participants in music ensembles are not majors or minors, so any student with interest should consider participating. The Afro-Latin Music Ensemble is open to any student regardless of musical background. The Concert Band is open to any student with band experience, and the Middle Eastern Ensemble is open to any student who has played a string or wind instrument, who sings, or who would like to learn Middle Eastern percussion.  The Chorus, Chamber Choir, Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Ensembles, and Jazz Ensembles are auditioned; audition and rehearsal information is posted on the first floor of Gibson Hall.  (Note that in some cases, a science lab conflict with a scheduled rehearsal time can be worked out.)

A half credit per semester (on a credit/D/fail basis) can be earned for ensemble participation, but attendance guidelines must be followed for a passing grade (in some cases un-registered students are allowed to participate). The same course number is used for every semester of enrollment in the same ensemble.

Private Music Lessons.  Private lessons (Individual Performance Studies) are open to any student on a non-credit basis and may be taken for credit if an audition is passed.  To pass, instrumentalists must demonstrate an intermediate or higher level of accomplishment, and voice students must show an aptitude for singing pitches.  There is a fee for lessons, but students on financial aid can audition for scholarships. Students should sign up for lesson auditions and scholarship auditions through Linda Marquis (Gibson Hall 103, 725-3321) during the first week of classes.

Students taking lessons for credit receive a half credit per semester, graded A-F.   The number 2805 {285} is used for the first semester and the number 2806 {286} for all semesters on the same instrument thereafter. If a second instrument is studied, 2807 {287} is used for the first semester and 2808 {288} for following semesters.  If a third instrument is studied, 2809 {289} is used for all semesters.  Advanced lessons (3805-3807 {385-7}) require a full-length recital, are awarded full credit, and are graded A-F.


Students interested in majoring in neuroscience should begin by taking Introductory Biology and/or Introductory Psychology, both of which are required for the major (please consult the Tips for Biology for information about which Introductory Biology course will be most appropriate). These courses serve as prerequisites for the two introductory level neuroscience classes, Neurobiology (Biology 2135 {213}, fall semester) and Physiological Psychology (Psychology 2050 {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 1000 {100}-level course. Students seeking a background in the history of philosophy are advised to take Phil 2111 {111} (Fall) and 2112 {112} (Spring), which cover ancient Greek philosophy (presocratics to Aristotle) and early modern European philosophy (Descartes to Kant), respectively.

There are no prerequisites for 2000 {200}-level classes, and many first-year students have done well in them. However, the topics at the 2000 {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 (2223 {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 1093 {093} (Introduction to Physical Reasoning), Physics 1130 {103} (Introductory Physics I) or Physics 1140 {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 1093 {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 1130 {103} is the first semester of laboratory-based physics. It requires good problem solving skills and quantitative literacy. Students in Physics 1130 {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 1130 {103} concurrently with Mathematics 1600 {161}. Please encourage first-year students who concurrently enroll in 1130 {103} and Math 1600 {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 1140 {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 1140 {104} after taking the departmental placement exam. However, such students do not get AP credit for Physics 1130 {103}.


The first course is Psychology 1101 {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 1010 {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 1101 {101}. Psychology 1010 {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 1101 {101}. For these students, we recommend Psyc 2010 {210}, 2020 {211}, or 2040 {216} in the fall; or any of the spring 2000 {200}-level courses that have Psyc 1101 {101} as a prerequisite. Students with AP/IB credit are advised not to take Psyc 2510 {251} in the fall of their first-year. Note that students with AP/IB credit who decide to take 1101 {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 1101 {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 1101 {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.


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. Please strongly encourage students to begin their language study at Bowdoin in the fall semester, as language courses are sequential, the first course of the sequence (1101 {101}, 2203 {203}, and 2305 {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 attend the French Open House during orientation and to talk with a member of the department should they have any questions about courses or their placement.

French 1101 {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 6 or 7 on the higher-level 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 complete the test and notify someone in the department as soon as possible so that the test may be corrected and the student given an appropriate placement.

Students who received a 5 on the French AP or a 6 or 7 on the higher-level IB automatically place into the 2407 {207}-2410 {210} level. French 2407 {207}-2410 {210} are not sequential. Students may take them in any order. Students who place into 2407 {207} or 2409 {209}, offered in the fall semester, also place into 2408 {208}, 2410 {210}, or 2411 {211} 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 higher-level IB exam on which they scored a 6 or 7 once they have completed at least one French course at Bowdoin with a grade of B- or better. French majors and minors are required to take either 2407 {207} or 2408 {208} AND one of 2409 {209}, 2410 {210} or 2411 {211}.


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 (1101 {101}, 2203 {203}, and 2305 {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 1101 {101}), but some have enough experience to start in Intermediate Italian (Italian 2203 {203}) or the first semester of Advanced Italian (Italian 2305 {205}).


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 2305 {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 2305 {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 1101 {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 1102 {102} is offered in the spring semester only. Spanish 2203 {203} is offered in the fall semester only. Spanish 2204 {204}: one section is offered this fall, two sections are offered every spring. Spanish 2305 {205}: three sections are offered this fall, two sections are offered every spring. All Spanish 1101 {101}-2410 {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 1101 {101} is open to students with no previous exposure to the language; students who have previously studied Russian must 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 3099 {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 one first-year seminar on Racism (Soc 010/1010), in addition to two sections of Intro to Sociology (Soc 101/1101). In the spring they are teaching one section of Soc 101/1101. In the fall the anthropologists are offering one first-year seminar on Understanding Ourselves in the Digital Age (Anth 027/1027) and one section of Intro to Cultural Anthropology (Anth 101/1101). In the spring, they are offering another first year seminar; Beyond Pocahontas: Native American Stereotypes (Anth 013/1013) and another section of Intro to Cultural Anthropology (Anth 101/1101).  Additionally, Intro to World Prehistory (Anth 102/1150) will be taught in the fall.  A new course: Introduction to Archaeology (Anth 1102) has been added to the Anthropology major/minor and will be taught for the first time in the spring. Neither the 100-level courses nor the 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); students interested in taking 200-level sociology or anthropology courses should take the relevant introductory courses as soon as possible.



1. Students may take the 1211 {111}-1212 {112}, 2211 {211}-2212 {212}, and 3211 {311}-3212 {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 10000 {100} level or appropriate 2000 {200} level courses that include creative work/performance, particularly if they want to pursue an Independent Study at some point.

4. Although Dance 2221 {221}: Intermediate Ballet requires students to have taken Dance 1221 {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 1101 {101}: Making Theatre. This course will expose students to all aspects of the art form, including scripting, performance, design, and direction of an 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 1000 {100}-level courses that are offered in those areas - no previous experience is required. Students interested in acting are encouraged to follow the performance track of Theatre 1201 {120}, 2201 {220}, and 2202 {225} in order to enroll in 3000 {300}-level performance courses. Any 1000 {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 1101 {150} (Drawing I) as soon as possible, but any course with a 1000 {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.