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



Arctic Studies

Art History

Asian Studies




Cinema Studies


Computer Science


Digital and Computational Studies

Earth and Oceanographic Science




Environmental Studies

Francophone Studies

Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies


Government and Legal Studies

Hispanic Studies


Italian Studies

Latin American Studies








Romance Languages and Literatures



Theater and Dance

Visual Arts


First-year course schedules will vary widely depending upon a student’s high school preparation. Advisees should be encouraged to follow the placement recommendations of the science and math departments so that they will neither coast through courses that cover material they have already studied nor flounder through courses for which they are under-prepared. Some will have the background to be comfortable in two lab sciences while others may initially feel overwhelmed in a single introductory science or math course.

However, most students will be best served if they enroll in only one, or at most two, science and math courses.

Students that are likely to be challenged by the transition to college will have a better chance of attaining their goals if they proceed at a slower pace in the sciences rather than to struggle through the courses before they have the appropriate foundation. A successful start to college is more important than a fast start, even if it ultimately necessitates completing some pre-health requirements after Bowdoin. In fact, keeping with national trends, ¾ of Bowdoin students entering health professions programs choose to matriculate two or more years after they graduate from Bowdoin.

The following is a list of the academic prerequisites for most medical and dental schools; programs in veterinary medicine and many allied health fields have a few additional requirements, as well. AP credits may not be used to fulfill the science prerequisites in biology and chemistry, nor do all schools accept AP credit in physics. Please be aware that a major in the sciences is not required.

If advisors or students have any questions during registration, please do not hesitate to contact Seth Ramus at sramus@bowdoin.edu or x3624, or visit 116 Moulton Union. Students should also be encouraged to make an appointment to speak with Seth during their first semester.

Biology: Two semesters with lab at a level higher than Biology 1101; some additional biology is recommended.

Most students interested in the health professions complete BIOL 1109 or the BIOL 1101-BIOL 1102 sequence by the end of sophomore year. Prospective biology, biochemistry and neuroscience majors need to be sure to follow the recommendations of those departments. Most students find it more helpful to take introductory chemistry before taking introductory biology, rather than the other way around.

General or Inorganic Chemistry: Two semesters with lab. Any two of the following may be used to fulfill this requirement: CHEM 1191, 1192, 1101, 1102, 1109, 2100, 2400, 2510.

Since CHEM 1101 is offered only in the fall, students recommended for this course should consider taking it in their first semester if they are giving thought to study abroad during their junior year. Otherwise, they will not be able to complete Organic Chemistry until senior year.

Organic Chemistry: Two semesters with lab, CHEM 2250 and 2260.
Prospective science majors and students who plan to study abroad typically complete this sequence during their sophomore year, assuming they entered with a reasonable background in the sciences.

Biochemistry: One semester BIOL 2423 or BIOL 2124 or BIOL 2432 or CHEM 2320.
Although only certain schools require biochemistry, most strongly recommend it. We encourage all students to take at least one semester. Biochemistry is now required for the MCAT exam.

Physics: Two semesters with lab, usually PHYS 1130 and 1140; students who place out of 1130 may take 1140 and 2130.

If a student is recommended for PHYS 1093, the Department suggests that they try to take this course their first semester, as it is offered only in the fall. It will be a helpful foundation for 1130 and, since it is not a lab course, it is reasonable for some students to consider taking it along with introductory biology or chemistry. PHYS 1130 and 1140 are calculus-based, so must be taken concurrently or after MATH 1600 and 1700, respectively, unless the student has placed out of one or both of these math courses.

Mathematics: Although relatively few medical schools have a specific math requirement, most value competence in calculus and statistics.

As indicated above, our introductory physics sequence requires MATH 1600 and 1700 or their equivalent. MATH 1500, Quantitative Reasoning, may be a good starting point for those who need to strengthen their quantitative skills. Students might also consider MATH 2108 (BIOL 1174), Biomathematics. Students should take at least one statistics course: MATH 1200, Statistics, MATH 1300 Biostatistics, or PSYC 2520, Data Analysis.

English: Two semesters are required by most health professions programs.

Any First-Year Seminar, regardless of the department through which it is taught, will take the place of one semester of English. Although in some instances schools will accept another writing-intensive course in lieu of English (with a letter from the professor), students are urged to take at least one course offered by the English Department (ENGL 1070 or any course over 1000 are appropriate, students should seek advice from the English department before enrolling in ENGL 1060).

Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences: Some background in these areas is required by some health professions programs and recommended by most. The new version of the MCAT beginning in 2015 will include questions about general psychology and sociology. Students should consider taking introductory-level courses early in their Bowdoin career because there are upper-level sociology and psychology courses that may be particularly interesting to pre-health students.


The Quantitative Reasoning Program was established at Bowdoin in 1996 (as the Quantitative Skills Program - later changed to QR) to support all students in strengthening their understanding and application of mathematical, logical, and statistical skills.  Click on the link above to learn more.


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.

10042 AFRS 1101 Introduction to Africana Studies B. Purnell 
10822 ASNS 2801/ENGL 2750 Intro to Asian-American Literature B. Kong
10175 BIOL/NEUR 2135 Neurobiology H. Horch & S. Hauptman
10798 CINE 1101 Film Narrative A. Cooper
10796 CINE 2201 Film History I T. Welsch
10992 ENGL/CINE 1036 The South on Page & Screen M. McCarroll
10925 SOC/AFRS 2208, LAS 2708 Race and Ethnicity I. Nelson
10926 THTR/CINE 1007, ENGL 1011 Performance and Theory in James Bond S. Bay-Cheng

Writing Project Workshop

Besides assisting all writers in Writing Project courses, the Writing Project also offers 45-minute conferences in our Writing Workshop to students writing papers in any course. Beginning in mid-September, 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. For more information on Writing Project workshops, courses, or semester-long partnerships, please see the website or call the Director of the program, Kathleen O’Connor (x3760).


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


First-year students interested in Africana Studies have many courses available to them. There are a number of first-year seminars as well as AFRS 1101, Introduction to Africana Studies, which is offered in the fall. First-year seminars count toward both the major and the minor. These courses do not assume any prior work in Africana Studies. Some 2000-level courses are also open to first year students. These courses attract students from all class years and academic interests. Because Africana Studies is an interdisciplinary program, there are courses cross-listed in other departments that would be appropriate for first-year students; for a full listing of these courses, please consult the online course guide.

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Students have the opportunity to study Arabic for four years at Bowdoin. Arabic at the elementary and intermediate levels (ARBC 1101 and ARBC 2203, respectively) 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.

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Students interested in pursuing a concentration in Arctic Studies should make sure to take one of the introductory Anthropology courses, as well as an introductory Environmental Studies or science course, during their first year, as Arctic-focused courses are taught at the 2000-level and have prerequisites.

Students interested in getting involved in Arctic initiatives before their sophomore year should contact Professor Kaplan (skaplan@bowdoin.edu) or apply to work at the Arctic Museum as a receptionist or tour guide.

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ARTH 1100, Introduction to Art History, is the best starting place for most students. It is required for the major and a prerequisite for many upper-level art history courses. First-year seminars provide a more focused exploration of art-historical questions and topics. (They do not, however, count towards the major.)

2000-level courses are also open to first-year students, under certain circumstances. Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the AP exam in Art History are eligible to place out of ARTH 1100 and may register for any 2000-level course in the department. Other students with significant background in art history may also wish to enroll at the 2000 level; if a course has a pre-requisite, students should contact the instructor directly to discuss their preparation and interest in the course. For 2000-level courses without pre-requisites, it is generally advisable to have some experience in a field of study related to the course topic and/or time period (e.g. literature, history).


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 the first semester will help students prepare for an Asian Studies major and make it easier 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. Any student who was unable to take the placement exam should consult with a faculty member in Japanese/Chinese as soon as possible.     

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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 CHEM 1102 or 1109 are prerequisites) by the end of the sophomore year.

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The Biology Department has recommended either BIOL 1101 (the first semester of a two-semester sequence) or BIOL 1109 (a one-semester course) for each student who has completed the online biology placement and quantitative skills tests.

First-semester students should have taken the placement and QR tests prior to arriving on campus. If students wish to enroll in an Introductory Biology course and have not yet taken the Biology on-line placement exam by the time Advisors are assisting them with their course choices, students should go to the Blackboard placement site immediately.

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.

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Chemistry courses numbered between 1000-1090 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.

Chemistry courses numbered 1091 and higher: Students intending to enroll in any chemistry course numbered 1091 or greater MUST complete the Chemistry placement exam. If students are missing a placement in chemistry, they need to (1) take the Chemistry placement exam and (2) notify Prof. Elizabeth Stemmler (estemmle@bowdoin.edu/x3633) when they have completed the exam. Placements are determined based on the results of this exam and other information (including the Quantitative Reasoning Placement Examination, SAT or ACT scores, and AP or IB scores).

CHEM 1091 (Introductory Chemistry and Quantitative Reasoning I) is offered as an invitation-only fall-semester course and is intended for students with limited background in chemistry who will benefit from additional time devoted to improving quantitative skills. CHEM 1091 leads to CHEM 1092 in the spring. CHEM 1091 meets for three one-hour lecture sections per week, one three-hour laboratory per week, and one 1.5-hour problem solving/quantitative skills building session per week. One session of CHEM 1101 meets as the same time as CHEM 1091, allowing a student (after consultation with the department) to transfer (in the first two weeks of the semester) from CHEM 1091 to CHEM 1101 if that is deemed appropriate.

CHEM 1101 (Introductory Chemistry I) is offered only as a fall-semester course and is intended for students with limited to adequate backgrounds in chemistry. CHEM 1101 leads to CHEM 1102 in the spring. Chemistry 1101 meets for a total of three lecture-hours per week, and one three-hour laboratory per week.

CHEM 1109 (General Chemistry) is a one-semester course, taught during both the fall and spring semesters, and is intended for students with solid high school chemistry preparation. Chemistry 1109 meets for a total of three lecture-hours per week and one four-hour laboratory per week. All sessions are mandatory.

Chemistry courses in the 2000s, which are open to students with “CHEM 2000-level/CHEM 1109” or “CHEM 2000-level” placement, are appropriate for students with outstanding high-school chemistry preparation. These course options are CHEM 2250 (Organic Chemistry I) and CHEM 2100 (Chemical Analysis) in the fall semester and CHEM 2400 (Inorganic Chemistry) and CHEM 2050 (Environmental Chemistry) in the spring semester (alternate years). While CHEM 2510 and 2520 are also entry points, students must also meet prerequisites in Math and Physics to enroll in these courses.

Summary of Placements in Chemistry

Placement Permits registration in:
CHEM 1091  CHEM 1091 only
CHEM 1101  CHEM 1101 only
* CHEM 1109/1101  CHEM 1109 or CHEM 1101
CHEM 1109  CHEM 1109 only
* CHEM 2000-level/ CHEM 1109  Chemistry at the 2000-level or CHEM 1109
CHEM 2000-level  Chemistry at the 2000-level or CHEM 1109

*The CHEM 2000-level/CHEM 1109 or CHEM 1109/1101 placement indicates that a student is on the border between two entry points to the chemistry curriculum. Students should consult with Prof. Stemmler, course instructors, or faculty at the Academic Fair to ensure a proper entry to the curriculum, but are permitted to enroll in either course.

Additional information: When deciding to begin with a 1000-level chemistry course or a 1000-level biology course during their first semester, many students have found a grounding in chemistry helpful before beginning a course in biology. As a word of caution, some first-year students find it advantageous to wait until their sophomore year to start chemistry; however, this means they cannot take CHEM 2250 (Organic Chemistry I) until their junior year if they begin with CHEM 1091/1101/1109 as a sophomore. For students considering placement in a 2000-level chemistry course in the fall, CHEM 2250 (Organic Chemistry I) is the most common entry point.

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Cinema Studies first-year seminars include CINE 1007, Performance and Theory in James Bond, CINE 1036, The South on Page and Screen, and CINE 1043 (plus lab), East Asian Genre Cinema: The Martial Arts. First-year students interested in Cinema Studies may also enroll in CINE 1101, Film Narrative, and CINE 2201, History of Film 1895 to 1935. 

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Students interested in beginning Latin and/or classical Greek should enroll in 1101. LATN 1101 is offered in the fall and LATN 1102 in the spring; however, GRK 1101 is offered in the spring, with GRK 1102 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 in the spring and 1102 the following fall.

A Classics department placement questionnaire 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 LATN 2203, Intermediate Latin for Reading, though those with exceptionally strong backgrounds are welcome in the 3000-level course. Most first-year students continuing Greek enroll in GRK 2203, which is offered in the spring semester, but the department makes placement recommendations on an individual basis.

All 1000- and 2000-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. Members of the Classics Department faculty are always happy to meet with students individually to discuss placement and sequencing of courses.

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Students interested in Computer Science start with CSCI 1101, Introduction to Computer Science, which provides a basic introduction to problem solving and programming. The class has no prerequisites and assumes no prior knowledge of computers, nor does it require students to have a personal computer. CSCI 1101 is the first course in the Computer Science major/minor sequence, but it should not be viewed as a course only for students intending to major in Computer Science. 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. CSCI 1101 has a weekly 1.5-hour lab.

Students with sufficient programming experience (such as AP or IB) may be able to skip CSCI 1101 and go directly into CSCI 2101, Data Structures, which covers more advanced programming techniques. Students interested in this possibility should contact the department for placement.


EOS 1105, Investigating Earth, and EOS 1305, Environmental Geo & Hydrology, are aimed at first-year students and assume no previous science background. Earth and Oceanographic Science is a popular coordinate major with Environmental Studies. EOS 1305, Environmental Geology and Hydrology, and EOS 1505, Oceanography (offered in the spring), are cross-listed with Environmental Studies for joint EOS and ENVS credit, and meet the introductory science course requirement for ENVS.

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Economics requires all students take a placement survey on Blackboard before enrolling in their first economics course. Based on their answers to the placement survey students may be placed in the following gateway courses:

  • ECON 1050, Introductory Microeconomics and Quantitative Reasoning
  • ECON 1101, Introductory Microeconomics
  • ECON 1102, Introductory Macroeconomics
  • or a 2000-level elective of their choosing.

Students who have not taken the placement survey will need to see the economics placement coordinator to obtain permission for their first economics course.

ECON 1101, Introductory Microeconomics, has multiple sections offered each semester and is a good gateway course into the department.

ECON 1050, Introductory Microeconomics and Quantitative Reasoning, covers all the material in ECON 1101 in a more supported Quantitative Reasoning (QR) environment. The main difference is a required weekly lab taught by QR faculty in conjunction with Economics faculty. Students with low Q-Skills scores who want to take Introductory Microeconomics have two alternative pathways. They can take ECON 1050 or they can take MATH 1050 and then take either ECON 1050 or ECON 1101. ECON 1050 serves as a prerequisite for ECON 1102 and several additional 2000 level electives. ECON 1050 will be taught every fall.

Students who have taken AP Microeconomics and received a 4 or 5 will be placed in ECON 1102, Introductory Macroeconomics. If they want to forfeit their economics AP credit they will need an override from the economics placement coordinator.

Students who have taken AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics and received a 4 or 5 will be placed in any 2000-level elective if they want to take an Economics course in the fall term. If they want to forfeit their economics credit they will need an override from the economics placement coordinator. If they want to start immediately with ECON 2555, Intermediate Microeconomics, they should wait until the spring term.

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Students who have an interest in studying education (including those who hope to become certified secondary school teachers) should take EDUC 1101: Contemporary American Education either their first or second semester (the course is offered every semester). If students have an interest in becoming certified to teach in public schools, they should speak with an Education Department faculty member as soon as possible. The Department is implementing a new Education Coordinate Major. Please direct students to the Department if they have questions regarding the new coordinate major. 


All Bowdoin students must take first-year seminars in their first year of enrollment. English now offers seminars in both fall and spring semesters, though we offer more seminars in the fall than in the spring. Incoming students with concerns about their level of preparation for writing at the college level should consult with their advisor and with the Director of Writing and Rhetoric, Meredith McCarroll. Options for students seeking additional writing support and instruction include: enrollment in a first-year seminar in the fall followed by English 1060 in the spring, a first-year seminar in each of the student’s first two semesters, or English 1060 in the fall followed by a first-year seminar in spring.

All 1100-level courses are also open to incoming first-years, as are ENGL 2200, English Renaissance and Drama, and ENGL 2750, Introduction to Asian-American Literature. As of 2016, English majors and minors are no longer required to take either a first-year seminar or an 1100-level course as part of the major, though both courses do count toward the major or minor.

2000-level seminars serve as gateway courses to the English major. These are writing-intensive seminars that focus on skills and methodologies crucial to advanced work in the major. Such seminars aim to teach students how to read and engage with literary criticism and theory, assess sources, design an annotated bibliography, deliver an oral presentation to a group of peers, and gain advanced library and IT training. These seminars, together with all other 2000-level courses, are open to first-year students beginning in the spring semester of their first year. (As noted above, certain 2000-level courses (non-seminars) are open to first-years in their first semester at Bowdoin.)

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.

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First-year students interested in Environmental Studies should consider taking ENVS 1101, Introduction to Environmental Studies, the gateway course, in the fall.

In the spring students should consider taking the environmental science core course ENVS 2201 (BIOL 1158, CHEM 1105), Perspectives in Environmental Science, and the environmental humanities core course ENVS 2403 (HIST 2182), Environment and Culture in North American History.

Students who received a score of 5 on the Environmental Science AP/IB Exam can earn one general credit if the student completes ENVS 2201 with a minimum grade of B-. See the Environmental Studies webpage for additional major requirements.

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The interdisciplinary Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program combines the scholarly traditions of each field to develop a culture of critical thinking about the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, and class. Courses in GSWS investigate the experiences of women and men in light of the social construction of gender and its meaning across cultures and historic periods.

Several first-year seminars are offered this fall: GSWS 1002, Moral Panics: The Use and Abuse of Fear in Society; GSWS 1022 / HIST 1012, “Bad” Women Make Great History; GSWS 1025 / ENGL 1012, Jane Austin; GSWS 1026 / ENGL 1028, What We Talk about When We Talk about Love; GSWS 1028 / ENGL 1023, (Im)Possible Lives; and GSWS 1031 / HIST 1023, Science, Sex, and Politics.

Other courses open to first-year students in the fall include GSWS 1101, Introduction to Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; and GSWS/PHIL 1321, Philosophical Issues of Gender and Race.

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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 take the German Placement Questionnaire and receive a course placement recommendation; a course placement recommendation is required to register for any course above GER 1101. 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. Students with no prior exposure to German 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. GER 1101, Elementary German I, is open to those with no previous study in the German language. Students considering either GER 1101 or GER 2203 (Intermediate German I) may attend alternate sections on alternate days. For example, a student may wish to enroll in the afternoon section, but encounter a conflict with a lab on Wednesdays; she can then attend Wednesday’s morning section on a regular basis. GER 1150-level courses (such as GER 1155, Into the Wild) are taught in English and are open to all students with no previous language study required.

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First-year students interested in Government and Legal Studies are encouraged to take one of the department’s first-year seminars, all of which are offered during the fall term. Another option appropriate for students seeking a solid background in a specific departmental area of concentration is to take one of the department’s introductory lecture courses. In the 2016-17 academic year, GOV 1100, Introduction to American Government, will be offered in the spring term; GOV 1400, Introduction to Comparative Government, will be offered in the fall term; and GOV 1600, Introduction to International Relations, will be offered in both the fall and spring terms.

More advanced students may wish to consider enrolling in a 2000-level course; many are technically open to first-year students. However, students should be aware that enrollment pressures, particularly during the fall term, mean that only a few first-year students will actually be able to get into these higher level courses. It is very important to have alternative courses in mind.

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First-year students can begin their study of history at Bowdoin at a variety of levels. This includes:

  • First-year seminars (1000-1049) that focus on college level writing through the study of history as a discipline,
  • Introductory courses (1100-1999) that introduce students to the methods and skills of history as a humanties and social science discipline,
  • Core courses (2000-2499) that survey historical themes and problems and offer opportunities to deepen skills in historical thinking and writing.

Please contact any member of the History Department if you have questions about placement. 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.

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Latin American Studies is an interdisciplinary program with strengths in Romance Languages and Literatures, History, Anthropology, Economics, and Sociology. Required courses include a language course (LAS 2409, LAS 2410, LAS 2407); a 2000-level course in the social sciences; and a History course that surveys the region (LAS 2401, LAS 2402, or LAS 2403). Students should address the language requirement early on, and take an introductory course such as ANTH 1101, ECON 1101, or SOC 1101. History courses are another good place to begin as they offer an excellent overview of the region and have no prerequisites.

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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 1808) are also possible choices. Advanced students can begin at even higher levels.

Course Placements

The Mathematics Department has used the information supplied in the Mathematics Placement Questionnaire as well as the Quantitative Reasoning Placement Examination score to identify appropriate entry courses for students. In particular, the Mathematics Department will provide two course placement recommendations: one in mathematics (primarily calculus) and one in statistics.

Mathematics course placement recommendations include:

  • Math 1050
  • Math 1600
  • Math 1700
  • Math 1750
  • Math 1800
  • Math 2000, 2020, or 2206

Statistics course placement recommendations include:

  • Math 1050
  • Math 1200
  • Math 1300
  • Math 1300 or 2206

In addition, students who have a mathematics placement recommendation of Math 1700 or above and have had a year of high school or college biology are allowed to take MATH 1808, Biomathematics.

If the placement information available to the Mathematics Department is not sufficient to determine an appropriate recommendation without a conversation, the initial placement recommendation will simply be “See Chair of the Mathematics Department” or “See Director of Quantitative Reasoning.” In addition, if you wish to discuss your placement into MATH 1050 please see the Director of Quantitative Reasoning.

Relevant Information about Specific Non-Calculus Courses
(Detailed descriptions of these courses, as well as the semesters they are offered, can be found in the online Course Guide.)

Math 1050: Students whose mathematical background indicates the need for additional preparation prior to enrolling in other quantitatively intense courses may be recommended 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. Students placed in MATH 1050 may also satisfy the MATH 1600 prerequisite with PHYS 1093.

Math 1200: This introductory statistics course assumes no or minimal background in calculus and statistics.

Math 1300: Biostatistics is an introduction to the statistical methods used in the life sciences, and assumes a higher level of mathematical and/or statistical background than MATH 1200.

Math 2206: Probability is a major-level math course, and also serves as the prerequisite to MATH 2606 (mathematical statistics). Students who intend to enroll in MATH 2206 and MATH 2606 should not enroll in MATH 1200 or MATH 1300. In addition, students considering a major in psychology or economics should probably refrain from enrolling in MATH 1200 or MATH 1300 since psychology and economics each have their own discipline-specific statistics courses.

Math 1808: Biomathematics is the study of mathematical modeling in biology, with a focus on translating back and forth between biological questions and their mathematical representation. 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 2000, 2020, and 2206: Students with highly advanced preparation will be recommended for MATH 2000, Linear Algebra, MATH 2020, Mathematical Reasoning, or MATH 2206, Probability. Students in this category are strongly encouraged to attend the session for advanced students during Orientation. At this session, students will learn about their full range of course options and will receive individual advice based on preparation and academic goals.

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Please review The Music department Advising Tip Sheet.

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Students interested in majoring in neuroscience should begin by taking Introductory Psychology (PYSC 1101) and/or Introductory Biology, both of which are required for the major. (Please consult 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 (BIOL 2135, fall semester) and Physiological Psychology (PSYC 2050, 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.

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There is no single “Intro” course. It’s generally good to start with a first-year seminar or a 1000-level course. Students seeking a background in the history of philosophy are advised to take PHIL 2111, Ancient Philosophy, which covers ancient Greek philosophy (pre-Socratics to Aristotle).

There are no prerequisites for 2000-level classes, and many first-year students have done well in them. However, the topics at the 2000 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.

PHIL 2223, Logic, differs from other philosophy courses in that it has problem sets and exams rather than papers. The course is a rigorous introduction to formal symbolic logic, and its aim is to help us in distinguishing valid from invalid arguments. The course does not presuppose any prior knowledge of logic, and is open to first-year students.

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Physics has a placement test to assess student readiness for PHYS 1093, Introduction to Physical Reasoning, PHYS 1130, Introduction to Physics I, or PHYS 1140, Introduction to Physics II. Students should have taken the on-line test prior to arriving on campus; but if a student has neglected to do so, the test is still available on Blackboard and should be taken as soon as possible.

PHYS 1093 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.
PHYS 1130 is the first semester of laboratory-based physics. Students in PHYS 1130 are not expected to have taken any previous physics course. Students can enroll in PHYS 1130 concurrently with MATH 1600. First-year students who concurrently enroll in PHYS 1130 and MATH 1600, or any students concerned about their level of mathematical preparation, should make themselves known to the PHYS 1130 course instructor.

PHYS 1140 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 PHYS 1140 after taking the departmental placement exam. However, such students do not get AP credit for PHYS 1130.

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The first course is PSYC 1101, Introduction to Psychology, which is prerequisite to all other psych courses (other than any first-year seminar we may be offering). A student who has a score of 4 or better on the AP exam, or a score of 5 or better on the IB Higher level exam, may skip PSYC 1101. For these students, we recommend PSYC 2010, 2020, or 2060 in the fall; or 2010, 2030, 2040, or 2050 in the spring. Although these students are also eligible to take PSYC 2510 in the fall of their first year, we strongly advise them to wait at least one semester before doing so.

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Because the Religion department at Bowdoin does not require students to take Religion 1101 in order to enroll in its intermediate or upper level courses, there is more than one entry point into the department’s curriculum.

The department consistently offers one or two first-year seminars each year 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.

REL 1101, Introduction to the Study of Religion, which is offered every fall and spring, is comparative in approach and lays out the theoretical contours of the field. Since it is an excellent preparation for intermediate and advanced courses in the department, potential majors should enroll in it as early as possible. 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 Religion department has begun to offer an additional 1000-level course every year. In the spring of 2017, this course will be Religion 1150: Introduction to the Religions of the Middle East.

Finally, first-year students are welcome to enroll in our 2000-level courses. The Religion department at Bowdoin is one of the few departments that regularly offer courses at the 2000-level in which students closely examine a particular topic or area (e.g. Christianity, Buddhism, Bible) in any one semester, and many students do begin with a 2000-level course.

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Francophone Studies:

Placement recommendations are based on information provided by the student, AP/IB scores, 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 in consultation with department faculty should they feel they have been misplaced. We 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 (FRS 1101, 2203, and 2305) being offered ONLY in the fall semester.

FRS 1101 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. Native speakers of French should consult with department faculty.

Students who received a 5 on the French AP or a 6 or 7 on the higher-level IB automatically place into the 2400 level. FRS 2407-2410 are not sequential. Students may take them in any order. 2409 and 2410 are offered in both the fall and spring semesters, while 2407 and 2408 are offered only 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 a 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.

Hispanic Studies:

Any student planning to take Spanish at Bowdoin must have taken the placement test prior to arriving on campus (available on Blackboard). If a student did not take the placement exam, s/he should consult with the Department. Students should enroll in the recommended course but may move between course levels, after consulting with instructors, during the first weeks of classes should they feel they have been misplaced. All students are required to take the placement exam in Spanish if they have taken any Spanish before. We strongly encourage students to begin their language study at Bowdoin in the fall semester, as language courses are sequential. HISP 1101, offered every fall, is exclusively for students with no previous exposure to the language (please consult with Hispanic Studies faculty if the student speaks the language at home or has studied it for at least a semester in the past). HISP 1102 and 1103 are offered in the spring semester only. HISP 2203 is normally offered in the fall semester only. One section of HISP 2204 is offered this fall, and two sections are offered every spring. Three sections of HISP 2305 are offered this fall, and at least one section is normally offered every spring. All HISP 1101-2305 courses require a one-hour-per-week discussion session in addition to the regularly scheduled classes (discussion sessions for 1101 - 1102 are determined during the second week of classes; the others are listed in the schedule of course offerings). HISP 2409 and 2410 are not sequential; they can be taken in any order.

AP/IB Credit Guidelines: Incoming students who received scores of 4 or higher in the AP Spanish exam, or 5 or higher in the IB exam, will be awarded one AP/IB credit upon completion of a course, level 2305 or higher, with a grade of B- or higher. Only one AP/IB credit may be earned per person per language.

Italian Studies:

We strongly encourage students to begin their language study at Bowdoin in the fall semester, as language courses are sequential, and the first course of the sequence (1101, 2203, and 2305) is offered ONLY in the fall semester. There is one exception: ITAL 1103, Accelerated Elementary Italian, which is offered only in the spring for students who are placed in FRS, HISP, or LATN 2305 or above, or by permission of instructor. ITAL 1103 covers two semesters of Elementary Italian in one semester, but is not double the hours or double the credit, just faster paced.

Italian students are encouraged to talk with a member of the department, should they have any questions about courses or their placement. ITAL 1101 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 exam to someone in the department as soon as possible. Incoming students will receive one course credit for an AP exam on which they score a 4 or a 5, or an upper-level IB exam on which they score a 6 or a 7 (once they have completed at least one Italian course at Bowdoin and earned a B- or above).

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RUS 1101 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 equal 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 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.

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The Sociology & Anthropology department offers several courses appropriate for any first-year student. This fall the sociologists are offering one first-year seminar, Racism (SOC 1010).  In addition, two sections of Introduction to Sociology (SOC 1101) will be offered for the fall semester and one section in the spring (2017).

In the fall the anthropologists are offering one section of Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 1101) and Everyday Life in India and Pakistan (ANTH 1138). In the spring (2017), they are offering another section of Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 1101) as well as Introduction to Archaeology (ANTH 1102). 

Neither the 1000-level courses nor the first-year seminars assume any prior work in sociology or anthropology. Students interested in taking 2000-level Sociology or Anthropology courses, including courses relevant to the health professions (public health, medicine, nursing), should take the required introductory course as soon as possible.

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Interdisciplinary Offerings within the Department:

The following courses consider performance broadly and are open to all without prerequisites: THTR/DANC 1302, Principles of Design, and THTR 1007, Performance and Theory in James Bond.


1. Those with little or no dance experience are advised to take: DANC 1101, Making Dances; DANC 1211, Modern I: Technique; DANC 1212, Modern I: Repertory and Performance; DANC 1302, Principles of Design.

2. Dance Technique and Repertory are both half-credit courses. Students may take Technique alone, or combine it with Repertory for a full credit—but NOT Repertory by itself. Dance Technique and Repertory courses may be repeated up to four times at each level.

3. Students with previous dance experience who wish to take Technique or Repertory should sign up at the intermediate level (DANC 2211-2212), or consult with the department to enter at the advanced level (DANC 3211, 3212).

4. Students who want to take a course that they were not placed in, especially studio classes, should always come to the first class meeting of the semester. There is typically some shuffling during the first week of the semester as students move between classes to find their appropriate level.


In addition to the Interdisciplinary Offerings (above) students without previous theater experience will be interested in THTR 1201, Acting I.  In addition they may audition (in the fall) for THTR 1700, Production and Performance, which is a .5 credit course involving performance in faculty-directed work. 

Students interested in acting are encouraged to follow the performance track of THTR 1201, 2201, and 2202 order to be able to later enroll in 3000-level performance courses. Any 1000-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.

Considered as a whole, the courses listed here expose students to many aspects of the art form, including scripting and structuring, performance, design, and direction.  They excite the theatrical imagination and provide an excellent foundation for future work.

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We advise anyone considering a Visual Arts major or minor, or a joint major involving Visual Arts, to take VART 1101, Drawing 1, as soon as possible, but any other course with a number between 1100 and 1999 is a good place to begin.

Any of our introductory courses in Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, Digital Media, or Sculpture are the ones we recommend to all students regardless of their previous experience in visual art. These courses have no prerequisites and presume no previous knowledge or aptitude beforehand, only a strong interest in the subject and the willingness to work. We welcome wholeheartedly students that have never taken any visual art classes.

Students are advised to sign up for our introductory courses early in their tenure at the college. The courses almost always fill and can be hard to get into.

We often get requests from students who have AP credits or previous experience asking if they can waive Drawing I or other intro courses, which we strongly discourage and rarely permit.

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