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Requirements for the Degree

For Students Matriculating Fall 2024 through Spring 2025

Dickinson offers a rich educational experience.  Students learn key skills at the core of the liberal arts and sciences including inquiry and analysis, critical thinking, creativity, effective written and oral communication, information literacy, problem solving, and integrative and applied learning.  We also strive to make our students responsive to emerging new knowledge and the challenges of the day.  Our curriculum places the liberal arts and sciences within a contemporary context.  

Above all, our students acquire the ability to learn how to learn, to apply the multifaceted capacities engendered by a liberal arts and science education innovatively in a rapidly changing, complex world.  Students enjoy independence to craft individual educational programs.  They are encouraged to find their own voices and to develop a sense of purpose as learners and citizens.  The ability to follow their own interests enhances students’ intellectual curiosity and engagement, builds capacity for lifelong learning and inculcates a sense of accountability for decisions.  

The academic program at Dickinson can be envisioned in terms of three dimensions.  The first is composed of elements infused across the curriculum.  These elements include critical thinking, and pedagogical approaches, such as active learning, research and internship possibilities or interdisciplinary work.  Our faculty are innovative, providing a range of programming and pedagogy that enriches our students’ learning.  

The second dimension is constituted by an enviable set of majors, certificates, minors, and off-campus study options.  Our requirement for a major concentration of study in one area ensures that each student engages in complex levels of intellectual examination and inquiry.

Finally, there is a third dimension of the curriculum made up of experiences which we believe are essential to a Dickinson liberal arts education for all students – our general requirements for the degree.   

1. General requirements for the degree:
The requirements include an opportunity for students to focus on two specific skills: writing and quantitative reasoning.   Regardless of the specific path one chooses, it is necessary to be able to write well.  Therefore, we require two courses – the first-year seminar and writing in the discipline – where students can develop and refine their writing.   Because quantitative information is all around us, students must develop the ability to critically evaluate that information so that they can make informed decisions.  

First-Year Seminar:  The First-Year Seminar introduces students to Dickinson as a "community of inquiry" by developing habits of mind essential to liberal learning. “Seminar” indicates that there will be discussion and interaction among students and between students and their professor.  Through the study of a compelling issue or broad topic chosen by their faculty member, students will develop skills in the areas of critical analysis, writing, and information literacy.  All students are required to pass the First-Year Seminar with a D- or better in order to graduate, with the exception of transfer students who have taken an equivalent course, as determined by the Director of the Writing Program in consultation with the Subcommittee on Writing. This course does not duplicate in content any other course in the curriculum and may not be used to fulfill any other graduation requirement. 

Writing in the Discipline (WiD): The Writing in the Discipline course builds on the writing and information literacy skills learned in First-Year Seminar.  Preferably completed in the major or other related field, a Writing in the Discipline Course (WiD) offers students direct instruction and pracice in writing beyond the First-Year Seminar. Students will learn to (as approved by faculty December 2007):

  • identify and demonstrate discipline-specific writing conventions;
  • understand that writing is a recursive process and develop an effective writing process.

First-year seminars, senior seminars/theses/colloquium courses and independent study/research courses at the 500-level (i.e., 500: independent study; 550: independent research; 560: student-faculty collaborative research) are not eligible for a WiD designation.

Quantitative Reasoning Course (QR): Quantitative Reasoning courses teach students to effectively use, explore, analyze and communicate with numbers, data, and logical statements consistently throughout the course content. Both words are carefully chosen: "quantitative" suggests having to do with numbers and relations and logic, while "reasoning" refers to the creation and interpretation of arguments. Courses that focus on the analysis of and drawing of inductive inferences from quantitative data, as well as courses that concentrate on the formulation of deductive and analytical arguments, can satisfy this requirement.

2. Distribution Courses: The challenges and opportunities facing our students require complex and sophisticated responses.  Therefore, we require courses that introduce students to the special nature of inquiry in each of the four fundamental branches of the academic curriculum:  the arts, the humanities, the social sciences, and the laboratory sciences.   Normally, the expectation is that distribution courses will be completed by the end of the sophomore year.‚Äč

Arts: Courses that fulfill the arts requirement allow students to explore the nature of art, both past and present, as a distinct form of human communication.  This occurs through the specific mediums of dance, film, music, theatre, visual arts, and creative writing.  NOTE: Two half-credits of performance studies in the same instrument; four semesters of the same music ensemble; OR two half-credits of dance, one in Movement and one in the genre of their choosing will satisfy the requirement.

Humanities: Courses that fulfill the humanities requirement allow students to understand, explore, analyze and interpret the historical, cultural, and philosophical dimensions of human experience.  This occurs through focused analysis of texts, narratives, rituals and/or other media as well as philosophical argumentation.  

Social Sciences: Courses that fulfill the social sciences requirement allow students to explore the ways that human beings actively shape the social world, and social and/or cultural   processes shape human experiences.  This occurs through examining the social and/or cultural components of human experiences through analysis and interpretation of people, structures, ideas, and institutions. 

Laboratory Science: Courses that fulfill the laboratory science requirement allow students to understand the natural processes that govern Earth and its inhabitants, as well as the universe.  This occurs through systematic observations and experimentation, formation and verification of theories, and computational methods in a laboratory setting.

3. Cross-cultural studies: The college requires three different types of course work to familiarize students with the ways in which the diversity of human cultures has shaped our world. In an interdependent world, students must be aware of the breadth of voices, perspectives, experiences, values, and cultures that constitute the rich tapestry of life and history.  

Languages: Courses that fulfill the language requirement allow students to expand their horizons and reflect on their own worldview through the understanding of others, as well as through a grasp of the complex relationship between language and culture. This occurs by obtaining intermediate level skills which will prepare them to be immersed in another language and culture.  

This includes languages not currently taught at Dickinson College, including American Sign Language. Fulfillment of this requirement may take the form of college-level courses for which credit is earned at Dickinson (or transferred from another institution) or through certification based on approved testing without the posting of college credit. Intermediate language courses for which credit is posted may not fulfill any other general or distribution requirements at the college, except the sustainability requirement. Students for whom English is not their native language, may be able to use English to fulfill this requirement. No exemptions of the language requirement will be provided.

U.S. Diversity: Courses that fulfill the U.S. diversity requirement allow students to explore the ways in which diversity has enriched and complicated people’s lives by examining the intersections of two or more of the following categories of identity in the United States: race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, and/or disability. This occurs by considering people’s lived experiences as members of dominant and subordinated groups, this course equips students to engage a complex, diverse United States.

Global Diversity: In the U.S., dominant intellectual and cultural traditions derive primarily from Europe. Courses that fulfill the global diversity requirement encourage students to examine societies and cultures that have been shaped predominantly by other historical traditions.

4. Sustainability: Rapid climatic, environmental, social and economic changes present complex and interdependent challenges and opportunities for equitably and sustainably meeting the needs and improving the wellbeing of present and future generations. The causes and consequences of the changes, and responsibilities and capacities for responding, are widely but not equally shared. Students are required to take one course that explores questions about sustainability challenges and opportunities, drawing on the knowledge and approaches of the arts and humanities, social sciences and/or natural sciences.  To fulfill this requirement, students must complete one course coded as either Sustainability Connections – SCON or Sustainability Investigation – SINV): 

Sustainability Investigations courses engage students in deep and focused exploration of sustainability.  
Sustainability Connections courses build competencies and knowledge in a field that is relevant to understanding sustainability and apply them to a sustainability issue.

5. Major: Students must complete all requirements for a major. Majors consist of 10 to 16 courses. See the "Courses of Study" section below for the list of majors available to students.

The major is normally selected during the spring of the student's sophomore year. The departments determine the student's acceptance as a major upon the basis of stated criteria. The department assigns the accepted student to an advisor, using the student's preference as one of the bases for assignment. A student must be accepted for a major field of concentration by the time they earn junior standing. A student who does not have a declaration of a major on file in the Registrar's Office by the end of the semester in which the sixteenth course (counting towards the degree) is completed may be required to withdraw from the college.

The student may also elect a minor field of study which usually consists of six courses of academic work specified by the department offering the minor. If a student completes a minor in one or more fields of concentration, this fact will be noted on the permanent record when the degree is posted.

If a student intends to major in more than one department, approval must be secured from each department. This student must develop a program in consultation with both departments, and therefore must be advised jointly by a member from each department and must secure approval of both advisors. The same course may be counted for more than one major except for courses under the self-developed major program. However, a student will receive only one degree.

Students who wish at any time to change a major must be accepted by the new department in accordance with normal procedures for declaring a major.


  • It is the responsibility of the student to choose and satisfactorily complete courses that fulfill the requirements for graduation.
  • All students must complete the general course requirements as described above.  Be aware of the following restrictions:
    • A single course may be used to fulfill a distribution requirement in only one of the four fundamental branches of the academic curriculum (the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Laboratory Sciences). 
    • A single course that fulfills a distribution requirement and another requirement may be used to fulfill each requirement, but counts as only one of the 32 required for graduation. The following exception applies: A course that fulfills both the laboratory science and quantitative reasoning (QR) may fulfill only one or the other.
  • Students must complete a major, the specific requirements for each are listed in the sections describing the courses of study. 
  • Only those students who have completed all requirements for the degree are eligible to participate in the Commencement ceremony each May. 
  • A student must pass 32 courses with a cumulative average of 2.00. 
  • A student must complete a minimum of 16 courses on campus; twelve courses must be completed on campus after the student has matriculated and has declared a major. The final four courses or six of the last eight courses immediately preceding graduation must be completed on campus. To be considered "on campus" a student must be registered for a numbered course at Dickinson and must be physically on the Dickinson campus for this course work.
  • Diplomas reflect the degree earned, not the major(s). The academic transcript will indicate the degree awarded, the major(s) completed as well as any minors and certificates.
  • Students who complete multiple majors will earn a single degree and one diploma.


Latin Honors: A student in any field who attains an average of 3.90 - 4.00 in the total program at Dickinson College shall be awarded the degree summa cum laude. A student who attains an average of 3.70 - 3.89 in the total program at Dickinson College shall be awarded the degree magna cum laude. A student who attains an average of 3.50 - 3.69 in the total program at Dickinson College shall be awarded the degree cum laude.

Academic Honorary Societies: The Pennsylvania Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Dickinson College on April 13, 1887. Election to membership is the highest academic honor available to a Dickinson student. To be considered, a student must first satisfy specific criteria (GPA, total number of courses, number of Dickinson graded courses) set for each of the two elections held annually. For each class, the number of students considered does not exceed 10 percent of the total number graduating in the class. Student members are elected primarily on the basis of academic achievement, broad cultural interests, and good character.

Alpha Lambda Delta, chartered at Dickinson in 1989, is a national academic honor society for students who have high academic achievement during their first year in college.

The National Society of Leadership and Success was chartered at Dickinson in 2018.  Sophomore students with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher are eligible for nomination.  Those who are inducted can reap the benefits of membership well beyond graduation, with access to scholarships and awards, job and internship placement resources, custom recommendations, professional communication training and an extensive nationwide network. 

Additionally the following honor societies recognize achievement in a specific field of study:  Eta Sigma Phi (Classics), Phi Alpha Theta (History), Pi Delta Phi (French), Delta Phi Alpha (German), Pi Mu Epsilon (Mathematics), Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science), Psi Chi (Psychology), Sigma Beta Delta (International Honor Society in Business Management & Administration), Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish), Sigma Iota Rho (International Studies), Sigma Pi Sigma (Physics), Upsilon Pi Epsilon (Computer Science), Kappa Delta Pi (Education).

See Dean's List at Academic Policies and Procedures

See Honors in the Major at Special Approaches to Study and individual department majors.

Courses of Study

Students may elect either of two broad approaches to the curriculum: the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science. General graduation requirements are the same in either case. Only those students with a major in one of the natural or mathematical sciences may choose the Bachelor of Science rather than Bachelor of Arts, but the requirements for the major are the same in either case. Regardless of the number or type of majors a student completes, each student earns only one degree. Students also study in some depth at least one disciplined approach to knowledge. Dickinson students, therefore, develop a concentration in a major. The arts and humanities provide 12 such concentrations; in the social sciences there are seven concentrations; the natural and mathematical sciences provide six. These 25 disciplinary majors represent the basic academic disciplines that outline the liberal arts. They are complemented by 22 interdisciplinary majors and six interdisciplinary certification programs.

Major fields of concentration offered are (those that also offer a minor are indicated with an asterisk): Africana Studies*, American Studies*, Anthropology*, Archaeology*, Art & Art History*, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Biology*, Chemistry*, Chinese*, Classical Studies*, Computer Science*, Dance*, Dance & Music, Data Analytics, East Asian Studies, Economics*, Educational Studies*, English*, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, French and Francophone Studies*, Geosciences*, German*, History*, International Business & Management, International Studies, Italian Studies, Japanese*, Judaic Studies*, Latin American, Latinx & Caribbean Studies*, Law and Policy, Mathematics*, Medieval & Early Modern Studies*, Middle East Studies, Music*, Neuroscience, Philosophy*, Physics*,  Political Science*, Psychology*, Quantitative Economics, Religion*, Russian*, Sociology*, Spanish and Portuguese  Studies*, Theatre Arts*, and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies*.

In addition, minors are offered in some areas for which we do not have a major. These are: Arabic, Astronomy, Creative Writing, Ethics, Film and Media Studies, Italian, Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, and Sexuality Studies.

Certificate programs can be completed in Food Studies, Health Studies, Security Studies, Army ROTC Global Preparedness, and Dickinson College’s Ballet Certificate Program with Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.