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Haverford College
Haverford College Course Catalog

Course Catalog: Academic Program

Credit RequirementDepartmental Major RequirementDistribution RequirementsForeign Language RequirementFreshman Writing RequirementGuidelines For Liberal EducationPhysical Education RequirementQuantitative RequirementSpecial MajorsAreas of ConcentrationMinors


Haverford is a liberal arts college. Its curriculum is designed to help its students develop the capacity to learn, to understand, and to make sound and thoughtful judgments. The Requirements for the Degree encourage the exercise of these skills in each of the broad fields of human knowledge and a fuller development of them in a single field of concentration.

Guidelines For Liberal Education

Liberal education requires a sense of the breadth of human inquiry and creativity. The human mind has explored the myriad facets of our physical and social environments; it has produced compelling works of art, literature, and philosophy. Every student is encouraged to engage a full range of disciplines—fine arts, the written word, empirical investigation, economy and society—in order to become a broadly educated person. As a step toward this goal, students must fulfill the following requirements:

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First Year Writing Requirement

As an essential tool for academic study, personal expression, and civic life, writing deserves concerted attention in a liberal education. A one-semester writing seminar, a general degree requirement of the College, must be taken by all first-year students. Writing seminars are courses that integrate writing instruction with intellectual inquiry into particular disciplinary or topical foci. They devote attention to strategies for performing critical analysis, constructing sound arguments, and crafting effective prose. WS-T (topically organized) and WS-D (academic discipline based) seminars are offered in both semesters. WS-I sections, taught in the fall semester, do not alone fulfill the writing requirement but serve as preparation for WS-T or WS-D courses in the spring semester. Students are advised to take other courses as well in which writing receives substantial attention.

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Foreign Language Requirement

Proficiency in a foreign language, ancient or modern, serves many ends. It deepens an appreciation of one's own language, increases sensitivity and understanding of the nature of language itself, and enables the student to gain a far more intimate understanding of different cultures than is possible through translations. Further, with regard to specific disciplinary ends, many graduate programs require a reading knowledge of at least two foreign languages.

For all these reasons, Haverford College requires that all students demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language. Proficiency may be acquired and/or demonstrated in any one of the following ways in order to fulfill this degree requirement, which must be completed by the end of the junior year:/p>

  1. An Advanced Placement score of 4 or 5; or
  2. A score of 600 or higher on a language achievement test of the College Entrance Examination Board; or
  3. One full year of language study in one language at the level in which the student is placed by the Haverford language department; or
  4. Language study in a summer program administered by Bryn Mawr College in the country of the language if that program is an intensive, total-immersion program, fully equivalent to a full year of language study, and certified as such by the chairperson of a Haverford or Bryn Mawr language department; or
  5. Language study in a semester or year-long course abroad conducted in the language of the country under Haverford College's approved International Study Abroad Programs, and as certified in advance by the relevant language department chair at either Haverford or Bryn Mawr, or the Educational Policy Committee when the language has no counter department at either Haverford or Bryn Mawr.

Language courses may be taken at Haverford or at any of the cooperating colleges: Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and with advisor and registrar permission, the University of Pennsylvania. The Haverford department, however, must determine placement. Other restrictions which apply to the language requirement are as follows:

Language courses taken to fulfill the language requirement do not meet divisional distribution requirements; and

Courses taken to fulfill the language requirement may not be taken NNG at Haverford, CR/NCR at Bryn Mawr or Swarthmore, or P/F at the University of Pennsylvania.

Students for whom English is not their first language should see their deans in order to determine whether they have fulfilled their language requirement.

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Distribution Requirements

In addition to fulfilling the writing and foreign language requirements noted above, students are required to complete a minimum of three course credits in each of the three divisions of the curriculum: humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. At least two departments in each division must be represented, and one of the nine course credits must be quantitative as described below. Courses meeting the distribution requirements may not be taken NNG, CR/NCR, or P/F.

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Quantitative Requirement

Quantitative reasoning is an extremely important skill. The impact of science and technology in our century has been enormous. Today, those who lack the ability to apply elementary quantitative methods to the world around them are at a severe disadvantage. Therefore, students must successfully complete at least one course credit which focuses on quantitative reasoning. Quantitative courses provide experience in some of the following:

  1. elementary statistical reasoning;
  2. other widely applicable types of mathematical reasoning;
  3. working with, manipulating, and judging the reliability of quantitative data;
  4. generating and understanding graphical relationships; and
  5. representing theoretical ideas in mathematical language and using mathematics to obtain concrete numerical predictions about natural or social systems.

These and other courses which satisfy this requirement are so indicated in this catalog. The quantitative requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the junior year and may not be taken NNG, CR/NCR, or P/F.

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Departmental Major Requirement

Each student must meet the requirements for a departmental, interdepartmental, or independent major program. During the fourth semester of attendance, or earlier only in the case of transfer students, all students should confer with the major supervisors of the departments in which they wish to major and apply for written approval of a program of courses for their final four semesters. Such programs must provide for the completion, by the end of the senior year, of approximately 12 course credits or the equivalent, at least six of which must be in the major department and the others in closely related fields. Students are accepted into major programs according to the following rules:

  1. Acceptance is automatic with an earned average of 2.7 or above in preliminary courses in the department concerned;
  2. Acceptance is at the discretion of the major supervisor if the average in such courses falls between 2.0 and 2.7;
  3. Acceptance is rare but may be contingent upon further work in the department if the average falls below 2.0;
  4. A student who is not accepted as a major by any department will not be permitted to continue at the College.

Students who have been formally accepted as majors by any department have the right to remain in that department as long as they are making satisfactory progress in the major. Each student is expected to file with the registrar by the date specified in the academic calendar, a copy of his/her major program signed by the major supervisor. Haverford students may major at Bryn Mawr College on the same terms as those that apply to Bryn Mawr students and at Swarthmore College, with the proper permissions. The College affirms the responsibility of each department to make the work in the major field as comprehensive as possible for the student. There is need, in the senior year especially, to challenge the student's powers of analysis and synthesis and to foster the creative use of the knowledge and skills that have been acquired in previous studies. There is also the need to evaluate the performance of the senior in the major field, not only to safeguard the academic standards of the College, but also to help the student's self-evaluation at an important moment. In short, synthesis and evaluation in some form are both essential and may be achieved by various means as specified by the major departments in their statement of major requirements:

  1. A Senior departmental study course culminating in a comprehensive exam; or
  2. A thesis or advanced project paper; or
  3. A course or courses specially designed or designated; or
  4. Some combination of these or other means.

To avoid undue specialization in a major program, the College permits no more than thirteen course credits listed in a single department to be counted toward a major in that department. It is important to note that in light of the rule of thirteen, the College further requires that of the 32 course credits required for graduation, at least nineteen course credits must be taken outside of a student's major field of study. For this purpose, courses that are cross-listed in several departments are considered to be outside the major field of study. There are three exceptions to this limitation:

  1. The limitation does not apply to certain majors at Bryn Mawr College;
  2. The limitation does not apply to majors in the classics department; and
  3. The limitation does not apply to those students who study abroad in programs, such as those at Cambridge or Oxford, where reading in one subject for the entire year is the norm.

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Special Majors

A student who has demonstrated unusual maturity and who has special interests and abilities may be permitted to arrange an interdepartmental major. At the time the major is selected, the program of courses and the nature of the comprehensive examination will be worked out by the student in consultation with, and subject to the approval of, the chairpersons of the departments concerned, one of whom will be designated as major supervisor for that student. Unlike the option of the double major described below, only one senior thesis or project is required in such a program. The permission of the Committee on Student Standing and Programs is also required for an interdepartmental major.

Students with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.50 may double major by completing the entire requirements of both majors, including thesis requirements. In order to double major, the student must obtain permission from the appropriate dean and the chairpersons of both departments. When deemed appropriate by the two departments, a single thesis may satisfy the thesis requirements of both majors. But a single thesis submitted for a double major may not be used to reduce either the amount or quality of work typically required by each major program. The single thesis option may be undertaken only with the written agreement of both departments.

A student, finally, may design an independent major or incorporate an area of concentration within an interdisciplinary major. Such majors must have the approval of the Committee on Student Standing and Programs. Furthermore, a member of the Haverford College faculty must serve as the student's advisor and also must agree to supervise the student's senior project or thesis. Students interested in pursuing an independent major at Bryn Mawr College must still apply through Haverford's Committee on Student Standing and Programs and not directly to Bryn Mawr College.

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Credit Requirement

To graduate from Haverford, a student must complete successfully the equivalent of four years of academic work, or a minimum of 32 course credits, 24 of which may be taken at Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, or the University of Pennsylvania during the academic year, and eight of which must be taken at Haverford College on the Haverford campus.

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Physical Education Requirement

All students at Haverford are required to participate in some area of the physical education program during their first two years at the College in partial fulfillment of the degree. For physical education purposes, the academic year is divided into four quarters, of which students must successfully complete six quarters within the first two years. Alternative means to satisfy this requirement are available for students with medical conditions preventing exercise. Students should complete their physical education requirement before registering for their fifth semester. All cases of failure to fulfill the requirement will be reviewed by the dean and the director of athletics. No student will be permitted to graduate without satisfying this requirement, which is designed to assure exposure to a program from which students may choose wisely those forms of activity which will promote physical welfare and recreational satisfaction during college and beyond. The physical education requirement does not carry with it academic credit.

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Areas of Concentration

An area of concentration must be elected the same time a student declares a major: that is, during the fourth semester of attendance. As with the major, earlier elections are not permitted.

Areas of concentration exist at Haverford in order to afford students a formal opportunity to pursue an area of study distinct from, but relevant to, their choice of major. Students who undertake such study select their concentration courses from among the existing courses offered by the departments, including the department of independent college programs.

To fulfill an area of concentration, a student must normally complete six course credits selected with the aid of an informal faculty committee for that concentration, drawn from at least two departments of the College. Of the six course credits, no fewer than two and no more than three of them will also form part of the student's major. In this respect, concentrations differ from the traditional minor, which is conducted entirely within one single department other than the student's major department, and which may be wholly unrelated to that department.

Haverford College currently offers the following areas of concentration: African and Africana studies, Biochemistry and Biophysics, Computer Science, Education and Educational Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Latin American and Iberian Studies, Mathematical Economics, Neural and Behavioral Sciences, Peace and Conflict Studies, Peace, Justice, and Human Rights, and Scientific Computing. These are described in the catalog under Courses of Instruction with other curricular offerings. Concentrations in Creative Writing and Environmental Studies are available at Bryn Mawr College.

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Many departments and academic programs at both Haverford and Bryn Mawr offer minors, the completion of which will be indicated on the student's transcript. These are described under the entries for individual departments, programs and areas of concentration in this Catalog and in the Bryn Mawr College Catalog. The minor is not required for the Bachelor of Arts degree or the Bachelor of Science degree.

As with majors, students may design independent areas of concentration (related to the major) or minors. These programs require the approval of the Committee on Student Standing and Programs. A member of the Haverford College faculty must serve as the student's advisor for these options.

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