Academic Program


Haverford is a liberal arts college, and its curriculum is designed to help its students develop the capacity to learn, to understand, to think critically, 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

A Liberal Arts 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:

  • First Year Writing Requirement

    As an essential tool for academic study, personal expression, and civic life, writing deserves concerted attention in a liberal arts 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.

  • Language Requirement

    Proficiency in a language other than one’s own, 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 languages other than English.

    For all these reasons, Haverford College requires all of its students to complete two semesters of college-level study of a language other than English by the end of the junior year. This requirement may be satisfied in one of the following three ways:

    1. One full year of language study in one language at the level in which the student is placed by the appropriate Haverford College language department; or
    2. Language study in a course conducted under Haverford College’s approved International Study Abroad Programs, and as certified in advance by the Chair of the relevant language department at either Haverford College or Bryn Mawr College or by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) when the language has no counter department at either Haverford or Bryn Mawr; or
    3. 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 Chair of a Haverford or Bryn Mawr language department.

    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. Except as noted above, this requirement may not be fulfilled by language study in a summer school. One full academic year of language study is the minimum requirement, and language courses do not satisfy the Divisional Requirement.

    It is important to note, finally, that this requirement is effective beginning with the entering class of 2016. Members of previously admitted classes should consult the 2011-2012 College Catalog, which describes the options open to them for fulfilling this requirement.

  • Divisional 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.

    All courses taken Pass/Fail may be converted to a numerical grade if a student chooses to uncover the numerical grade on her/his transcript. Any course for which a numerical grade is recorded—even if initially taken Pass/Fall—may count towards the fulfillment of requirements in a student’s major, minor, or concentration; the quantitative requirement; the divisional requirement; and the language requirement.

  • Quantitative Requirement

    Quantitative reasoning is an extremely important skill. The impact of science and technology in the modern world 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 that satisfy this requirement are indicated in the College course guide. The quantitative requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the junior year.

    It is important to note again that all courses taken Pass/Fail may be converted to a numerical grade if a student chooses to uncover the numerical grade on her/his transcript. Any course for which a numerical grade is recorded—even if initially taken Pass/Fall—may count towards the fulfillment of requirements in a student’s major, minor, or concentration; the quantitative requirement; distribution requirement; and the language requirement.

  • 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 Chair of the department 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 Chair of the major department 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 declaration form signed by the Chair of the major department. 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 requires that at least 19 of the 32 course credits required for graduation 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 four 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.
    4. This limitation does not apply to double majors, but such students must still earn a certain minimum number of course credits outside the two majors. The number of course credits outside the majors will depend on the number of credits required for the double major.
  • Credit Requirement

    To graduate from Haverford College, a student must complete successfully the equivalent of four years of academic work, or a minimum of 32 course credits. Eight of these 32 course credits must be taken on the Haverford College campus.

  • Physical Education Requirement

    All students at Haverford are required to participate in the physical education program during their first two years of College in partial fulfillment of their degree.

    For physical education purposes, the academic year is divided into four quarters. Students must complete six quarters of physical education, one of which is the “Intro To Fitness” class, prior to the start of junior year. “Intro To Fitness” covers a wide variety of material designed to provide students with the knowledge needed to incorporate fitness and proper nutrition into their lives at Haverford and beyond.

    Varsity athletes who complete their in-season fitness workouts under the supervision of the Head Coach and Fitness Center Director will satisfy the “Intro To Fitness” requirement. Alternative methods to satisfy the physical education requirement are available for students with medical conditions preventing exercise. The physical education requirement does not carry academic credit.

  • Special Majors

    Students with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.50 may design an independent major. Such majors must have the approval of the Committee on Student Standing and Programs (CSSP). Furthermore, a member of the Haverford or Bryn Mawr 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.

    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. However,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.

  • Areas of Concentration

    Students are strongly encouraged to elect an area of concentration at the same time they declare 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 corresponding 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 a Concentration Coordinator who may consult with an advisory group for that concentration. Of the six course credits, no fewer than two and no more than three will also form part of the student’s major.

    Haverford College currently offers the following areas of concentration: Africana and African Studies, Biochemistry and Biophysics, Computer Science, Education and Educational Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Latin American, Iberian and Latino Studies, Mathematical Economics, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Peace, Justice and Human Rights, and Scientific Computing. These are described in the Haverford College catalog. A concentration in Creative Writing is available at Bryn Mawr College.

    A concentration is not required for the Bachelor of Arts degree or the Bachelor of Science degree.

  • Minors

    Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary minors are currently offered at Haverford College in the following fields: Anthropology, Astronomy, Chemistry, Chinese, Classical Culture and Society, Comparative Literature, Computer Science, East Asian Studies, Economics, Education and Educational Studies, Environmental Studies, Fine Arts, French, Gender and Sexuality Studies, German, Greek, Health Studies, Japanese, Latin, Linguistics, Mathematics, Music, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology, Russian, Sociology, and Spanish.

    These are described under the entries for individual departments, programs and areas of concentration in the Haverford College Catalog; minors offered at Bryn Mawr are described in the Bryn Mawr College Undergraduate 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 (CSSP).

Academic Regulations Guidebook

For more information on Academic Regulations and Special Academic Programs, please consult the full Guidebook (pdf).

Download the Guidebook