2013-2014 Undergraduate Catalog



Thirty-two units of work are required for the A.B. degree. These must include:

  • One Emily Balch Seminar.
  • One unit to meet the quantitative skills requirement.
  • Work to demonstrate the required level of proficiency in foreign language.
  • Six units to meet the divisional requirements.
  • A major subject sequence.
  • Elective units of work to complete an undergraduate program.

In addition, all students must complete eight half-semesters of physical education, successfully complete a swim proficiency test and meet the residency requirement.

Emily Balch Seminar Requirement

The aim of the Emily Balch Seminar is to engage students in careful examination of fundamental issues and debates. By encouraging focused discussion and cogent writing, the seminars help prepare students for a modern world that demands critical thinking both within and outside of the frameworks of particular disciplines. Students who matriculated prior to the fall of 2009 complete one College Seminar to satisfy this requirement. Students who matriculate in the fall of 2009 or thereafter complete one Emily Balch Seminar to satisfy this requirement. Students must attain a grade of 2.0 or higher in the seminar in order to satisfy this requirement.

Quantitative Requirement

Before the start of the senior year, each student must have demonstrated competence in college-level mathematics or quantitative skills by:

  • Passing with an honor grade an Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate (higher level) or A-level examination in mathematics or
  • Passing one course (1 unit) with a grade of at least 2.0 from those designated with a “Q”in the Tri-Co Course Guide.

The purpose of the quantitative requirement is to provide the Bryn Mawr graduate with the competence to evaluate and manage the wide array of information underlying many of the decisions she will make as an individual and as a member of society. The range of potentially useful quantitative skills is extensive and cannot be covered by any individual course. However, a single course can give the student an appreciation of the value of quantitative analysis as well as increase the facility and confidence with which she uses quantitative skills in her later academic, professional and private roles.

A course meeting the quantitative requirement will provide the student with the skills to estimate and check answers to quantitative problems in order to determine reasonableness, identify alternatives and select optimal results. Such a course is designed to help students develop a coherent set of quantitative skills that become progressively more sophisticated and can be transferred to other contexts. In all cases, courses meeting the quantitative requirement will have rigor consistent with the academic standards of the department(s) in which they are located.

Students who matriculated in the fall of 2002 or thereafter may count a single course or exam towards both the quantitative requirement and a divisional requirement, so long as that course is identified as Q and Division I, II, or III in the Tri-Co Course Guide.

Foreign Language Requirement

Bryn Mawr recognizes the inherent intellectual value and fundamental societal importance of acquiring a level of proficiency in the use of one or more foreign languages. The study of foreign languages serves a number of convergent curricular and student interests, including the appreciation of cultural differences, a global perspective across academic disciplines, cognitive insights into the workings of language systems, and alternative models of perceiving and processing human experience.

Before the start of the senior year, each student must have demonstrated knowledge of one foreign language by:

  • Passing a proficiency test offered by the College every spring and fall or
  • Attaining a score of at least 690 in a language achievement test of the College Entrance Examination Board, or by passing with an honor grade an Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate (higher level) or A-level test or
  • Completing at the College two courses (two units) above the elementary level with an average grade of at least 2.0 or a grade of at least 2.0 in the second course or
  • For a non-native speaker of English who has demonstrated proficiency in her native language, one College Seminar and one writing-intensive course.

Divisional Requirements

Before the start of the senior year, each student must have completed, with grades of 2.0 or higher, two units in the social sciences (Division I), two units in the natural sciences and mathematics (Division II), and two units in the humanities (Division III). Courses satisfying these requirements are marked “I,” “II,”or “III” in the Tri-Co Course Guide. Courses identified as interdivisional, e.g. “I or III,” may be used by a student to satisfy either one—but not both—of the appropriate divisional requirements. Only one of the two units used to satisfy any divisional requirement may be such an interdivisional course.

At least one required unit in Division II must be a laboratory course, designated “IIL” in the Tri-Co Course Guide. One unit of performance in music, dance or theater or one unit of studio art may be used to fulfill one of the two course requirements in the humanities. A student may not use courses in her major subject to satisfy requirements in more than one division, unless the courses are cross-listed in other departments. Only one of the two units used to satisfy any divisional requirement may be fulfilled by tests such as the Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or A levels taken on work done before entering Bryn Mawr.

The goal of the divisional requirements is to increase the breadth and variety of the student’s intellectual experience at the College. The divisions represented in these requirements describe not only different aspects of human experience, but also characteristic methods of approach. Although any division of knowledge is imperfect, the current divisions—the social sciences, the natural sciences and mathematics, and the humanities—have the advantage of being specific while still broad enough to allow the student a good deal of flexibility in planning her coursework.

Social Sciences (Division I)

The social sciences are concerned with human social behavior; the motivations, institutions and processes that shape this behavior; and the outcomes of this behavior for different groups and individuals. Areas of inquiry include such wide-ranging topics as policy-making, cultural change, revolutions, poverty and wealth, generational conflict and international relations. The social sciences provide the student with a set of theoretical frameworks with which to organize her analysis of these substantive areas. At the same time, they offer a set of methodological tools with which to test empirically—in the uncontrolled laboratory of the real world—the hypotheses that these frameworks generate.

Natural Sciences and Mathematics (Division II)

Knowledge of the physical world is a fundamental part of human experience; understanding the workings of nature is essential to our lives. To achieve this understanding, the student should be familiar with the concepts and techniques of the natural sciences as well as mathematics, the language of science. This understanding must go beyond a knowledge of scientific facts to include a facility with the scientific method and the techniques of scientific inquiry, logical reasoning and clear exposition of results.

Humanities (Division III)

The humanities encompass the histories, philosophies, religions and arts of different cultural groups, as well as the various theoretical and practical modes of their investigation and evaluation. In humanities courses, the student creates and/or interprets many different kinds of artifacts, compositions, monuments, and texts that are and have been valued by human cultures throughout the world.