Learning Goals for College of Arts and Sciences Students
Oberlin College seeks to cultivate in our students the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will guide and motivate them at college and throughout their lives. Deeply committed to academic excellence, the College of Arts and Sciences offers a rich and balanced curriculum in the humanities, creative arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics. Within that framework, students work closely with faculty, advisors, and the instructional staff to design an educational program appropriate to their specific interests, needs, and long-term goals.
Students who pursue a degree at Oberlin will:
Deepen their understanding of specific fields while building their capacity to create new knowledge, approaches, or creative work in those areas.
Broaden their knowledge of and appreciation for the variety of ways that knowledge is and has been constructed, including but not limited to the scientific, humanistic, aesthetic, and behavioral fields of study.
Analyze arguments on the basis of evidence and an understanding of the context in which evidence is produced.
Develop skills to understand, appreciate and participate in the creative process.
Develop skills to communicate with diverse audiences, employing a variety of approaches, media, and languages.
Develop a critical understanding of the historical and cultural factors that underlie difference and inequality in U.S. and global societies.
Collaborate to solve problems, generate fresh questions, create new knowledge and advance community goals.
Develop an enduring commitment to acting in the world to further social justice, deepen democracy, and build a sustainable future.
Cultivate those habits that support healthy and sustainable living, responsible and empathetic interactions with others, and a capacity for self-reflection and contemplation.
The BA Degree
Liberal arts education stands at the center of undergraduate work in the College of Arts and Sciences, and is the basis of the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. In order to earn a BA degree or pursue a major in Arts and Sciences, a student must be enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences are dedicated to the liberal arts model of excellent teaching combined with ongoing engagement in scholarship and creative work. The Oberlin curriculum is notable for its extensive involvement with inherited and evolving forms of knowledge, including interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge. For a full listing of the courses offered within the College of Arts and Sciences, see the Courses section of the catalog.
Students in the College of Arts and Sciences, working closely with faculty advisors and following the requirements below, take responsibility for their education in designing an educational program appropriate to their interests, needs, and long-term goals. Their educational program will emphasize both breadth and depth.
Oberlin’s curriculum exploration requirement supports breadth by introducing students to a range of scholarly approaches in different subject areas within the three divisions of the College: the arts and humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences and mathematics. Classes in the Athletics and Physical Education Department allow participation in physical activities and the study of physical education. Students are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities. Before graduating, Oberlin students must also develop writing and quantitative and formal reasoning abilities and study cultures different from their own. Students are strongly encouraged to achieve proficiency in a foreign language.
To achieve depth in a chosen area of knowledge, BA students must pursue a major in one of more than forty areas of specialization. Students choose a major by the end of their second year of study. This allows time in the first two years to take a variety of courses, to discuss areas of interest with faculty members and other students, to rediscover a forgotten interest, or to explore a new field.
In many fields, students may also declare a minor, for which they take 5 to 6 courses in the discipline. Students may also pursue an interdisciplinary minor or an integrative concentration, for which they similarly take 5 to 6 courses from a range of disciplinary perspectives and combine them with experiential learning such as internships, studies abroad, or winter term projects. Students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, Conservatory of Music, and the Double Degree Program may pursue a minor or integrative concentration in the College of Arts and Sciences.
For students interested in earning the BA in conjunction with other undergraduate degrees, Oberlin offers the Double Degree Program, a five-year program leading to the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Bachelor of Music (BM) degree in the Conservatory of Music. Students may also earn the Oberlin BA in conjunction with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Engineering by spending three years at Oberlin and two at an engineering school. See below for more information on these joint degree programs.
View the BA Graduation Requirements for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Combined Liberal Arts and Engineering Program
The 3-2 Engineering Program is designed to develop within students not just the requisite grounding in science and mathematics, but also the creativity, effectiveness in communication, and sensitivity to real-world problems that are hallmarks of successful engineers. Students in the program pursue studies in the liberal arts, including mathematics and sciences, during three years at Oberlin and then complete an accredited schedule of engineering courses during two years at an affiliated engineering school. At the end of five years, students receive two degrees: a BA from Oberlin and a BS in Engineering from the engineering school. The latter degree allows recipients to sit for the professional licensing examination for engineers. Oberlin’s partners for the 3-2 program are Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland), the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, California), Columbia University (New York), and Washington University (St. Louis).
To ensure fulfillment of entry requirements at partner engineering schools, students are encouraged to discuss their interest in the program as early as possible with Oberlin’s engineering advisor. Because students in this program spend only three years at Oberlin, they must satisfy modified general requirements for the Oberlin degree:
- A minimum of 24 full courses or the equivalent/96 credits, of which 22 courses/88 credits must be full academic courses (two half academic courses are the equivalent of one full course). Up to 2 courses/8 credits of the required 24 courses/96 credits may be fulfilled by a combination of co-curricular credits.
- Two Winter Term projects.
- At least four semesters in residence at Oberlin or on Oberlin College programs, completing no fewer than 16 full courses/64 credits of work at Oberlin College. Ordinarily, the last 4 full courses/16 credits of Oberlin work must be completed while in residence.
- The following general requirements are more completely specified in the Graduation Requirements for the College of Arts and Sciences section in this catalog:
- Curriculum Exploration
- Quantitative and Formal Reasoning
- Cultural Diversity
- A minimum GPA of 2.00.
The BA Degree And Pre-Professional Development
An Oberlin BA degree is excellent preparation for a wide variety of careers. Oberlin graduates frequently pursue some form of graduate study. Those interested in graduate work in Arts and Sciences find their education in their major and related fields to be excellent preparation for graduate school. Students interested in attending professional schools can rely on the depth and breadth of their liberal arts education as well as specific support from the institution as they prepare for careers in business, law, medicine, and education.
Many Oberlin graduates pursue graduate programs or careers in business. Graduate schools of business welcome Oberlin applicants because of their solid liberal arts background. Interested students should be aware that some graduate-level business programs require full-time employment experience in a business-related field as a required element of qualification. An undergraduate degree in business is neither required nor, in many cases, desired for acceptance into these schools. Students considering graduate work in business may major in virtually any area of the liberal arts. They are advised to take introductory courses in economics, mathematics, and computer science – areas often required for admission to, and recommended as preparation for, graduate programs in business. Please contact the Career Development Center for further advice.
Many Oberlin students enter law school after graduation. Information on general requirements for law admissions can be found in the Career Development Center or by asking faculty designated as pre-law advisors. A list of these advisors is available in the Career Development Center and the Academic Advising Resource Center. Normally, a student is expected to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in either the second semester of the junior year or in the first semester of the senior year. While no one major should be considered as key for preparing for the study of law, students interested in law school may wish to look over the core courses, core research seminars, and related courses listed under Law and Society . These courses contain subject matter relevant to the law, and are helpful in developing analytic skills essential to the study of law.
Explore this page for a list of advisors and other information about deciding to go to law school.
Students planning to apply to medical school may major in any subject provided they also complete pre-medical requirements. Early in their academic careers at Oberlin they should discuss their plans with one of the Health Careers advisors.
Explore this page for a list of advisors and other information about deciding to go to medical school.
Most medical schools require one year of biology with laboratory, one year of physics with laboratory, and chemistry with laboratory through at least bioorganic chemistry. Students also need one semester of statistics and may need other courses as described below. Courses providing content in introductory psychology, sociology, or anthropology are also helpful in preparing for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Students are encouraged to take at least one such course.
Students intending to take this work at Oberlin should note:
- CHEM 101 , CHEM 102 , CHEM 205 , and CHEM 254 normally are chosen to complete the chemistry requirement. An alternative to CHEM 254 is CHEM 325 .
- BIOL 100 and BIOL 213 will meet minimum biology requirements. Premedical students often elect additional biology courses, especially BIOL 200 and BIOL 312 .
- The PHYS 103 -PHYS 104 sequence is the most common means of satisfying the physics requirement. An alternative sequence is PHYS 110 -PHYS 111 .
- It is neither necessary nor advisable to take more than two mathematics or science courses in either semester of the first year.
Students should consult the appropriate departmental listings for descriptions of course offerings and their prerequisites. Most medical schools also require a year of English and some require one or two semesters of mathematics. A year of calculus or a semester each of calculus and statistics usually satisfies the mathematics requirement. A few schools specify or recommend one or more courses not mentioned above. To determine the requirements of specific medical schools, students should consult the most recent edition of the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) published by the Association of American Medical Colleges. This publication is available online as well as in the Science Library and the Career Development Center.
The required Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is administered at Oberlin and elsewhere most often in April through August. Information about the test, including deadlines for filing applications and application forms, is available from the Career Center. Students intending to enroll in medical school immediately after graduation must complete the minimum science requirements listed above by the end of their junior year and take the MCAT by June of that same year. Many students defer the MCAT and applications to medical schools until the senior year or later in order to complete premedical requirements and explore other interests.
Majors, Minors, and Integrative Concentrations
To provide depth in their education, students must, before completion of 16 full courses or the equivalent, elect a department or program in which to do major study. Those who have not declared a major after completing 16 full courses or the equivalent will be allowed to enroll only with the permission of the Academic Advising Resource Center. A student may subsequently elect a different major and drop the previously declared major with the consent of the heads of the departments or programs involved. Students may pursue a major in more than one department or program.
A major allows students to pursue their learning beyond the introductory level, through advanced courses in a discipline, and in many cases in seminars or research courses. Most departments and programs offer one or more majors. Interdisciplinary majors are offered in a number of curricular areas, such as Archaeological Studies ; Environmental Studies ; Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies ; Latin American Studies ; Law and Society ; and Russian and East European Studies .
Each department or program determines the detailed requirements for completion of the major or majors in that department or program. There is no thesis requirement at Oberlin, but many majors require students to engage in an extended project of research or creative activity. The requirements that apply to a student are those published in the most recent edition of this Catalog at the time a student completes the second semester of his or her sophomore year. These requirements may be altered as necessary in individual cases by the departments or programs. All majors consist of no fewer than 8 full courses or the equivalent including prerequisites.
Students can also pursue an Individual Major in an area that is not encompassed in an existing major. With the help of at least two faculty advisors, students wishing to pursue an Individual Major propose their own program of study. Such proposals are normally submitted by the end of the sophomore year. The program must consist of at least 10 full courses or the equivalent with no more than 2 full courses or the equivalent below the 200 level, must include courses from more than one department, and usually must not have more than two-thirds of the total full courses or the equivalent in any one department.
Find more information about requirements and guidelines for the Individual Major here.
The minor is a way to focus and record a significant area of a student’s work, without the more stringent requirements of a major in that field. Normally a minor consists of at least four full courses or the equivalent and includes at least two components of work above the introductory level. Students pursuing minors declare the minor with the Academic Advising Resource Center/Registrar prior to graduation. The completion of a minor is noted on the transcript.
Integrative concentrations are educational pathways that connect coursework with experiential learning opportunities such as high-quality internships. Integrative concentrations have two overarching goals: (1) enhancing student learning by enriching student’s academic learning with direct practical engagement; (2) helping students explore meaningful career options. Integrative concentrations are designed to deepen the interplay between ideas learned in the classroom and experiential learning. Toward this end, students are required to reflect on the relationship between the course work (theory) and the experiential learning (practice). This “integrative” requirement is met by the completion of a learning portfolio.
Integrative concentrations thus include three components:
Integrative concentrations do not replace majors. They are open to students in both the Conservatory and the College. The completion of an integrative concentration is noted on the transcript.
The College offers the following integrative concentrations:
Many departments and programs offer Honors Programs to students of proven ability and independence. Departments and programs may open their Honors Programs to qualified students other than their own majors. Students wishing to enter the Honors Program should consult the chairperson of the department no later than the beginning of the second semester of the junior year.
Honors projects vary but always involve independent work under the supervision of appropriate faculty advisors. This may be done in seminars or private readings, in research, in the preparation of a thesis, exhibition, or performance. Students in the program are eligible for certain academic privileges such as access to special library and laboratory facilities. At the end of the senior year, Honors candidates may be but are not necessarily excused from final examinations and final projects for courses in the department in which they are doing honors work, and, at the discretion of the instructor, in courses in closely related subjects. Every candidate for Honors must pass a special written or oral examination (or both) near the end of the senior year. Outside examiners may be invited to conduct the final examination of candidates.
Recommendations for the award of Honors are made to the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences by departments, by programs with majors, or by the Individual Major committee. A department or program may recommend any student for Honors if that department’s criteria are met, regardless of the student’s specific major. The Individual Major committee may make such recommendations only for students whose Honors work is in the field of their individual majors. The Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences makes the final decisions on all recommendations for Honors, maintaining reasonably uniform standards for the award of Honors at graduation. An Honors candidate whose project demonstrates the requisite degree of excellence is awarded the BA degree with Departmental Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors.
Each Oberlin student has an academic advisor for help in planning an educational program consonant with the student’s interests and goals. The advisor can offer guidance in evaluating academic strengths and weaknesses and provide information on Oberlin’s curriculum and regulations. Entering students are assigned faculty advisors, usually in areas of stated interest. A student may change advisors at any time by asking another faculty member to serve and by notifying the Academic Advising Resource Center. Students who have declared a major are advised by a member of the department in which they are majoring.