Requirements for the Degree

Overall Requirements


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, to make sound and thoughtful judgments, and to contribute to knowledge. Haverford’s degree requirements seek to accomplish these objectives through breadth of study (as embodied in general education requirements) and depth of study (as embodied in the departmental major requirement).

Credit Requirement

To graduate from Haverford, a student must complete 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 campus.

General Education Requirements

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 requirements that follow.  

The Foundations and Domains General Education requirements apply only to students who matriculate at Haverford College in Fall 2018 and beyond. Students who matriculated in earlier years should consult the 2017-18 catalog to view the requirements that apply to them.

Essential Foundations

(Four course credits across the areas of Writing, Language, and Quantitative/Symbolic Reasoning)

These courses provide students with the essential foundations for studying many different domains of knowledge, and should be fulfilled as early as possible.

First-Year Writing Requirement (one course credit)

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 is a general degree requirement of the College, and it must be taken by all first-year students. Writing seminars are courses that integrate writing instruction with scholarly inquiry into particular disciplinary or topical foci. They devote attention to strategies for performing critical analysis, constructing sound arguments, and crafting effective prose. WS-I (Writing Intensive) sections, taught in the fall semester, do not alone fulfill the writing requirement but serve as preparation for writing seminar courses in the spring semester. Students are advised to take other courses as well in which writing receives substantial attention.  Please note that First Year Writing Seminars cannot count toward Domains of Knowledge within the General Education requirements.

Language Requirement (two course credits)

Competency in a language other than one’s own, ancient or modern, serves many ends. It deepens an appreciation of one’s own language and culture, increases sensitivity and understanding of the nature of language itself, enables the student to gain a far more intimate understanding of different cultures than is possible through translations, and allows greater participation in an increasingly globalized world. Furthermore, with regard to specific disciplinary ends, many graduate programs require a reading knowledge of at least two languages other than English.

For these reasons, Haverford 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:

  • One full year of language study in one language at the level in which the student is placed by the appropriate Haverford language department; or
  • Language study in a course conducted under Haverford’s approved Study Abroad Programs, and as certified in advance by the chair of the relevant language department at either Haverford or Bryn Mawr or by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) when the language has no corresponding department at either Haverford or Bryn Mawr; or
  • Language study in a summer program administered by Bryn Mawr 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 or domain requirement.

Quantitative or Symbolic Reasoning Requirement (one course credit)

Students will develop analytical abilities through the practice of quantitative, mathematical, statistical, or formal symbolic reasoning. Courses focus on the presentation and evaluation of evidence and argument through the understanding of the use (and misuse) of data and/or the organization of information in quantitative or other formal/symbolic systems.

The Quantitative or Symbolic reasoning requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the junior year.

Domains of Knowledge

(Six course credits, across three domains and at least four departments)

In addition to fulfilling the Writing, Language, and Quantitative/Symbolic Reasoning requirements noted previously, students are required to complete a minimum of two course credits in each of three Domains of Knowledge within the curriculum, as follows.

A. Meaning, Interpretation and Creative Expression (two course credits, only one of which may be in Creative Expression)

This domain explores the processes and products of human beings’ attempts to make sense of individual experience and culture. what it means to be human, in the broadest sense. It considers the stories we tell about ourselves, the meanings we make for ourselves, the ethical systems which unite (or divide) us. Critical analysis, close reading, charitable interpretation, and creative expression are key approaches to this domain of study.

Many courses in this domain consider “texts”, by which we mean a wide variety of literary, philosophical, and religious writings, but also chronicles, autobiography, and other historical documents, as well as visual, musical, and performed work, from a variety of chronological perspectives, different traditions and disciplines. Creative expression can take various forms, from making original works to the performance or realization of established pieces under the supervision of a faculty member.

Learning Goals include any of the following: critically read, interpret, and/or analyze texts and works of art and reflect on the methods employed in particular readings; gain an understanding of the various theories and methodologies of humanistic inquiry; and/or perform, craft, or create, using appropriate media in the visual or musical arts.

B. Analysis of the Social World: Individuals, Institutions, and Cultures (two course credits)

This domain focuses on the systematic analysis of the social world. Courses examine how different disciplines research how cognition and social action are both shaped by and influence historical, institutional, political and cultural contexts.

The study of social behavior is traditionally studied in the disciplinary communities of Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology, but will also include courses in cross-disciplinary studies areas such as Africana and African Studies, Education, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Environmental Studies, Health Studies, Peace, Justice and Human Rights, etc.

Learning Goals include any of the following: gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the systematic study of human experience as it affects and is affected by natural and social environments; use theoretical and comparative analyses to understand the ways in which social distinctions such as of class, race, religion, ethnicity, family, class, gender, sexuality, etc. operate across different societies; and be familiar with the methodologies deployed by various disciplines, from fieldwork to experiments to statistical analysis to historiographical inquiry.

C. Physical and Natural Processes, Mathematical and Computational Constructs (two course credits)

This domain focuses on the physical and natural processes that are traditionally studied in scientific communities, such as Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and Physics, and also interdisciplinary programs such as Neuroscience, Environmental Studies, and Health Studies. Courses address questions of physical or natural processes and the mechanisms by which they occur.

Mathematical and computational constructs constitute a distinct part of this domain, and are studied in their own right, primarily through deductive reasoning. Additionally, mathematical and computational approaches provide theoretical and practical underpinnings for the study of the natural world, providing tools for constructing and evaluating testable hypotheses.

Learning Goals include any of the following: gain an understanding of formal and informal deductive processes for exploring the logical consequences of a set of axioms; use data and/or theories to make objective and testable hypotheses or inferences about natural and physical processes; and produce data that can be used to test hypotheses about natural and physical processes.

Departmental Major Requirement

Each student must meet the requirements for a departmental 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 plan 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:

  • Acceptance is automatic with an earned average of 2.7 or above in preliminary courses in the department concerned;
  • 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;
  • Acceptance is rare but may be contingent upon further work in the department if the average falls below 2.0;
  • 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 their major declaration form approved 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, with the proper permissions, at Swarthmore College.

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:

  • A senior departmental study course culminating in a comprehensive exam; or
  • A thesis or advanced project paper; or
  • A course or courses specially designed or designated; or
  • Some combination of these or other means.

To avoid undue specialization in a major program, 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:

  • The limitation does not apply to certain majors at Bryn Mawr College;
  • The limitation does not apply to majors in the Classics Department;
  • 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;
  • 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 required outside the majors will depend on the total number of credits required by the two majors.

Pass/Fail Conversion

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