First Year Graduation Requirements Skip Navigation

First-Year Graduation Requirements

Listed below is an outline of the general graduation requirements. Read each section carefully. You will be expected to complete all of these requirements prior to graduation (not in the first semester). Additionally, this information may help guide you when completing your registration form. Refer to the University Catalogue for complete policy information, as well as additional academic opportunities.

Degree Requirements

First-Year Seminar (FSEM)
During the fall semester, one of your four courses will be a first-year seminar (FSEM). These courses are designed to introduce students to a variety of liberal arts topics, skills, and ways of learning. Each emphasizes the nature of the learning process, the exploration of individual needs and strengths, learning from classmates, and learning from the multiplicity of resources beyond the classroom. Special emphasis is placed on improving writing skills and using the library’s many resources.

All FSEMs are true academic courses, their demands are high, and each counts toward the general graduation requirement of 32.00 course credits. In terms of actual content, FSEMs vary. In some cases, faculty design courses specifically to serve as FSEMs. Such courses offer students opportunities to study topics that are not represented elsewhere in the curriculum. Others serve as introductory courses in particular disciplines, and still others serve as common core or area of inquiry requirements. Refer to the bottom of each course description to see what each FSEM counts toward.


Additionally, your FSEM instructor will serve as your academic adviser until you declare a major. You will be well advised of academic requirements regardless of your FSEM instructor’s specific area of expertise. Thus, it is not necessary to take an FSEM based on your intended major. By the spring of your sophomore year you will declare your major and select a faculty member from that department/program to serve as your new adviser.
Liberal Arts Curriculum
Colgate’s Liberal Arts Core Curriculum is structured so that students take advantage of the diversity of a liberal arts institution. It has three components, the Common Core, Global Engagements, and Areas of Inquiry.

The Common Core

(4 courses - one per term - must be completed by the end of sophomore year)
The Common Core requirement consists of a set of four course areas. Students may take these courses in any order, but are expected to successfully complete the four Common Core course areas by the end of the sophomore year by taking one CORE course each semester.

Common Core Course Areas:
 Legacies of the Ancient World   
CORE 151 and FSEM 100-102
 Challenges of Modernity CORE 152 and FSEM 105-108
 Scientific Perspectives CORE 100S-173S and FSEM 126-144
 Communities and Identities CORE 160C-194C and FSEM 111-113

Global Engagements

(1 course - must be completed prior to graduation)
Global Engagements (GE) courses provide students with an opportunity to analyze and debate the conditions and consequences of intercultural interaction, both in the United States and in the broader world, so they will be prepared to responsibly confront the challenges of the 21st century. Courses are approved for GE credit by term and instructor so the offerings will vary each term. GE courses may also fulfill area of inquiry, major, or minor requirements (i.e. one course may fulfill the GE requirement and a major requirement). Please note that AP/IB course credit, pre-matriculation courses, and transfer courses cannot be used to fulfill the GE requirement.

Courses that fulfill the GE requirement and are open to first-year students for the fall 2018 term are searchable in the First-Year Course Offerings.

Areas of Inquiry

(6 courses - must be completed prior to graduation)
Students must successfully complete at least two courses in each of the Areas of Inquiry for a total of six courses. Within each area of inquiry, the two courses selected must represent different departments. Students must complete the areas of inquiry requirement prior to graduation. Please note that AP/IB course credit, pre-matriculation courses, and summer transfer courses cannot be used to fulfill the areas of inquiry requirement.

Human Thought and Expression:
(2 courses from different departments)
Art and Art History
Classics (Greek and Latin)
East Asian Languages and Literatures (Chinese and Japanese)
English and Theater
Romance Languages and Literatures (French, Italian, and Spanish)
Writing (See course descriptions)
FSEMs 150 - 171 (See course descriptions)

Natural Sciences and Mathematics:
(2 courses from different departments)
Computer Science
Physics and Astronomy
Psychological & Brain Sciences
FSEM 177 (See course description)

Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents:
(2 courses from different departments)
Educational Studies
Political Science
FSEM 180 - 198 (See course descriptions)

In general, courses from the departments listed above count toward the area of inquiry specified. Exceptions will be noted in the individual course description (found in the University Catalogue, the first-year course offerings, and the Department/Program Description pages).

Courses within the Division of University Studies also count toward the areas of inquiry requirement when crosslisted with a department. For instance, PCON 218 AX, Practices of Peace and Conflict, is crosslisted as ANTH 218 AX and therefore counts toward the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry. If a non-crosslisted course within the Division of University Studies counts toward an area of inquiry requirement, it will be noted in the course description. For instance, FMST 200/200L, Introduction to Film and Media Studies, counts toward the Human Thought and Expression area of inquiry.
Students are required to complete a major in an academic department or program. Requirements for majors vary widely from one department or program to another but consist of between 8 and 13 courses. There are 56 majors from which you may choose. It is even possible to develop your own interdisciplinary or topical major in consultation with academic advisers and division directors. Please refer to the University Catalogue for requirements and guidelines for specific majors.
Language Requirement
Students who have not demonstrated competence in a foreign or classical language will be informed of their status by the university registrar in June. Competence may be demonstrated in one of three ways:
  • By successfully completing at least three years of study (i.e., through the third level) in secondary school prior to enrolling at Colgate University.
  • By demonstrating basic language skills as measured by tested proficiency—for example, a score of 580 or better on the SAT II subject tests in the foreign or classical language.
  • By successfully completing the study of a foreign or classical language at Colgate through at least one semester at the intermediate (201) level. This must be completed by the end of the sophomore year.
Writing Requirement
Students granted writing priority status will be informed by letter from the university registrar ine June. Such students are identified using the following criteria:

~SAT Writing & Language: score of 30 or lower
        if no score then
      ~ACT English: score of 25 or lower
        if no score then
      ~Old SAT Writing: score of 599 or lower
        if no score then
      ~New SAT Reading & Writing: score of 629 or lower

Students who are determined to have writing priority status are required to complete an approved writing and rhetoric (WRIT) course with a grade of C or better during the first year. If you have been notified that you have been granted this status, please select an approved writing course for the fall term. Please note that we will make every effort to place you in your preferred WRIT course; however, if your first choice is filled, you will be placed in a section that is open and fits your schedule. In the event that you are not placed in a WRIT course for the fall, you will be expected to take an approved course in the spring.

If you have been granted writing priority status, please refer to the WRIT course offerings for the fall courses that fulfill the writing requirement.
Course Credits
Colgate uses a course credit system (rather than semester or quarter hours). Most courses are 1.0 course credit, however, there are some courses that award fractional credit (0.50 or 0.25). In addition, some courses have required co-requisites that carry fractional credit. An example is General Chemistry I. If a student registers for CHEM 101 (1.0 credit) they will also register for CHEM 101L (0.25 credits).

All students must successfully complete a minimum of 32.00 course credits (including pre-matriculation and transfer credits) to be eligible to graduate. See the University Catalogue for the complete policy on academic credit.
Matriculated students entering as first-year students are required to complete seven terms in academic residence at Colgate. A Colgate study group and/or participation in one off-campus Approved Program will also count toward this requirement.
Physical Education
Students must complete two units of physical education by the end of their sophomore year.  Physical education units do not bear academic credit. Please visit the Physical Education web page ( for detailed information regarding course units and sign-up options. (Fall offerings will be available in late August.)