About the Major
The College of Social Studies (CSS) offers a distinctive blend of teaching methods, subject matter, and educational structure. Its collegial organization combines tutorials and courses in social theory within the college with individually selected courses from other departments and programs in the University to achieve an integrated education in the social sciences. Founded in 1959, CSS has provided an unusual educational opportunity for many Wesleyan students, whose careers upon graduation have ranged from medicine to law, forestry to college teaching, international business to acting.
Interested students apply for admission to CSS during the spring of their first year. Each applicant is interviewed by a team of CSS tutors and students. All CSS majors must complete the economics prerequisite of ECON 101 with a grade of C+ or higher OR ECON 110 (for which a full-year of college-level calculus is required) with a grade of C+ or higher. Students are well-advised to have this required coursework behind them before entering the College. However, some students who have not completed the economics prerequisite are admitted each year, on the understanding that they will complete the requirement in the fall term of the sophomore year. If a student’s grade in one of the introductory Economics courses is not C+ or higher, the student must take another Economics course and achieve a grade that is sufficiently high for the average in the two courses to be at least C+. A second course would normally be a 200-level elective in Economics. A score of 4 or 5 on the AP exams in BOTH microeconomics and macroeconomics or a score of 5 or higher on the IB exam in economics is sufficient to satisfy the requirement. Completion of the University's general expectations at both Stages I and II is also required of CSS majors, although majors have until the end of the junior year to complete Stage I expectations.
Sophomore year. At the heart of the program in the sophomore year are the weekly tutorial and tutorial essay that are designed to develop conceptual and analytic skills as well as precision in writing and argument. The academic year is composed of three trimesters of eight weeks each, and each student takes a trimester tutorial in history, government, and economics. Due to their intensive nature, tutorials account for more than half of the student's academic work during the year. A semester-length colloquium in social theory in the fall and selected courses within and outside the social sciences complete the sophomore program. Comprehensive examinations, administered by external examiners at the end of the sophomore year, produce the only official grade for sophomores.
Junior year. The second semester of the junior year involves a philosophy colloquium on the modes of inquiry in the social sciences and a sequence of two seven-week tutorials building on the sophomore tutorials, each carrying one course credit. Students will also take several of their elective courses in the three CSS disciplines to research skills and the ability to accomplish major writing projects in the social sciences. Juniors also have the option of studying abroad in their first semester.
Senior year. In addition to a CSS seminar in the first semester, the senior year involves a substantial piece of written work. This is often, but not invariably, an honors thesis. In all cases it is a large-scale, sustained, and serious investigation of an intellectual problem.
The Common Room, seminar rooms, and the CSS library reinforce the collegial atmosphere of CSS. Social events (Monday luncheons, the Friday post-tutorial social hours) and special programs such as semester banquets and occasional lectures are regular features of college life, as are informal talks and discussions.