Three-Year Option

Students who graduate in six semesters (three years of normal course loads plus summer courses) may expect to save about 20 percent of the total cost of a Wesleyan education. The three-year option is not for everyone, but for those students who are able to declare their majors early, earn credit during Wesleyan summer sessions, and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities on campus, this more economical path to graduation can be of genuine interest. A maximum of two pre-matriculant credits (such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or college credits earned during high school) may be applied toward an accelerated program. Students pursuing the three-year option will be held to all the graduation requirements for the Wesleyan bachelor of arts degree. Students considering this option should consult during their first year with their Class Dean to review policies and procedures.

Navigating the Three-Year Option

For most students, the greatest challenge lies in figuring out a way to earn 32.00 credits and complete the particular course requirements for the major in six semesters instead of eight.  Understanding the ways of earning additional credit and accelerating the pace of one’s semester standing is crucial for developing a feasible three-year academic plan.
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    Students considering the Three-Year Option should consult with their class dean or faculty advisor to determine whether it makes sense for them in the context of their larger educational and career goals.  

Earning Additional Credit

There are several ways of earning the additional credits needed to graduate on a three-year timeline. Most students who graduate early use a combination of pre-matriculant credit, summer credit, and in-semester course overload:

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    • Pre-matriculant credit.  Up to 2.00 pre-matriculant credits may be applied towards graduation. 

      • Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate test credit.  In most cases (exceptions include Biology, English, Computer Science, and Physics) it is necessary to first complete a course in an appropriate Wesleyan department to convert an AP or IB exam into Wesleyan credit.

      • College courses taken in high school.  To be eligible for Wesleyan credit, the course must have been taken with college students and taught by a college professor on a college campus.  If the course is listed for credit on the high school transcript, it may not be used for Wesleyan credit

    • Summer and Winter credit.  Credit may be earned through the Wesleyan Summer Session, Wesleyan Winter Session, or transferred to Wesleyan from another college or university.

      • Wesleyan Summer and Winter Session.  Students can earn credits during intensive sessions that take place in January, June, or July.  Both credit and grades for summer session courses are posted to the student record. For more information about these options visit the internal special studies section of the Academic Regulations.

      • Transfer credit from another college or university.  Students may transfer up to 2.00 credits from another college or university during any given summer.  Permission to transfer credit must first be granted by the appropriate Wesleyan department.  Only the credit (and not the grade) will be transferred to the Wesleyan academic record. 

    • In-semester course overload.  A student may enroll in more than 4.00 credits during the semester.  To do so, the student’s faculty advisor must raise the course enrollment limit for the semester.  Depending on the nature and intensity of the student’s schedule, the course overload option should be exercised with care.

Accelerating Semester Standing

Wesleyan’s pace calculation assumes that a student will earn 4.00 credits per semester for eight semesters to reach the graduation requirement of 32.00 credits by the end of the senior year.

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    To accelerate one’s semester standing, one must have already earned the minimum number of credits needed to advance to the next level of pace. 


    Expected Pace

    Minimum Pace

























    Normally, students at Wesleyan declare the major in the fourth semester, during the spring of the sophomore year (since they will have completed the third-semester pace of at least 10 credits by this time).  Students pursuing the three-year option, however, cannot afford to wait until the fourth semester because that would give them only one year of major status and they would be unlikely to get into all the courses they would need.  These students should strive to accelerate their semester standing by the end of the first year, so that they can declare the major a semester early.  Accelerating semester standing for purposes of declaring one’s major early can be done quite comfortably with a combination of pre-matriculant and summer credits. 

    For example, a first-year student who earns 8.00 credits by the end of the spring semester and then earns 2.00 credits during Wesleyan summer session (10.00 credits total) will have enough credit to accelerate to the minimum pace for the third semester before the beginning of the sophomore year and can declare the major after drop/add in the Fall.

A Sample 3-Year Itinerary

Sandy wishes to pursue the 3-Year Option. She enrolls in 4.00 credits for the Fall term of her first year and posts 2.00 credits for her AP exams in Biology and English (she earned scores of 5 on both).  She enrolls in 4.00 credits in the Spring and completes the academic year with 10.00 credits, which is enough for her to accelerate her graduation pace by one semester.  She enrolls in Wesleyan summer session and earns another 2.00 credits, bringing her total to 12.00 by the beginning of her second year.

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    Sandy took Econ 110 in Fall, Econ 300 in Spring, liked them, and now during the Fall of her sophomore year, she declares her major to be Economics. With four semesters remaining in her 3-year plan, she decides that she will enroll in two upper-division Economics courses each of the next three semesters and one in her final semester so that she can earn the eight Economics courses (numbered 200 or above) she needs to complete her major. After consulting with her faculty advisor, she also decides to enroll in 5.00 credits for each of the next two semesters so that she can accelerate her semester standing again at the end of the academic year.

    By the end of the Spring of her second year, Sandy has earned 22.00 credits and accelerates to seventh semester standing.  She enrolls in Wesleyan Summer Session for a second time and earns an additional 2.00 credits, bringing her to 24.00 credits at the beginning of her third and final year.  She enrolls in 4.00 credits for each of the next two semesters and graduates at the end of the Spring after completing her (mandatory) sixth semester in residence.

    3 Year Plan flowchart

Meet a 3-Year Student: Holly Everett '15

Holly Everett '15When I came to WesFest as a prefrosh, I heard President Roth speak about how you should get three things out of Wesleyan: figuring out what you love, getting good at it, and sharing it with others. During the fall of my sophomore year, I became interested in HIV and infectious diseases in the developing world. I wanted to learn more about the real-world impact of what I was working on in the lab by gaining hands-on experience in HIV research—something not available at Wesleyan. I decided to take off what would have been my junior year to devote myself to this full-time.

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    During that year, I worked at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, and then, in the spring, Ragon gave me a scholarship to help set up a new HIV lab at a public hospital in Harare, Zimbabwe. I returned to Wes for my senior year with a renewed sense of purpose and the chance to share what I had learned with the Wesleyan community. In this way, Wesleyan really enabled me to accomplish President Roth's goals for students, even if being away from campus was part of that equation. During my six semesters on campus, I was involved with a number of student groups, served as an academic peer advisor for first-year students, was a member of the Senior Class Council, and held a campus job. I also tutored and mentored students in the Middletown community. The most challenging part of graduating in three years was having the foresight to effectively plan courses to make sure I completed my major requirements, gen ed requirements, and pre-med courses. It helped that I knew in my first year that I wanted to be a MB&B major so I could plan out my courses. After graduation, I am taking two years off to do research into HIV and tuberculosis before beginning medical school in the fall of 2017. I'd like to be an infectious disease physician, focusing on diseases that disproportionately affect the poor.

    Itinerary: 2 AP credits --> 1st year: 4.75 fall, 5.75 spring --> 2nd year: 5.5 fall, 5.25 spring --> year away: 0 credits --> 3rd year: 4.75 fall, 5.5 spring. 33.5 total.