Interested in Applying to the CSS?


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Dear First-Year Student,

If you have an interest in the social sciences, we would like you to consider the College of Social Studies as your major.

The CSS offers a distinct approach to the social sciences. First, and most obviously, it is a multidisciplinary program of study in History, Government, Economics, and Social Theory. Given that social reality does not come carved up into neat compartments corresponding to academic disciplines, we argue that students will develop a better understanding of the subject matter and the nature of each discipline by considering it in relation to the others.

The College also offers a distinctive pedagogy that centers on the weekly Friday Tutorial. We place great emphasis on reading, writing and discussion, so our classes are very small. During your Sophomore year, your work in the College would consist of three small (8 to 11 students), intensive Friday Tutorials in History, Government, and Economics, and one larger (30 students) Monday/Wednesday Colloquium in Modern Social Theory. You may already know how hard it is to find classes of this size in the social sciences at Wesleyan. Small classes make it possible for you to work closely with each other and with your CSS Tutors, in order to develop your writing and analytical skills.

Our pedagogy is also distinctive in its emphasis on the students' responsibility for their own education. In the CSS, you will write papers on a subject before you have heard your CSS Tutor discuss it. Thus, you will be given the opportunity to develop your own approach to it, and your own synthesis and analysis of the materials you have read. You will receive ample support in small, informal groups with other students, from the teaching assistants assigned to each class, and from your CSS Tutors. However, the final product will be yours.

Finally, the CSS as a College is an intellectual community. It is for people dedicated to a life of ongoing learning. We believe our intellect and curiosity does not end at the classroom door. Outside the classroom our students are as likely to talk about the current economic state of the world or the relevance of Marxist theory as they would their plans for evening dinner. As a community we are dedicated to learning and to each other. This is what makes us different from every other major at the university.

If CSS is of interest to you, and you want to learn more about the major, watch for detailed announcements regarding the Info Sessions to be held in the late Fall and after Winter Break. The Info Sessions and application announcements will be posted on your Class Dean’s blog and on this CSS website. See below for more on the CSS.




Introduction to the College of Social Studies

The College of Social Studies, founded in 1959, is the oldest of Wesleyan University’s existing interdisciplinary programs, along with the College of Letters. Created as a residential college, the CSS had its first quarters in Harriman Hall (the Public Affairs Center, or PAC), and its student majors lived in the same building. From 1965 to 1985 the CSS had its home in what is now Butterfield A, with its students at first living overhead. During these years CSS students, by their own choice, dispersed across the various kinds of University housing, so that the College ceased to be residential; but the proximity of faculty offices, classrooms, and social areas continues to foster informal academic and non-academic exchange among students and between students and CSS Tutors. In January 1986, the College returned to the PAC, where it occupies most of the fourth floor of what is now wholly an academic building. In addition to the CSS Office and faculty offices, today’s quarters feature a Lounge and a Library, as well as Tutorial rooms and classrooms (the latter shared with the rest of the PAC).

From the start, the CSS has been a coordinated, multidisciplinary program in Government, History, Economics, and Social Theory, taught through group Tutorials, Colloquia, and Seminars. It was created in the belief that different forms of social studies are best pursued together, rather than in isolation, and that students understand the subject matter and nature of each discipline better by considering it in its relation to the others. The CSS curriculum stresses basic techniques of analysis in Economics, History and Government, as well as their application to the subject matters of those fields, and develops an understanding of methodological and critical issues through work in Social Theory. All classes are participatory, and the students write constantly and receive regular comments on their writing from their CSS Tutors. A steady schedule of visiting speakers, many of them CSS graduates, and social events provides a sense of community that enhances the educational mission of the College.


Highlights about the CSS Major

The College of Social Studies (CSS) offers a distinctive blend of teaching methods, subject matter, and educational structure. Its collegial organization combines courses within the college with courses individually selected by the students, 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.

Admission to CSS: 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 EITHER by taking ECON 101 and achieving a letter grade of at least C- OR by taking ECON 110 (for which a full-year of college-level calculus is required) and achieving a letter grade of at least C-. Students are well advised to have this required course work 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 semester of the Sophomore year. A student who has taken an introductory Economics course in the first year but has not achieved a grade of C - or higher, must take another Economics course, which will normally be a 200-level elective, and achieve a grade of C-. 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. Failure to complete the Economics requirement by the end of the Fall semester in the Sophomore year could result in separation from the College.

Completion of the University's General Education Expectations at both Stage I and Stage II is also required of CSS majors, although (because of the intensive CSS Sophomore year) CSS 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 Friday Tutorial and the Tutorial essay that are both 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 roughly 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 Social Theory 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, a Senior Thesis, otherwise it is a Senior Essay. In all cases it is a large-scale, sustained, and serious investigation of an intellectual problem.

The CSS Lounge, seminar rooms, and the CSS Library provide the venue for the collegial atmosphere of CSS. Social events (Monday Lunches, 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.


CSS Student Learning Goals

  • Critical Thinking
  • Creative Thinking 
  • Markedly improved reading skills
  • Ability to write an argumentative, high-quality academic paper
  • Expertise in participation, debate, and discussion, in a respectful manner, in the classroom
  • Learning how to work with professors in order to improve written work
  • Ease in conversation—about academic subjects and current events—in informal settings as well


Applying to CSS

Click here for information on the CSS Application Process.

There is a lot more to learn about the College, so consider attending one of our Information Sessions. 

  • CSS Info Sessions for the Class of 2024 will take place in the CSS Lounge, PAC 406 on the following dates: 
    • Early December - Date to be determined
    • Early February  - Date to be determined
  • If you would like to join us for one of our regular CSS Monday Lunches or Friday Social Hours, send an email to Martha Crebbin, CSS Administrative Assistant, at
    • CSS Monday Lunch Talks: Woodhead Lounge (Exley Science Center 184), Mondays at Noon.
    • CSS Social Hours: CSS Lounge (PAC 406), Fridays at 4:00 p.m.


2020-2021 CSS Co-Chairs

John Bonin and Don Moon