Progressing Through Wesleyan

The following section summarizes considerations specific to each year in a student’s undergraduate career. These summaries are provided to help students and their advisors conceptualize the challenges and opportunities of which they should be aware as they engage in both short-term and long-term planning.

  • The First Year

    Creating an academic program for the first year at Wesleyan is both a daunting and an exciting endeavor. With no prescribed courses, students need to clarify their goals before they begin to draw from Wesleyan’s diverse curriculum to build their own programs of study. Before registering for courses during the summer, students should familiarize themselves with the information in this handbook and take advantage of the opportunity to consult the academic peer advisors or the class dean. They also should plan to speak with the academic peer advisors when on campus to prepare for the meeting with their faculty advisors. Peer advisors are available both during the summer and when you arrive on campus in the fall to help demystify the various terms and codes used in WesMaps, help students formulate the questions they should pose to their faculty advisors, and help students think about the subject knowledge and skills they hope to acquire. WesMaps can be extraordinarily useful, as it allows students to search for courses by disciplinary area, subject matter, seats available for first-year students, GenEd designation, and other categories.

    Students engage in interactive learning during their entire time at Wesleyan, but the first-year seminars (FYS) are specifically designed to give first-year students a chance to take courses that allow for active participation with others in their class year. Whether based in a single discipline or interdisciplinary, these courses are small in order to maximize opportunities for discussion and in-depth intellectual inquiry. Most of them emphasize writing or interrogate modes of discourse. Some of these provide a "learning and living" option.

    Introductory or gateway courses are specifically designed by departments to introduce students to their discipline. Some of them serve as a recommended or required entrance to the major or to more advanced work in the department or program.

    The first year should be a time of exploration, of expanding intellectual boundaries, and taking some intellectual risks. Therefore, it is particularly important for students to be willing to explore areas of the curriculum and subjects with which they have little familiarity. At the same time, previously acquired skills, in, for example, a foreign language or math, should be maintained and developed.


    First-year students start course registration for the fall by completing the summer pre-registration process online through their WesPortal, where they indicate their preferences for a first-year seminar (FYS) and introductory or gateway courses. To better assign a faculty advisor, first-year students need to complete the questionnaire about academic interests and goals. During orientation, students and faculty advisors meet to discuss these course choices and make changes as needed. Spring semester courses will be selected during pre-registration in November.


    Because reservations in courses will be assigned on a space-available basis, it is important to identify the top seven choices for a first-year seminar and the top seven choices for another course appropriate to first-year students. After making course selections, enter the preferences online through the WesPortal.

    Students who do not complete the summer registration process by the specified deadline will not have a seat reserved in any course. Instead, they will select all four courses for the fall semester during pre-registration after arriving on campus. All students will, however, be assigned a faculty advisor.

    The results of summer registration will be posted in each student’s WesPortal in late August. To view them and the faculty advisor assignment, log onto the WesPortal and click on “Pre-Registration” in “Orientation Checklist.”

    Tutorials: First-year students are not eligible to enroll in individual tutorials, but may enroll in group tutorials and student forums.


    The first year is the ideal time for students to acquaint themselves with the Gordon Career Center and its resources. The Career Center can assist students in locating summer jobs and internships, and will continue to be a resource during their years at Wesleyan and beyond. Advisors should direct students to visit the Career Center and explore its offerings. Students interested in careers in law or the health professions should consult with the Career Center’s pre-law and health-professions advisors early in the year.

  • The Sophomore Year

    It is often thought that academic planning is easier for sophomores than for first-year students. Sophomores are familiar with the course registration process and with departmental and program offerings, but familiarity with the Wesleyan system does not necessarily make this a simple year. In fact, for many students, the sophomore year is the most challenging. It brings important decisions and choices about major declaration and studying abroad that initiate considerable self-reflection. The “sophomore slump” can be a reality for some students. No longer new but not yet part of a department or program, some sophomores can feel a bit lost as a result. Some dive deeper into their studies while others consider taking a leave of absence to become re-focused. Yet others become engaged in campus and community-service activities that refresh their sense of why they are in college. By keeping the advising relationship active, students can remain connected to the academic enterprise and benefit from their advisor's support during this critical year.

    Choosing a major (or majors) is a milestone. Some students know clearly what they want, but need to meet the prerequisites to enter the major. Study-abroad opportunities and fulfilling Stage 1 of GenEd also should figure into planning, especially if the latter is required to enter the major. To monitor their progress, students should consult the Credit Analysis and General Education Reports in their e-portfolios.They also should begin to work with the Major Certification Form once they have declared.

    Advisors and students need to work together to get accurate information about departmental majors and study-abroad options, and should think about the shape of the student’s academic program over the remaining semesters. Academic goals need to be defined and prioritized, as students can seldom do everything they want in their undergraduate career.


    Wesleyan students declare a major in the second semester of the sophomore year. The declaration deadline is timed so that students will receive major preference in spring preregistration for fall courses. Once a student declares a major, he or she begins working with a new faculty advisor in the chosen major department. Sophomores who have not yet met the requirements for entry into a particular major must file a Major Deferral form with their class dean by the major declaration date (and have an alternative major in mind) and continue working with their pre-major faculty advisor. Returning students who are sophomores and December Completions, i.e., those students who expect to complete degree requirements in December, declare a major in October.

    In the first semester of the sophomore year, students will be provided with information on choosing a major and a schedule of departmental and program open houses that will take place in late October/early November. These open houses provide an excellent opportunity for students to ask questions about major programs and entry requirements. The same information can be found online at the major declaration website.

    It is critical that students understand the requirements for entering and completing a major. Students who cannot meet the departmental entry requirements may need to defer the major declaration until the end of the sophomore year or even later. In this case, it is advisable to declare an alternate major and make progress toward both majors simultaneously. Students jeopardize their enrollment at the University if they have not declared an achievable major by their junior year. Advisors and students should understand the importance of developing alternate major plans because in some instances students will not be admitted to their first choice major, regardless of their effort and interest. 

    Major Declaration Choices
    African American Studies French Studies
    American Studies German Studies
    Anthropology Government
    Archaeological Studies Hispanic Languages and Literatures
    Art History  History
    Art (Studio) Latin American Studies
    Astronomy Mathematics
    Biology Medieval Studies
    Chemistry Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
    Classics Music
    Classical Civilization Neuroscience and Behavior
    College of East Asian Studies Philosophy
    Earth and Environmental Sciences  Psychology
    College of Integrative Sciences Religion
    College of Letters Romance Studies
    College of Social Studies Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
    Computer Science Science in Society
    Dance Sociology
    Economics Theater
    English University Major
    Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies
    Film Studies

    Along with the completion of a major, students may complete minors and certificates.  For more information, please visit Academic Affairs. Students completing three majors or any combination of three (major, minor, or certificate) must fulfill GenEd Expectations.


    Many students spend some portion of their undergraduate career studying at another university, either in the U.S. or abroad. Usually students choose to study elsewhere for all or part of the junior year and therefore need to explore different program options and attend to application deadlines during the sophomore year. Students in the College of Letters study abroad in the spring semester of their sophomore year and should be particularly attentive to deadlines, which come up in the fall semester.

    Study abroad gives students an opportunity to leave campus for a semester or two to experience life and academics in a different country—to learn about its culture and peoples, politics and economics, geography, and place in the larger global community. Students wishing to study at non-U.S. universities should visit the Office of Study Abroad to review information on available programs and learn about the application process. Students can choose from Wesleyan-sponsored programs, administered wholly or in part by Wesleyan faculty, or Wesleyan-approved programs, run by other institutions but reviewed and approved by the University. Students wishing to participate in a program that is not sponsored or approved by Wesleyan must petition the Associate Director of Study Abroad. Approved study abroad is considered Non-Resident Study (NRS) and does not count toward the residency requirement, but both both credits and grades earned are transferred to Wesleyan. The Study Abroad website offers important information on application procedures and deadlines, language requirements, earning credits toward graduation and the major, fulfilling General Education expectations, good-standing requirements, and study abroad for students who are not U.S. citizens.

    Students wishing to study at a U.S. college or university apply directly to that institution and request an academic leave of absence from Wesleyan. They receive transfer credit (CR) only, and courses must be pre-approved by the appropriate Wesleyan departments. For more information on this process, students and advisors should consult the class dean. However, there are a few domestic programs, including the Twelve-College Exchange, that are handled by Office of Study Abroad. A full listing of these programs, to which students may not apply directly, is available in the Student Handbook and on the Study Abroad website. These programs are considered Non-Resident Study (NRS) and do not count toward the residency requirement, but both credits and grades are transferred to Wesleyan.

  • The Junior Year

    For many, the junior year is probably the least conflicted of the four years, as it is when students reap the dividends of decisions made in their sophomore year. Having finally declared their major, students have an academic home and the opportunity to devote themselves to their major course of study, be part of a cohort who share a love of the discipline, and become more involved in the workings of their departments or programs. As a result, many students begin to mature as scholars. This year also is the one when most students take advantage of Wesleyan’s study abroad programs. Finally, this year is the one that offers a respite before the demands of life after graduation. While “what to do after I graduate” is a concern of many from even pre-college days, leaving the familiarity, security, and comfort of life at Wesleyan is not something with which juniors feel squarely confronted.


    The junior year is nonetheless a period of serious preparation, especially for fulfilling graduation requirements. Life moves more quickly than expected between the fall of the junior year and graduation, so it is important that students set aside time with their faculty advisors, mentors, and class dean to analyze their academic progress and make certain that their decisions are consistent with Wesleyan’s graduation requirements while there is still time to address possible problems. As a reminder, those requirements are:

    • Major: Satisfactory completion of a major;
    • Credit: Earning a minimum of 32.00 credits with no oversubscription, of which 16.00 must be earned at Wesleyan or in Wesleyan-sponsored programs;
    • G.P.A.: A 74.00 cumulative average; and
    • Residency: A minimum of six semesters for those who entered as first-year students.

    Any semester in which a grade is given is counted as a Wesleyan semester for purposes of graduation, but not always as a semester in residence when, for example, a student has studied abroad.

    An important tool in tracking the fulfillment of graduation requirements is the Credit Analysis Report, available in every student’s WesPortal. It alerts students to potential problems, such as oversubscription, which may affect a student’s ability to graduate, except for major completion.

    The Major Certification Form (MCF) tracks progress in the major.  As new majors, juniors must know the requirements of their major(s) and, in conjunction with their faculty advisors, develop a timeline for fulfilling them.  Staying current with the MCF, located in the portfolio, is an important way to do this. Students also must be aware of any other stipulations established by the department for completing the major, such as a minimum average grade on courses in the major, fulfillment of General Education expectations, or completion of a research requirement, senior essay, project, or honors thesis.


    Beginning in the spring semester, it is important for juniors interested in undertaking a senior honors thesis to know their department’s process for determining or accepting thesis writers. Because a thesis is a yearlong independent undertaking, students should be passionate about the topic they wish to explore in depth and have a possible tutor in mind. Being clear about their own expectations and those of their thesis tutor and department is a crucial element of their success. Students should check with their department to determine if GenEd fulfillment is required for eligibility for Departmental Honors.


    The junior year is the time for students to think more carefully about future directions and, with the help of the Gordon Career Center, find summer jobs or internships that will enable them to explore their interests. Such opportunities not only contribute to self-knowledge, but also build a solid trail of experience valued by future employers or professional/graduate schools. Consultation with the pre-law and health-professions advisors should move into high gear. Juniors should stay alert for information sessions and e-mails in the spring semester about fellowship and scholarships available after graduation, such as the Watson, the Fulbright, the Rhodes and Marshall, among others. Many prestigious opportunities have their deadlines early in the fall of the senior year. The opportunity to work on applications over the summer gives a student a head start on an opportunity of a lifetime.

    Preregistration in the spring for the fall semester of the senior year presents juniors with another chance to examine closely, on their own and with their faculty advisor and class dean, where they stand on fulfilling major and other graduation requirements, such as credit totals, oversubscription, grade point average, and semesters in residence. Attending to these issues at this time will make the senior year more relaxed and enjoyable.

  • The Senior Year

    Students typically experience a range of emotions during their last year as they feel pressure to meet the demands of major requirements while planning for what they will do after graduation. Even more than in the junior year, seniors and faculty advisors should pay close attention to the graduation requirements. Every student should be entirely familiar with the forms and processes required to ensure that everything is in order for graduation.

    The fall is a particularly busy time, and it is important that students organize their time efficiently and stay on top of deadlines. Applying for grants, fellowships, and graduate programs requires a good deal of energy. Theses, essays or senior projects must get under way.  Good planning at the start of the fall semester will make the year ahead less stressful.


    The MCF is a tool that allows students to both plan and track completion of their major while it also allows departments to certify a student’s completion of the major.   The form lists courses and required elements for the major, and serves as a “contract” between the student and the department/program for meeting the major requirements. The form is completed by the student and approved and signed by the major advisor or department designee. (In addition to the successful completion of a major, students must also satisfy the requirements listed above under Wesleyan’s degree requirements.)


    It is critical that seniors check their Credit Analysis before the end of Drop/Add in their first semester to catch any problems with oversubscription that may affect the completion of graduation requirements. The Credit Analysis does not address major requirements. For students who studied abroad in the spring of the junior year, the credits may not yet be posted. A copy of the unofficial transcript may be helpful in reviewing the Credit Analysis.


    To receive honors upon graduation, candidates must fulfill the honors requirements of their major department or program. Students who plan to be candidates for honors should review carefully their department’s policy regarding thesis tutorials.  Advisors should make sure that their advisees have registered for thesis tutorials (409410) by the end of Drop/Add, and also file the “Work in Progress” certification by the end of Drop/Add in the spring semester.