Academic Advising Resource Center

First Year Course Planning FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions about first-year course planning, registration, and advising.

General Information

Most students register for four full courses/16 credits in their first semester. (A full course is four credits.) Incoming students will also take a 1 credit LEAD 050 course. In the College of Arts and Sciences, students must be registered for no fewer than 3.5 courses (14 credits) to meet academic standing requirements.

A one page document with an easy guide to graduation requirements can be found at the following link. Full requirements are found in the catalog.

In the first semester, it is a good idea to register for at least one course from each of the three divisions of the College: NSMA (natural science & math), SSCI (social science), and ARHU (arts & humanities) to start fulfilling the graduation requirements.  Following this plan for the first three semesters, along with choosing NSMA courses that are also QFR (quantitative & formal reasoning) or ARHU and SSCI courses that are also CD (cultural diversity) or ARHU courses that are WI (Writing Intensive), will fulfill the institutional requirements.

Academic advisors are assigned in late summer and meet with students during New Student Orientation.  Academic advisors and PALs (peer advising leaders) will discuss registration, degree requirements, major/area of interest, and what the student would like to accomplish during their time at Oberlin. Faculty and administrative staff in various departments serve as academic advisors.

If you have questions or want to discuss your plans with an advisor prior to meeting your advisor during Orientation, you can email We are happy to help.

First-Year Seminars are broad interdisciplinary courses that provide general education credit and one or more of the attributes of Writing-Intensive, Quantitative and Formal Reasoning, or Cultural Diversity. In some instances, First-Year Seminars may count toward a specific major if sufficient course content and methods support the learning goals of that major. The department or program chair must approve any First-Year Seminar to count toward the major.  Students should keep in mind that First-Year Seminars are designed to introduce them to liberal arts learning, so even if a seminar is not applied to a specific major, the learning in the seminar will contribute to the student’s intellectual growth and academic progress at Oberlin.

The PAL course is called LEAD 050: Introduction to Oberlin Life and Learning.  The PAL will share details about the course, and students are pre-registered for the appropriate section.  The “Introduction to Oberlin Life & Learning” course is designed to assist students as they: (1) acclimate to college learning, (2) use institutional resources for holistic support, (3) navigate college life, and (4) create an educational pathway that connects past and present curricular and co-curricular experiences to goals for their future. Students are preregistered for and strongly encouraged to stay enrolled in this 1-credit course.

Double degree students follow the same first-year seminar and course selection process as Arts and Sciences students for their College courses.

Incoming Conservatory and double degree students will be pre-registered for Conservatory courses appropriate to their major based on placement testing and will finalize their schedules during on-campus orientation. 

Course Selection 

Students select their first-year seminar and course preferences in Engage through timely To-Do tasks sent to their Oberlin email. The course preference form will open June 13, 2023 and the deadline to submit course preferences is July 5, 2023. All forms submitted by that date received equal consideration.

Yes. The catalog's list of “courses appropriate for new students” (CANS) does not include all courses available for first-year students. Based on their course preference forms, students will be registered for one first-year seminar and one or two additional course(s).  Students will have the opportunity to register for other courses during New Student Orientation and the add/drop registration period (the first eight days of classes). 

Academic departments decide which courses to offer each semester.  If a course is not listed this semester, it may be available in the future. Only students in their first year can register for a first-year seminar course.

CANS courses have space set aside for incoming students that is not reflected in the schedule of classes on OberView.  More courses will be available during New Student Orientation and the registration add/drop period (the first eight days of the semester).  As students at all levels finalize their schedules during the registration add/drop period, spaces may open. Students should join the waitlist for courses that interest them.

Students who have extensive preparation wishing to begin their studies with CHEM 102, who do not automatically qualify for the course based on an AP or HL IB exam score, should take the placement exam available in Blackboard. Students are encouraged to take the exam by August 15.

If you would like to take a Studio Art course, please note that courses are instructor consent-only. To express interest, fill out this form: STUDIO ART CENTRAL INTEREST LIST to indicate the class you would like to take, along with any other relevant information.  Studio Art courses can be viewed in Browse Schedule of Classes on OberView.  Studio Art faculty will review responses to the form in late August to determine class lists, giving precedence to majors, minors, and others who need the courses for requirements. Professors will email students directly about instructor consent for specific classes. There will be available seats for non-majors and first-year students.

Secondary lessons and ensembles are open to enrolled conservatory, double degree, and arts & sciences students. Information is listed here:

Secondary Lessons

There are no prerequisites for secondary lessons; however, students must audition for placement. The deadline to apply for secondary lessons can be found at the link above.

Outside Credit (AP, IB, Transfer) and Placement Exams

Read Options for your first MATH or STAT Class for math and statistics courses.

For language courses, follow the directions provided by the Cooper International Learning Center.

It is best to send Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) scores to Oberlin over the summer.  Students can submit their scores throughout their first year.  Students should discuss their AP/IB scores with their academic advisor and contact the professor to find out if an AP/IB course or score qualifies as a prerequisite.

If a student has more than five scores that qualify as pre-matriculated courses, they can choose which courses they want to apply to their record. Directions to send scores are listed at AP & IB Credit.

The directions to transfer a course to Oberlin are listed here:

Transfer of Credit.