Oberlin offers more than 50 academic majors and 42 minors and concentrations. Many of the academic majors can be combined and or studied in conjunction with a minor or area of concentration, which speaks to the breadth—and depth—of liberal arts learning. 

Course Planning for First-Time Students

Not sure what course to choose to coincide with your major or area of interest? Unsure of what sequence to take it in? Browse the list or academic majors for suggestions on how to choose the appropriate courses to support your goals and academic requirements.


Anthropology

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Anthropology concerns itself with the holistic study of the human condition—socially, culturally, linguistically, and biologically—in space and in time. Therefore students who incline toward biological or natural sciences or the humanities can all find anthropological courses that will resonate with them.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Our course offerings are not as vertical as some departments, so it’s reasonable to inquire whether a higher-level topical course of interest might be accessible to those who haven’t done prior coursework in the department. At the same time, we offer four introductory courses to the four major subfields of anthropology, and these are a great way to get some exposure to this multifaceted discipline.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Our course offerings are not as vertical as some departments, so it’s reasonable to inquire whether a higher-level topical course of interest might be accessible to those who haven’t done prior coursework in the department. At the same time, we offer four introductory courses to the four major subfields of anthropology, and these are a great way to get some exposure to this multifaceted discipline.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

While our major structure will require that you take all four of the courses that introduce the major subfields, it is not required that these all be completed before students take higher level courses geared to their particular interests in the field. There are many acceptable paths through our offerings.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Art History

Recommendations for advisors outside art history for advisees considering art history as a major:

In their first year, students thinking about art history should:

  1. Take an intro art history course (100 level) or, if it does not fit their schedule, meet with the chair to talk about the department’s curriculum. In general, students strongly considering the art history major are encouraged to take a class titled “Approaches to …”   That said, classes titled “Themes in” do count for the major;
  2. Read the Art Department’s “Art History” Major page (distinct from two other majors offered in the department - “Studio Art” and the “Visual Arts” major run by Studio Art faculty) to get acquainted with the curriculum and the different levels (since numbering systems differ by department).
  3. Strongly consider applying for the Allen’s Practicum in Museum Education, offered each Winter Term.
  4. Take a second language, selecting one they most want to learn, without worrying whether it is the ‘right’ or ‘most pragmatic’ choice;
  5. Get to work on distribution requirements across the college, since that will give them maximum flexibility to study abroad, which the art history strongly encourages, especially for developing second language skills.
  6. *Note: the Art History major requires several courses outside of the Art department, so students may count some of these courses to the Art History major, but this should be planned with an advisor, rather than retroactively counted.

Biology

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Students with a strong high school science background find taking introductory biology and chemistry courses simultaneously in the first semester both useful and challenging. Other students benefit from taking only one of these courses during their first semester at Oberlin. Prospective biology majors are urged to consult with a biology faculty member during advising period to discuss these options.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what curricular advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

The introductory course, BIOL 100 Organismal Biology, has no prerequisite and is open to non-majors. In addition, several First-Year Seminars are taught with a biological emphasis or scientific theme. Human Biology (BIOL 090), the Science of Cooking and Nutrition (BIOL 033), and Environmental Biology (BIOL 103), are lecture-only courses available to non-majors.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

• A checklist of the courses required for the biology major is in the Course Catalog.

• Another important resource is the Biology Majors Guidebook.

With planning, the 11 courses needed to complete the major may be easily accomplished in three years. This allows flexibility for students in their paths through the major, as described below.

Students who are eager to enroll in introductory biology and have a strong science background may choose to register for both BIOL 100 and CHEM 101 in the first semester. Other students choose to take CHEM 101 and a mathematics or statistics course in the first semester, delaying BIOL 100 to the second semester.
Note: The two semester introductory chemistry series may be started only in fall semester, whereas introductory biology may be taken in either semester. Alternatively, some students prefer to begin with a single lab science course. Examples of various pathways through the major and associated information is located on pages 11-13 of the biology handbook. Your academic advisor or other biology faculty are also excellent resources to help you plan your path through the major.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

None of the biology courses require testing for courses in the major. Each course in the biology department that requires a prerequisite will indicate the specific course that is required for admission to the course.
A minimum grade of C- or P is required in the prerequisite. A student may also consult with the instructor if special preparation for a course might be considered as a substitute for the prerequisite.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests which earn credit within biology?

A four or five on the Biology AP test earns general course credit toward graduation but not toward major credit.

Classics

Students are encouraged to come and speak with any member of the department about courses or the majors.

The Classics Department is small, friendly, and academically distinguished. Each semester, we offer courses in Latin and Greek languages and literature at all levels, as well as courses in Classical civilization, which includes history, literature in translation, art, and archaeology. Related departments teach courses in ancient philosophy and religion.

The department offers three majors: a major in Classical Civilization (a general liberal arts major with an emphasis on the ancient Greco-Roman world), and majors in both Latin and Greek (providing a more thorough basis for an approach to Classical sources in the original languages, as well as pre-professional training). Most Classics majors take a variety of courses in the Civilization sequence and in one or both languages.

Comparative American Studies

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Courses investigate power, inequality, and agency through the analysis of intersecting structures of race, gender, class, sexuality, and citizenship. Central to these studies are examinations of the relationship of theory and practice within the scope of historical and contemporary contexts.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

I would recommend taking CAST 100, which is the introductory course and gives a broad overview of the field of American studies. Any 200 level class besides CAST 200: Theories and Methods would also be appropriate for any non-majors.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

CAST 100 is the most logical point of entry, as it gives the most extensive introduction and overview of American studies, but any 200 level course besides CAST 200 Theories and Methods is appropriate too, as these offer topical introductions to various fields.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Computer Science

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Computer science (CSCI) as a discipline involves much more than programming, but we use programming as an entry level skill. We have a three-course programming sequence for the major: CSCI 150, 1521, and 241. We also have a premajor course that has been the starting point for many women and underrepresented students: CSCI 140, but at our current level of staffing we can’t offer it. Students who are curious about computer science should take CSCI 150. It has no prerequisites and makes no assumptions about prior experience.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Try CSCI 150. It is more fun than you ever dreamed of having in a class.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Take CSCI 150, and if possible also MATH 133.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

No. Talk to the faculty, the chair in particular.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

A four or five AP score earns one course credit toward degree requirements and the major.

Creative Writing

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

The Creative Writing Program (CRWR) offers courses at all levels, from intro-level courses, to open 200-level courses, through the gateway course (CRWR 201) application-only 300-level workshops, and finally capstone seminars and independent projects.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Focus on the intro courses and the open-enrollment (courses without prerequisites) 200-level courses. In most cases, more people want to take CRWR courses than there are seats, so initiative, optimism, and patience will be important virtues to draw upon.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Don’t delay, but don’t despair. The CRWR 201 course is the gateway course, and admission is by, so in anticipation, you should work on a portfolio for submission in preparation. Usually students do so in a 100-level CRWR course. That said, please be advised that CRWR is a studio major, which is to say, spaces are necessarily limited, and students are admitted at the discretion of the faculty.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Economics

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Economics is the study of choices. In a society of unlimited wants but limited resources, economists study how resources are allocated and the impacts of such allocations. Core courses in the department take a theoretical perspective in modeling economic decisions, while field courses in the department take an applied perspective to understanding economic phenomena.
Students who have an interest in data analysis, mathematical modeling, finance, policy evaluation, statistics and public policy will hone their skills further with courses from the economics department.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

You should first take ECON 101 Principles of Economics, as that course is a stepping stone to all higher level economics courses. It is a course that provides an introduction to the theory of microeconomics and of macroeconomics. After ECON 101, student should consider a field course at the 200-level. These are courses numbered 201 to 249. They focus on a subfield of economics that the professor has particular interest or expertise in. These courses tend to be more applied, be more tailored to real-world examples and have more possibilities for the discussion of policy. These courses only require ECON 101 as a prerequisite, and so the composition of student backgrounds and interests is quite diverse.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

In your first year, you should take ECON 101. You may, if you like, get a jump on the major by taking a 200-level field course (as stated above). It is also advisable to consider taking calculus (MATH 131+132 or MATH 133) or statistics (STAT 113) in your first year, as you will require them for the intermediate core theory courses (ECON 251, 253, 255).

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There is none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

Economics does not accept AP credit to count toward the courses required for the major. However, if a student has taken both AP micro and AP macro and has done well in the exams (4 or higher), at the discretion of the chair and the instructor, the student may be allowed to take 200-level economics courses without needing to take ECON 101. The caveats to this are:

  • The student must still meet any calculus/statistics prerequisites the higher level courses call for.
  • The student must still take eight economics courses at Oberlin to complete the major.

English

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Most broadly, courses in the English department share one thing—the medium of the English language. No matter the particular topic or angle of approach of any course you might take, you will become a stronger reader, writer, and speaker of, as well as a listener to, the English language. We offer many first-year seminars and two sorts of courses that might appeal to incoming students. These include some very popular lecture courses at the 100-level that tend to demand less writing. In these, for example 100 Poems, the professor lectures and leads more than is usual in our other classes, and will rely on exams. These sections sometimes appeal to students less comfortable in the humanities, or perhaps with second language issues, or perhaps dealing with the demands of a conservatory schedule, a heavy athletic commitment, or other demands. These are for sampling, really.
Our 200-level courses could also be of interest, and more represent the core of our offerings. The variety of subjects, teaching styles, and student experiences are extremely variable. This may feel confusing at first, because our classes do not easily line up as introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels. This is because the English department’s shared interests are in the complexity of literary and other cultural texts, their relationship to the contexts in which they are created and received, and interpretation as an exciting and useful activity, albeit one that may never resolve into a single right answer or approach.
We seek to keep barriers to enrolling in our classes low, believing that we offer skill and content experiences that benefit all Oberlin students. In any English course, even at the 300 and 400 level, it is not unusual to discover that most students are not English majors or have other majors. That delights us.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

The door is absolutely open as English is one of the most important experiences available to students of any major and background. While some of our advanced courses will mostly appeal to majors in the humanities or social sciences of some sort, the majority of our courses are intended to welcome and reward students of any and all backgrounds.
We hope to be an available course option for as many students as possible throughout their career, and strive to both care for our majors but to not privilege them over all others. It would make sense to look at a course title/subject and gauge your fit with a teacher’s pedagogical style when deciding whether or not to take an English course.
We are not about Downton Abbey or nostalgia for Britain. We are about a global language, which manifests itself importantly in numerous ways, and focus on the great variety of avenues into exploring both: linguistics, sport, prayer, play, digital creativity, a focus on established and emerging histories.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

None. Please don’t consider your major in your first year. Please don’t listen to me if I try to convince you to come here. Do what you are moved to do and learn to do. You don’t have to major in English to have it be a great part of your education. If you decide to do so, it won’t be because someone sold it to you. It will be because you sampled around and had the right experiences for you here.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

A five on Literature or Composition AP will earn one course credit toward general graduation requirements but not for major credit. A five in Language or Composition may earn credit toward rhetoric and composition but it is not automatic. Please consult with the Department of Rhetoric and Composition for more information.

Geology

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

The Department of Geology offers courses that examine the Earth as a series of interrelated systems that have evolved over the past 4.5 billion years. We use chemical, physical, and biological approaches in the field and in the lab to decipher histories of our planet both to better understand how it functions, and to shed light on modern environmental and societal challenges.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Any course at the 100-level is a great place to begin your study of geology. Our gateway course GEOL 120 Earth’s Environments offers a broad overview of our field from both a lecture and hands-on lab experience. It also is required for the environmental studies (ENVS) major. Any other 100-level course will touch on many of the same fundamental aspects of Earth science, but will do so from a more topical perspective (e.g., Soils and Society; Coral Reefs: Biology, Geology, and Politics; Natural Hazards; and Geology of Natural Resources) using lecture, discussion, and hands-on work but without an additional lab period.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

If you’re thinking about geology as a major, we would love to get to know you and welcome you to our community. Please send any one of us an email. Any 100-level geology course is a great introduction to the department, but GEOL 120 is the gateway to the major, and so perhaps the best place to start. Two semesters of chemistry (CHEM 101+102 or CHEM103) are required for the major, and it’s also good to get an early start on your chemical training.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests which earn credit within the major?

We do not generally offer placement testing in the department, but have in the past in exceptional circumstances. Please send an email to the department chair if you think that this may apply to you.

German

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Courses for first-year students in the Department of German Language and Literatures: German 101 (first semester), German 102 (second semester). These courses give students the opportunity to develop speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in German. A combination of German 101 & 102, enables students to gain access to a variety of aspects of contemporary German society as well as other fields profoundly influenced by German culture, viz., music, art, history, philosophy, literature and international studies.
Because of its strong economy–and with the recent changes in geopolitical dynamics–many countries now look to Germany as the leading and most reliable voice in the western world. An alternative to German 101 is the Winter Term Intensive German course. This covers the material introduced in German 101, though at a much faster pace. Students who successfully complete Winter Term Intensive German may then enroll, in the spring semester, in German 102.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Students not planning to major in German have found German useful and often essential to their studies in the fields listed above. Conservatory students are required to take German, and it is recommended for art majors. Germany has a vibrant art scene. Many studio art majors choose to learn German and spend their junior year there.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

The department offers two majors: German and German studies. The German major has as its primary focus the literature of German-speaking countries, whereas the German studies major consists of a curriculum that divides its focus between the literature (the primary vehicle for accessing German culture) and other German-related courses that can be chosen to reflect the student’s main interest (e.g., history, music, art, economics, environmental studies, comparative literature, international studies, and others).
Students may complete a major in four years by starting with German 101. For those with previous exposure to German, a placement test will determine the best entry point into the curriculum.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

The department offers and recommends a placement exam for all students with prior knowledge of German, whether through school programs or as heritage speakers. Students will find this exam on the Cooper International Learning Center website. It can be taken at any time, but is best taken during the summer or shortly before first-year orientation. The test may also be taken in the Cooper language lab upon arrival at Oberlin.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

A four or five on the German AP test earns one course credit toward graduation and toward the major.

Hispanic Studies

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Our English-taught courses are open to any student interested in the culture and history of the Spanish-speaking world. Hispanic studies courses HISP 101, 102, 202, 203, and 304 comprise the language sequence; any student with previous experience learning Spanish can take the online placement exam at any time to determine what level is best for them. We encourage heritage speakers of Spanish to take HISP 334. The survey courses (309, 310, 317 and 318) as well as other Spanish-taught courses at the 300 and 400 level require HISP 304.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Take any course you find interesting, but be sure you have the right level of Spanish.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Work on your Spanish; take the placement exam right away to see at what level you should enter the language sequence. Take advantage of our winter-term language program in Mexico. Start planning now for a semester abroad, probably in your junior year.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

Yes; online anytime: languages.oberlin.edu/placement-tests/login/

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

A five on the Literature or Language Hispanic Languages test earns one course credit toward graduation and toward the major.

Jewish Studies

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

The Jewish Studies Program offer courses on a range of topics related to Judaism and Jewish culture and history. Jewish studies (JWST)draws on disciplines in the humanities and social sciences in order to provide an interdisciplinary understanding of Jewish experience and Jewish contributions to Western culture and civilization.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

For an overview of Jewish religion, history and culture, a terrific place to start would be JWST 150 Introduction to Judaism. It is usually taught in the first semester of the academic year. Based upon a student’s interests, any 100- or 200-level Jewish studies course can be a good option.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Students enter the major from a variety of courses. Based upon a student’s interests, any 100- or 200-level Jewish studies course could make a fine entry point. Students considering the major are encouraged to make an appointment with the chair of the Jewish Studies Program to discuss pathways through the major.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Law and Society

The recommended core introductory and intermediate law and society courses, core research seminars, and law-related courses explore philosophical, political, economic, historical, sociological, ethical, scientific, and religious issues that are central to understanding the role of law and legal institutions in society.

Core introductory courses and intermediate law and society courses and seminars are selected with the following objectives in mind: 1) center on law and legal institutions directly; 2) explore the historical, philosophical, and ethical underpinnings of the development of law, thought, and institutions; and/or 3) provide the analytic skills necessary to understand the logic and bases of legal thinking as a language in legal institutions, the broader society, and the profession of law. 

What if a student is not planning on majoring in Law and Society but is interested in taking courses in your subject area?

Take a course on a subject that looks interesting to you, no higher than the 200-level.   We have a wide variety of offerings in many different departments.  Check to make sure there is no prerequisite listed. If it’s available, look at the syllabus from a previous semester in which the course was given.  

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Look at the First Year seminars on our list, and/or a 100-level courses listed, or a 200-level course on a subject that appeals to you.  If you choose a 200-level course, look at the syllabus to make sure you would want to take on the workload, or have the necessary background.

 

Mathematics/Statistics

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Mathematics is both a technical and cultural field of study. The department’s curriculum has several objectives:

  1.  to introduce students to a central area of human thought;
  2.  to prepare students for graduate study in pure or applied mathematics, or in related fields, including statistics and operations research;
  3. to support students studying fields that use mathematics, such as the physical, biological, social and information sciences; and
  4. to provide liberal arts students with an introduction to the kinds of mathematical and quantitative thinking important in the contemporary world.

Students with any questions about course selection are strongly urged to consult the department chair or any member of the mathematics department.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who arr interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Consider a math class labeled below 100 (offerings vary). You must have instructor consent to register for these classes. They have no prerequisites and are designed to be accessible to all Oberlin students, regardless of their prior mathematical experience.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Choose whether to take a MATH or a STAT class based on your interests. If potentially majoring in a social or biological science, you may find a STAT class more directly relevant to your major. Potential computer science majors should work toward taking MATH 220, physics majors toward taking MATH 231, and mathematics majors toward taking both MATH 220 and MATH 231, in either order, followed by MATH 232. Any math professor will be happy to talk to you about your options.

  • MATH 131: Calculus Ia (fall only) or MATH 133: Calculus I (fall or spring). You must have instructor consent to register for these classes. MATH 133 is the standard one semester course, while the sequence MATH 131/132 integrates precalculus topics with the same calculus content over two semesters. To determine which is right for you, you must take a Calculus Readiness Test that covers precalculus topics. To take this test, log into blackboard.oberlin.edu, click the “Courses” tab at the top, look for the “Placement Tests” box, and follow the links. After taking the test, you must contact the instructor of the section you would like consent for. 

  • MATH 134: Calculus II (fall or Spring). No placement exam or consent is required. This class is appropriate if you scored a 4 or 5 on the AB Calculus AP exam; a 3 on the BC exam with an AB sub-score of 4 or 5; a 5 on the IB Mathematics HL exam; or if you are already comfortable with the Calculus I curriculum.
  • MATH 220: Discrete Mathematics or MATH 231: Multivariable Calculus (fall or apring). No placement exam or consent is required. These classes are appropriate if you scored a 4 or 5 on the AP Calculus BC exam; a 6 or 7 on the IB Mathematics HL exam; or if you are already comfortable with the Calculus I/II curriculum. MATH 220 is also suitable for students with MATH 133 credit who feel ready for a challenging math course. It covers a variety of topics, including an introduction to mathematical proofs. MATH 231 is a continuation of the Calculus sequence. Taking these courses in either order is fine, though potential physics majors should start with MATH 231 and potential computer science majors should start with MATH 220. 

  • STAT 113: Introduction to Statistics, STAT 114: Introduction to Biostatistics (fall or spring), or STAT 215: Statistics and Modeling(fall only). Consent is required; please contact the instructor of the section you want consent for. STAT 113 and 114 assume no prior knowledge of statistics and cover the same material, though STAT 114 emphasizes biological examples. On contacting the instructor, they will send you a link to a self-diagnostic exam to check your comfort level with algebra and numerical manipulation. If you scored a 3 or higher on the AP Statistics exam, or if you are reasonably comfortable with introductory statistics, you should instead take STAT 215. It reviews everything from the AP Statistics curriculum, before continuing to more advanced topics. This class is also appropriate if you have a very strong mathematical background, but no statistics background. 


 

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

See specific advice in the above course information.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

Yes, see the above information related to courses.

Musical Studies

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

College Musical Studies is where the students take the vast majority of their courses in the conservatory. As such we offer few courses which have a CMUS designation but there are many courses which count toward the major. Indeed, while there are some required courses in music history and music theory, as this is an individual designed major, theoretically any course taught at the conservatory or college could count toward the major.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

I would encourage all students to take courses at the conservatory regardless of their background or talent level. Some courses are difficult to get into—music theory, for example—but often not impossible. And it can be difficult for arts and science students to do lessons with a faculty member, they can nearly always get lessons with a student. I would encourage students to approach professors or departments directly to see about getting into courses that they’d like to take. A surprising number of students in the arts and sciences take courses in the conservatory already; even more should do so.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

There are several gateway courses for the major: MHST 101, MHST 290, CMUS 130, CMUS 100, CMUS 103, or ETHN 100. Of those, by far most get into musical studies through taking MHST 101, which is only offered in the fall. Taking one of these courses is currently required for consideration as a musical studies major.

Applying to the major itself requires an application and approval of the Musical Studies Program Committee and:

  1. Successful completion of one of the following courses, with either a required minimum grade of B- or the recommendation of the instructor: CMUS 100; CMUS 103; CMUS 130; ETHN 100; JAZZ 290; MHST 101; TECH 101.
  2. Approval for credit-bearing secondary private study at Oberlin. Approval must be obtained prior to application to the major. Secondary-lesson auditions are organized by the conservatory at the beginning of each semester; see Office of the Conservatory Dean for audition procedures and requirements.
  3. An essay in which the applicant articulates specific goals for the major, specifies an area of concentration/focus within the major, identifies advanced courses appropriate to that concentration, and provides a rationale for those choices.
Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are placement tests for Music History (you can place out of 101) and Music Theory. There are also auditions for ensembles and private lessons. Read more about auditions and ensembles.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Neuroscience

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field that easily integrates with other sciences—chemistry, biology, physics and psychology. The goal of the program is to help students understand to help students understand brain function, behavior, and consciousness. Some faculty focus their research and teaching in understanding how neurons (one of the main cell types in the nervous system) work at a cellular or molecular level, while other faculty focus on understanding the nervous system from a systems or cognitive perspective. We have a variety of upper-lever course offerings at both the cellular/molecular level and the systems/cognitive level. Students are able to enroll in these courses once they have taken NSCI201 The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

In years that 100-level neuroscience courses are offered, I recommend that students take those courses. If not, students in their second year and above can take NSCI201 The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience. This course is not recommended for students in their first year.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Students interested in majoring in neuroscience should consult with a member of the department to discuss the best courses to take. That said, they should take BIO 100 and CHEM 101/102 in their first year and take NSCI 201/NSCI 211 in their second year.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Philosophy

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Philosophy has 100-level introductory courses, usually with a maximum enrollment of 30 students; 200-level courses, usually with a maximum enrollment of 30 students; and 300-level seminars, usually with a maximum enrollment of 15 students. At the introductory level, we offer a range of courses, including a broad Problems of Philosophy course as well as several more specialized courses that focus on different areas of philosophy, e.g., ethics, knowledge, and reality.
We aim to offer seven to nine sections of our introductory courses each year. All our introductory courses aim to develop students’ skills in clear and critical thinking, effective argumentation, conceptual analysis, and deep reflection. Any introductory course can serve as a prerequisite for any 200-level course.
Courses at the 200-level are focused on particular areas of inquiry or historical periods in philosophy. We have courses in Existentialism, Ancient Philosophy, Biomedical Ethics, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Film, Philosophy of Music, Feminist Philosophy, and more. Many of our 200-level philosophy courses satisfy requirements outside philosophy.
Our courses in ethics, logic, political and legal philosophy count toward the major in Law and Society. Our courses in logic also satisfy the Quantitative and Formal Reasoning (QfR) requirement. Our courses in philosophy of mind count toward the Cognitive Sciences Concentration. Our courses in feminist philosophy count toward the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Program major.
Our course, Philosophy in the Schools, counts toward the Education Studies Concentration. The 300-level seminars allow for more in-depth study and discussion of a particular philosophical issue. Many of our seminars have the W-Int or W-Adv designation.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Take one of our 100-level courses—whichever one best fits your schedule. Based on the topics that most interest you in this course, choose a 200-level course to take next. Talk to the instructor of your 100-level course for particular advice. The list of available 200-level philosophy courses changes every year. Consult the department chair for information on future availability of particular courses.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

See the above, the same principles apply to students considering the major.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Physics

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

Our courses typically include a lab component and weekly problem sets. There is relatively little required reading but a lot of work (often with other students) on problem solving.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

We have several “general audience” courses (below the 100 level) that are great ways to find out about the world of physics and science in general. These tend to be less mathematical and are quite popular so sign up as early as possible.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

If you have Advanced Placement credit for calculus (equivalent to MATH 133) then you should sign up in the fall for PHYS 110 Mechanics and Relativity and MATH 134: Calc II. PHYS 110 is only offered in the fall so be sure to sign up for it. If you do not have calculus credit then sign up for MATH 133 (either fall or spring) and wait a year to start the physics sequence with PHYS 110 and MATH 134 in the fall of your second year.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

Several AP tests earn credit toward graduation; a four or five on the AP C-Mechanics and a five on the C-E&M test earn credit toward the major. Refer to the AP/IB chart for complete information about AP test scores.

Politics

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

The 100-level courses are introductory. We encourage students to move on relatively early in their careers to 200-level (intermediate) courses, which are more challenging in including theoretical as well as more complex analytical and substantive material. Political science generally divides the study of politics into four subfields:

  1. American politics,
  2. comparative politics (the politics of other countries besides or in comparison with the United States),
  3. international politics (the politics between or among countries), and
  4. political theory (the study of great ideas about politics)

Students do not need to take an introductory course in a subfield before embarking on an intermediate course therein.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Take whatever intrigues you! But avoid intermediate courses in your first semester.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

In the fall, don’t attempt an intermediate course. But in the spring, venture ahead provided you’ve already had at least one course in politics or another social science. When in doubt, consult the professor.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Psychology

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

The psychology department offers courses on the scientific basis for studying human behavior. It has four major domains: social, cognitive, developmental, and clinical/abnormal. We also have a very strong methodology area—you can take four of the five required courses for a Statistics Concentration within our department. We do not teach applied courses in counseling or therapy.
• The department is structured so that PSYC 100 gives you an overview of the whole field. It’s required for all upper-level courses.
• Our 200 level courses provide a more detailed introduction to each specific domain (e.g., cognitive, social, etc.). We also offer an introductory methods (Statistics) course at the 200 level. These courses are prerequisites for all our upper-level courses.
• 300 level, Advanced Methods, courses are labs and are offered in each domain. So Advanced Methods in Child Development requires both PSYC 200 (Research Methods) and a 200-level developmental psychology course. Most 300-level courses allow you to do original research in that domain. Psychometrics and Adolescent Development offer advanced training in statistics and or computational modeling and might be of interest to students who have quantitative interests. The second semester of methods is also offered at the 300 level.
•400-level seminars focus on reading and understanding the primary literature.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who is interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Our PSYC 100 course gives you a broad overview of the field. Students who take Intro and one or more 200-level courses will have a thorough acquaintance in that area. Students need a statistics or methodology course to take our upper-level classes.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Students should start with PSYC 100 to get a feel for which areas they want to specialize in–it often surprises them. They may also find psychology as a discipline is not really want they want and they might be happier with another major (we don’t teach counseling, just like biology doesn’t teach medicine). As soon as they know they want to major in psychology, they should take Research Methods (PSYC 200) so they will be able to move into our upper-level courses as soon as they have the prerequisites. One of the strengths of the department is that it is quite easy to get involved in research with faculty. They can do that as soon as their first semester.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

A five on the Psychology AP exam earns one course credit toward graduation and toward the major.

Religion

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

The Department of Religion offers courses covering major religious traditions from various geographical regions, over vast historical periods, and analyzed through diverse critical frameworks. Our 100-level courses presume no prior knowledge or familiarity and introduce students to the academic study of religion through investigation of at least three religious traditions.
For students seeking more focused treatments, our 200-level courses have no prerequisites and offer targeted analyses addressing a broad range of themes. These courses cultivate critical reflection and effective written communication. Advanced seminars at the 300-level require investigation of complex topics through staged writing assignments and with attention to developing facility with oral presentations.
The religion major culminates in one of two capstone options, a one-semester seminar designed to assist students in translating their religion major to postgraduation pursuits or a year-long guided research seminar culminating in a substantial written thesis and public oral presentation. These two capstone options have discrete but overlapping learning objectives designed to consolidate the skills and knowledge of a liberal arts education.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Both our 100-level introductory courses and our 200-level intermediate courses are appropriate points of entry to the academic study of religion at Oberlin. For students with a general interest in religious traditions, practices, and methods of analysis, our 100-level introductory courses will likely provide the best fit. For students curious to pursue study of specific traditions, practices, or methods, a 200-level intermediate course might prove the more apt choice.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Students considering the religion major would be best served beginning with one of our 200-level courses that intersects most closely with their interests. Intermediate (200 level) courses constitute the bulk of the major and accordingly supply a richer appraisal of the curriculum.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Rhetoric and Composition

We offer a range of courses designed to help anyone interested in improving their academic writing skills, exploring journalistic writing, or developing specific skills in long form non-fiction, science communication, grant proposal writing, and peer tutoring fellow students in writing and speaking across the curriculum.

Past students have found that a minor in Rhetoric and Composition can be advantageous in applications to graduate training and jobs that include a significant writing or teaching component. For further advice on long-form non-fiction, writing associate training or the minor requirements, consult with Laurie McMillin; for advice on journalism, grant proposal writing, or science communication consult with Jan Cooper.

Russian

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

The Russian language courses we teach are vertically structured (consecutive), beginning with RUSS 101 Elementary Russian, which does not require prior knowledge of the language. After 101, students move on to 102 to complete their first year of language learning.
Intermediate Russian (RUSS 203-204) proceeds in a similar fashion. The prerequisite is successful completion of RUSS 102 or the equivalent. Advanced Russian (RUSS 305-306) focuses on cross-cultural issues, how Russians view the world in terms different from the West. At all language levels we promote communicative abilities. Students have opportunities to speak with native Russian speakers through class and extracurricular activities.
Fourth-year courses taught in Russian are topic-oriented. Taught in the fall semester, RUSS 411 can focus on Russian poetry or short stories from different periods. In our capstone course: RUSS 446, students read and analyze a Russian novel in the original. In recent years students have studied Evgenii Onegin, Anna Karenina, Petersburg, the Master and Margarita.
We also teach a wide variety of courses on Russian literature, film, and culture in English, from First-Year Seminars to 300-level courses. These offerings change frequently and include such courses as Love in a Cold Climate; Literature and Revolution; Literature and the Land; A-bombs, Beatniks and Dogs in Space: Cold War Culture; Northern Naturalism: Chekhov, Iben, Strindberg;and Revolution/Counterrevolution in Russian Cinema.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

All of our courses in translation (see above) welcome students without a knowledge of the language or the culture. We know that a year of Elementary Russian can be a gateway to interactions with Russia now and in the future.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

We highly recommend starting to study the language during your first semester. If that is not possible, there is an opportunity to take Intensive Elementary Russian as a winter-term course and then complete the first-year program in the spring semester. At the same time, we recommend taking a First-Year Seminar from Russian faculty or a 100- or 200-level course in your first year.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

Students who come to Oberlin with some knowledge of Russian should take the online placement test before classes begin. Instructions for taking the test are available on the Cooper International Learning Center website.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.

Sociology

What should students new to your department know about your course offerings?

The discipline of sociology explores the nature, structure, and dynamics of social life, and also its causes and consequences for society. With this broad mandate, our courses cover a diversity of substantive interests, methodological approaches, and theoretical orientations. Sociologists study diverse social phenomena ranging from online conversations, friendship, and families to neighborhoods, governments, and social movements.
Our classes explore topical areas such as cities and communities, inequality, immigration, social identities such as race, class, and gender, ethnic relations and social conflict, social media and digital identities, and social dimensions of education, law, politics, culture, and sexuality.

If a student is not planning on a major in your department, what advice would you like to convey to students who are interested in taking a course or two in the department?

Consider taking an introductory course to get acquainted with the discipline and understand how sociologists look at the world.

What curricular advice would you provide first-year students considering the major about appropriate curricular entry strategies for the major?

Take courses with a variety of instructors to get a sense of the broad range of methodological and theoretical approaches to the field. Don’t underestimate the value of the quantitative skills you learn in the major—they will open up many career opportunities after graduation. Sociologists are well positioned to impact public understanding of urgent problems facing our society and our courses are geared toward analyzing and promoting social change.

Is there any placement testing for courses in the major? If so, how and when can students take the placement test?

There are none.

Are there any Advanced Placement tests that earn credit within the major?

There are none.