Curricular Advice for New Students Fall 2024


  • Course Offerings and Academic Policies are best found in the University Catalog.
  • Send questions and comments to

Course Recommendations by Academic Department

For those first-year students considering a particular major or subject of interest, the departments and programs have made recommendations for courses to take in the first year.

W&L Requirements for a Degree

  • at least 120 credits, including 60 at W&L
  • study full-time at W&L, typically on campus, for a minimum of six terms including three terms prior to graduation
  • at least a 2.000 grade-point average in:
    • all work attempted at W&L,
    • all W&L work used to meet degree requirements, and
    • all work used to meet major requirements
  • completion of the Foundation and Distribution Requirements (FDR): the basic liberal-arts general education requirements
  • completion of at least four experiential learning credits
  • completion of at least one major

Foundation and Distribution (FDR) quick summary

Specific courses are marked with FDR codes in the course listing and academic catalog. An FDR checklist will be given to you during Orientation.

Foundation Requirements

Foundations: 4 courses

  • FW: Writing Foundation: proficiency or course
  • FL: World Language Foundation: proficiency or course(s)
  • FM: Mathematics or Computer Science Foundation: proficiency or course
  • FP: Physical Education Foundation: four skills courses

Distribution Requirements

Distribution in Arts and Humanities: 4 courses

  • HU: Humanities
  • HA: Arts
  • HL: Literature
  • one additional course in these areas

Distribution in Sciences and Social Sciences: 4 courses

  • SL: Science Laboratory: 1 course
  • SC: Science, Mathematics or Computer Science: 1 additional course
  • SS: Social Sciences: 2 courses in 2 areas

Experiential Learning

Students must present at least four credits of experiential work taken at W&L toward degree requirements.  Approved courses vary in credit, so one student may use four 1-credit applied music classes to meet the requirement, while another student uses a single 4-credit summer internship for all four EXP credits. Courses approved as meeting this Experiential Learning requirement are listed in the University catalog (search using this link:

External Credit Policy

  • External credit upon entry to W&L: Entering first-year students may receive a maximum of 30 credits from any and all non-W&L courses (AP, IB, college courses while in high school, etc). Of the 30, no more than nine credits may be counted toward the requirements for a particular major with departmental approval; individual departments may set a limit of less than nine credits counted toward the major.
  • Total external credit toward W&L degree: No more than 60 of the 120 credits required for the W&L degree may be earned elsewhere or by any other means than through courses offered at W&L or through formal exchanges (e.g. VMI, Mary Baldwin). In other words, first-year incoming credits, transfer credits, courses taken abroad, etc. will not count in the 60 credits to be taken at W&L.
  • Last date to receive credit on entrance: All paperwork must be in the University Registrar's Office by the last day of fall-term classes.

Advanced Placement (AP, IB, GCE, etc.)

Official score reports to W&L

Official score reports must be sent during the summer prior to matriculation in order for registration prerequisites and credits to be awarded. Students are responsible to contact The College Board or IB testing authority and request official score reports to be sent directly to the W&L University Registrar. It is critical to have these official scores processed by W&L University Registrar's Office prior to your fall course registration in order to avoid missing prerequisites. Scores reported on high school transcripts or on student score reports are not acceptable. AP/IB/GCE credit earned is posted in View My Academic Record under the Transfer Credit from Exams section once we have received it. If you receive credit for AP, IB or GCE credit, make sure that you don't register for the same W&L course number or you will lose your external exam credit.

Advanced Placement Program (AP): Score of 4 or 5 required, depending on department. Go to the AP Program Policies page at for score equivalencies and ordering information.
International Baccalaureate (IB): Higher-level score of 5, 6 or 7 required. Go to the International Baccalaureate Credit Equivalencies page at for score equivalencies and ordering information.
GCE A-level credit: Visit the Cambridge International Exams: A-levels & AICE page for score equivalencies.

First-Year Student Requests for Transfer Credit

  • Complete the  Credit Transfer Request Form and submit it with the requested information (institution, course details, description and syllabus, information on instructor, location, and texts) to along with an official transcript sent to the University Registrar. Go to the Credit Transfer Form page at
  • Due date: Forms and transcripts received by July 1 will be evaluated by the appropriate department heads in time for initial preregistration. These courses are often prerequisites for work first-year students plan to undertake in their first term, so it is important for students to have records sent as soon as possible.
  • Last date to receive credit on entrance: All paperwork must be in the University Registrar's Office by the last day of fall-term classes.
  • What does not transfer: No college course will be transferred if it has been used to meet one of W&L's entrance requirements (4 years of English, 3 years of math, 3 years of world language, 1 year of natural science and 1 year of history). Only work comparable to that at Washington and Lee in level, nature, and field may be accepted for degree credit.

Placement Testing at W&L

Miscellaneous Information

  • Normal Course Load: The academic load for first-years is normally between 13 and 15 credits for the fall and winter terms (usually four courses, exclusive of physical education) and three to four credits for the spring term. A candidate for any undergraduate degree must present a total of 120 credits, which averages out to 13-13-4 (fall-winter-spring credits) each year.
  • Choosing courses for the first year: Within Washington and Lee's curriculum, first-years have a large measure of choice in selecting courses. They should distribute their work in such a way as to acquire the fundamentals of a liberal education, selecting courses which will begin to satisfy the Foundation and Distribution Requirements (FDRs) and enable them to explore possibilities for a major or to continue study in a field of special interest.
  • Language and Mathematics proficiency: In choosing courses, first-years should consider that their skills in mathematics and language study may deteriorate if they do not continue work in them immediately. Similarly, popular science courses are often closed during the junior and senior year; so first-years are encouraged to complete these requirements early.
  • Declaring a Major: Students declare their major in the middle of winter term of the sophomore year. All undergraduates are members of the College unless they choose one of the majors in the Williams School.
  • Taking Courses Pass/Fail: First-year students are not allowed to self-elect a Pass/Fail grading option in any course which is offered on a graded basis.
  • First-Year Seminars: These are sections designed as in-depth explorations of a field of study with a small group of your peers. These seminars are reading- and discussion-based with an emphasis on papers, projects, studio work, or hands-on field experience rather than exams. They may be found in the course listing each term with "FS:" at the beginning of the course title; you may also search for "FS" using the course tag search feature.


Questions may be addressed to the Office of the University Registrar,, or 540.458.8455.