Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
The Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences—oldest of Northwestern’s 12 schools—has been the center of the University’s academic and intellectual life since the 1850s. Weinberg College offers a liberal arts education that combines broad exposure to the insights and methods of multiple academic disciplines with focused study in one or more areas. The approximately 650-member college faculty is dedicated to superior teaching informed by advanced research. Nearly all members of the faculty, including the most senior, regularly teach undergraduates in a curriculum that includes more than 2,200 courses each year, as well as tutorials, supervised laboratory experiences, internships, and other individualized forms of instruction. The more than 4,000 undergraduates and 1,400 graduate students in arts and sciences enjoy a great deal of choice, with access to departments and programs offering 42 majors, 6 adjunct majors, and more than 50 minors. Among these are several majors and minors that are interdisciplinary within the College and a growing number that represent curricular collaboration across schools.
A liberal arts education in Weinberg College emphasizes the ability to reason clearly, to extract the essential significance of large bodies of information, to apply general principles in new contexts, to communicate effectively, and to be sensitive to human creativity and diversity. Required coursework provides an overview of the complexity of the world and different ways of apprehending and solving problems. Students examine how scholars from many backgrounds confront fundamental issues and how social conditions shape their inquiries. Proficiency in writing and competence in a foreign language build communication skills and expand the capability to study and understand another culture, while intensive coursework in a required major and optional minor develops an understanding of advanced concepts and lays the groundwork for original research. Many areas of the curriculum encourage interdisciplinary study that integrates the approaches of different fields and enhances the ability to address questions that cross traditional academic boundaries. A period of study abroad is encouraged in order to develop firsthand knowledge of other cultures and greater intellectual and personal independence. Students are also encouraged to undertake independent research projects that help them move beyond coursework and synthesize what they learn in their majors.
Weinberg College promotes participatory learning that begins in the first year of study in required first-year seminars and continues in laboratory experiences, internships, professional linkage and senior seminars, and other small-group or individualized instruction. Students can experience the excitement of discovery in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences not only through lectures by faculty working at the forefront of their fields but also through special projects developed under faculty guidance or by assisting faculty in their research. Northwestern’s strong undergraduate preprofessional schools and its graduate and professional schools offer liberal arts students enhanced opportunities to extend their interdisciplinary studies and to pursue applied work in several areas. In some cases this may lead to a minor or a certificate. The University’s outstanding libraries and its research centers further support and enrich the educational pursuits of liberal arts undergraduates.
Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts
Weinberg College offers courses of study in the arts and sciences leading to the degree of bachelor of arts. Students have extensive flexibility in structuring their academic programs within a framework of general education and major requirements specified in this catalog. Guidance in planning a coherent curriculum is available from several sources; see Academic Advising.
Students earning the bachelor of arts degree must complete 45 units of credit and fulfill the course and grade requirements described below. These include completing 2 first-year seminars, demonstrating proficiency in writing and in a foreign language, satisfying distribution requirements in six major areas of intellectual inquiry, and completing the requirements of a major in one of the departments or programs of Weinberg College. They must also complete a specified amount of their coursework within Weinberg College.
First-year students must complete two seminars. Offered by nearly all departments and programs in Weinberg College, these are small, discussion-oriented courses designed to develop basic intellectual skills: how to read critically, think logically, and communicate effectively, typically through the investigation of a specific theme or issue. First-year seminars are limited to 15 or 16 students to encourage discussion, and each seminar requires considerable expository writing—usually a minimum of 15–20 typed pages. These seminars ordinarily supplement rather than replace standard introductory courses and usually do not provide the preparation necessary for advanced work in a field. P/N registration (see Grade Requirements) is not allowed in first-year seminars.
Except for students in HPME, ISP, and MMSS, who may take their seminars in winter and spring, incoming first-year students are assigned to a fall seminar based on preferences they submit to the Weinberg Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising during the summer. The first-year seminar instructor also serves as the students’ academic adviser for that quarter. Also during the summer, first-year students are informed of the quarter in which they are to take their second seminar. First-year students also have the opportunity through the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program to take small seminars linked to larger lecture courses focusing on a common broad theme.
Students are required to demonstrate proficiency in writing. This may be achieved in a number of ways. First-year seminar instructors make the initial evaluation of writing in their courses. Students who do not write sufficiently well in their first-year seminars or in other courses may be asked to take ENGLISH 105-0 Expository Writing. Courses in expository writing and intermediate composition are available for all students who wish to increase their skill and confidence in writing.
Before graduation students must demonstrate proficiency in a classical or modern foreign language equivalent to the work covered in a second-year college-level course. Language proficiency may be shown in any of these ways:
- Achieving a designated score on a College Board Advanced Placement Examination
- Passing a placement examination given online during the summer and/or at Northwestern during Wildcat Welcome before fall classes start and periodically during the school year (language departments may limit the number of times a placement examination may be taken)
- Providing other evidence of proficiency, such as documentation that secondary schooling was completed in a language other than English
- Successfully completing designated Northwestern coursework (these courses may not be taken under the pass/no credit option, and a grade of C– or higher must be earned in the last course in a sequence fulfilling the foreign language requirement)
Students who believe they are proficient in a language not regularly taught at Northwestern may petition to take a placement examination in that language. Petitions are available in the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising and must be submitted prior to or during a student’s first quarter.
Students with professionally diagnosed disabilities related to foreign language acquisition should contact AccessibleNU about possible accommodations.
To ensure breadth of education, Weinberg College students must take 2 courses1 in each of the six distribution areas listed below. The lists of courses that satisfy the distribution requirements are established by a Weinberg College committee. Current lists are available on the college website, and eligible courses for each quarter are identified on the registrar’s website.
- I. Natural sciences
Courses introduce methods of inquiry and fundamental concepts in the natural sciences.
- II. Formal studies
Courses introduce concepts, methods, and use of formal rules of inference in mathematics, statistics, computer science, logic, linguistics, and other areas by showing how objects of thought and experience and their relationships can be analyzed in formal terms.
- III. Social and behavioral sciences
Courses introduce the theories, methods, and findings of empirical research on human behavior and its relation to social, cultural, economic, and political influences, groups, and institutions.
- IV. Historical studies
Courses introduce the chronological development of cultural, social, political, and economic affairs and their historical relationships.
- V. Ethics and values
Courses introduce the analysis of moral, social, and religious values and how they have developed.
- VI. Literature and fine arts
Courses foster understanding of how the attitudes, ideas, and values of individuals, groups, societies, or cultures are represented in their literature, arts, and other creative activities.
Courses taken P/N (see Grade Requirements) cannot count toward the distribution requirements. Courses identified as Interdisciplinary Studies are those that have been approved for fulfilling distribution requirements in more than one area; this means students may choose which one of the approved areas to apply the course. Students may satisfy a maximum of 2 of their 12 distribution requirements by achieving sufficient scores on College Board Advanced Placement or higher-level International Baccalaureate examinations; each of these two must be in a different distribution requirement area. A list of qualifying scores and tests as well as detailed information concerning the distribution requirements are available from the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising and on the college website.
See Area II under Weinberg College Policies: Distribution Requirement Special Cases.
All students must fulfill the requirements of a Weinberg College major, which should be declared by the end of sophomore year. Majors are declared by meeting with a designated department or program adviser to discuss opportunities and requirements, develop a course plan, and complete a Declaration of Major Form. All courses counted toward a major must be passed with grades of C– or higher. Grades of P (pass) are not acceptable in major and related courses. (See also Grade Requirements)
Students may pursue two or more majors by completing each department’s major requirements. With limited exceptions, the same course may not be applied to the major requirements of two departments. However, a course used as a department or program course in one major may also fulfill a related course requirement for another major.
A student’s total number of majors plus minors may not typically exceed three. Exceptions require permission from the Weinberg College Advising Office and cannot be granted during the first year.
Transfer students normally must complete at least four 300-level courses at Northwestern in the major department or program.
A student may elect a major from among the following options:
- Departmental major
Each Weinberg College department offers one or more majors. Requirements are described in detail in the respective department sections of this catalog.
- Area or interdisciplinary major
The college offers many interdisciplinary majors that apply the approaches of several departments to certain scientific, cultural, and political areas. Most are open to all students. American studies, integrated science, legal studies, and mathematical methods in the social sciences are limited-admission majors that require a special application, as does the English department’s creative writing major. African studies, geography, global health studies, international studies, mathematical methods in the social sciences, and science in human culture are available only as adjunct majors and must be completed with a second major that is not an adjunct major. Requirements for area and interdisciplinary majors are described in detail in their respective sections of this catalog.
- Ad hoc major
Occasionally students with well-defined interests are led to programs of study that do not fit neatly into the mold of a traditional major. They may develop an ad hoc major in astrobiology or medical ethics, for example, by bringing together courses from various departments. Ad hoc majors must be approved by the faculty’s Curricular Review Committee. For more information contact the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising.
All Weinberg College students, except those in the Integrated Science Program, the Honors Program in Medical Education, and the dual bachelor’s degree programs (BA/BMus and BA/BS), must successfully complete coursework earning at least 45 units of credit in order to graduate. Students must be degree candidates in Weinberg College during the last three quarters before receiving the BA degree. They may take courses in any other Northwestern school, but a limited amount of such coursework may count toward the degree. For details see Number of Weinberg College Courses.
In addition to and independent of the requirements set by Weinberg College, all students must satisfy the University’s Undergraduate Registration Requirement. This requirement addresses the number of quarters for which a student must be registered at Northwestern and the minimum number of units of credit that must be completed at the University.
Students must achieve an overall grade point average of C (2.0) or higher in courses used to meet degree requirements. They must earn at least a C– in all major courses and all minor courses, including all related courses for a major. If a major or minor has prerequisites, students must earn at least a C– in these courses as well. To complete the foreign language proficiency requirement through Northwestern coursework, students must earn at least a C– in the third quarter of the second-year language sequence.
Full-time students in Weinberg College are permitted to enroll in a limited number of courses with the understanding that in place of a regular letter grade they will receive the notation P (pass) or N (no credit), neither of which counts in the grade point average. No more than 1 course a quarter and 6 courses in all may be taken under this P/N option. Courses used to satisfy first-year seminar, distribution, foreign language, major, or minor requirements may not be taken P/N. No more than one-fifth of the total courses taken at Northwestern and offered for graduation may have grades of P or D.
While some other undergraduate schools of the University offer a Target Grade–P/N registration option, such registration is not available for courses offered by Weinberg College. Special rules govern registrations by Weinberg College students in courses of the undergraduate schools where this plan is available as well as by non–Weinberg College students who transfer into the college. Questions concerning this policy should be addressed to the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising.
Weinberg College students may take advantage of courses offered by Northwestern’s other schools, but a minimum of 34 units must be earned in a Weinberg College discipline. These include the following:
- Units of credit earned by completion of courses offered by Weinberg College.
- Units of credit transferred from other institutions or granted based on test scores in academic disciplines represented by Weinberg College academic areas of study. Transfer or test credits will count toward the 34 units if they appear on the Northwestern transcript with a designation corresponding to a Weinberg College area or as general credit (GEN_CRED).
- Approved School of Professional Studies courses in Weinberg College disciplines. Note that students must obtain the advance permission of the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising to register for courses in the School of Professional Studies.
Additional units beyond 34 can be in disciplines taught at Northwestern in schools other than Weinberg College and count towards the required 45 units for the degree, subject to certain limitations. No more than 3 units may be instruction in applied music and no more than 4 units may come from the military studies programs. Certain School of Professional Studies courses are not eligible to count towards College degree requirements. Students can consult their College Adviser for more information.
Weinberg College Policies
Detailed policies are available at weinberg.northwestern.edu/undergraduate/advising/policies-forms/.
Additional information can be found under Academic Options and Support.
Students must secure prior approval from the Weinberg College Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising before taking courses at other US institutions that they will submit for Northwestern credit. University, College, and department and program rules govern how many courses taken at other institutions a student may count toward requirements, where they may be taken, in which areas of study they may be, and which requirements they may fulfill. Information about credit from other institutions is available from the Office of the Registrar. Courses taken at other institutions but not accepted for credit by Northwestern cannot count toward a Weinberg College degree.
Many Weinberg College students spend time studying abroad, most often for a summer or for part or all of junior year. The University’s Office of Undergraduate Learning Abroad (ULA) is an essential source of information about programs around the world as well as about the rules and process for going abroad. Advisers in ULA, the College’s Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising, and the departments and programs can help students select programs that fit their academic needs.
Each year Weinberg College awards several prizes and honors to exceptional students. Recognition is given for outstanding writing in first-year seminars and outstanding academic achievement in certain areas of study. Each quarter the college’s Dean’s List honors students with sufficiently high grades. Each spring the Northwestern chapter of the liberal arts honorary society Phi Beta Kappa elects juniors and seniors to membership. Seniors whose grade point averages meet certain criteria graduate with college honors. In addition, many departments and programs recognize outstanding achievement by their students. This includes recommending students for graduation with department or program honors (see Honors in the Major under Academic Options and Support).
The college also awards funds to students working on research projects and creative activities; see Research Funding under Academic Options and Support for information.
Area II: Formal Studies
Completing any one course offered by the Department of Mathematics that is numbered greater than 224-0 with a grade of C- or better satisfies the Weinberg College Formal Studies (Area II) distribution requirement.
For more information about Weinberg College distribution requirements see Requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts. For additional rules and policies pertaining to satisfaction of distribution requirements see Rules and Policies for Distribution Requirements at: weinberg.northwestern.edu/undergraduate/degree/distribution-requirements/rules.html
Students who desire to study topics in arts and sciences that are not covered in the College's course offerings may initiate their own courses under the supervision of sponsoring faculty members. Enrollment in these seminar courses is limited to 20 students. The student organizer or organizers must, in consultation with the faculty sponsor, prepare a plan for the seminar and submit it to the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising before the middle of the quarter preceding the quarter in which the seminar is held. The plan must include a topic description, a reading list, specification of the work that will be graded (such as term papers and written examinations), prerequisites, and the meeting schedule. Students may enroll in only 1 Student-Organized Seminar (GEN_LA 298-0) a quarter, and enrollment must be on the P/N basis. Weinberg College students interested in organizing a seminar should consult the associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs for further details.
Academic Options and Support
Weinberg College provides an integrated academic advising structure centered in the college’s Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising, where faculty advisers are available throughout the year to assist students in all aspects of academic and career planning. Each first-year student is assigned an adviser who in nearly all cases is the student’s instructor in a fall-quarter first-year seminar. At the end of fall quarter each student is assigned a Weinberg College adviser, who will continue to be that student’s adviser through graduation. In addition, each Weinberg department and program has a corps of faculty advisers who counsel all undergraduates about course selections, majors and minors, and research and career opportunities.
The Arch Scholars Program is a suite of programs designed to welcome, engage, and support students who attended high schools with little or no AP/IB options or who were among the first in their families to attend college.
A pre-orientation program for admitted students thinking about STEM disciplines such as biology, chemistry, or neuroscience, especially if they are interested in learning more about science research at Northwestern. Students take BIOL_SCI 100-0 and CHEM 100-0.
Bridge I is a pre-orientation program with two tracks, one for students interested in quantitative disciplines such as math, chemistry, or economics (courses include MATH 100-BR, CHEM 100-BR, ECON 100-BR); and the other for students interested in the humanities, social sciences, or journalism (courses include HUM 100-1-BR, HUM 100-2-BR, JOUR 190-BR). Bridge II is open to rising sophomores intending to enroll in either organic chemistry or upper-level economics courses. The Bridge II course options are CHEM 199-BR or ECON 299-BR.
A two-quarter program for first-year students interested in conducting research in the biological, biomedical, neurobiological, chemical, or social sciences. In fall, students take Biological Thought and Action (BIOL_SCI 115-6 or other) and in winter BIOL_SCI 116-6; these courses satisfy the Weinberg College First-Year Seminar requirement.
Posner Research Program
This program enables rising sophomores to conduct research under faculty guidance during the summer after their first year.
Dual Bachelor’s Degree Programs (BA/BS and BA/BMus)
Two programs allow undergraduates to combine a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts with a bachelor’s degree in another Northwestern undergraduate school. One results in a BA from Weinberg College and a BS from the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the other results in a BA from Weinberg College and a BMus from the Bienen School of Music. Both options typically require five years of study. For more information see Dual Bachelor's Degrees section of this catalog.
Honors Program in Medical Education
The Honors Program in Medical Education is designed for unusually well-prepared high school students who seek a career in medicine or medical science. It provides a plan whereby students entering Northwestern are admitted simultaneously to Weinberg College, the McCormick School, or the School of Communication and to the Feinberg School of Medicine. HPME students then spend the first three or four years in undergraduate study and the last four years in the Feinberg School, potentially reducing the period of formal training by one year. For more information see Honors Program in Medical Education in the Dual Graduate & Undergraduate Degrees section of this catalog.
Accelerated Master’s Programs
Undergraduate students doing outstanding work may be accepted into one of the accelerated master’s programs approved by the Graduate School. These students may receive permission to double-count some courses toward both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
The approved BA/MA and BA/MS departmental programs in chemistry, comparative literary studies, economics, French, and linguistics share the goal of selecting and training exceptional students. Students are not self-selected but are recommended by the department to the Graduate School for admission. No particular grade point average in undergraduate courses, however high, automatically entitles a student to participate in an accelerated master’s program. Students are officially admitted only after their credentials have been thoroughly reviewed and approved by the senior associate dean of the Graduate School.
See the individual department sections of this catalog for more information on accelerated master’s programs. Further details and policies are available from advisers in the relevant departments and on the Graduate School’s website at .
Students enrolled in a number of departments of Weinberg College may simultaneously pursue secondary teaching certification through the School of Education and Social Policy. Students may earn science certification with a biology, chemistry, or physics designation; social science certification with an economics, history, political science, or sociology designation; or certification in English, French, German, Latin, mathematics, or Spanish.
Majors in the certification areas who wish to be considered for teaching certification must apply, be admitted to, and complete all requirements of the Secondary Teaching Program as described in the School of Education and Social Policy chapter of this catalog. Applications should be submitted to the Office of Student Affairs in the School of Education and Social Policy.
Other Cross-School Options
Weinberg College students participate in many academic opportunities outside of the college, sometimes taking individual courses of interest and sometimes completing a formal program of study. Many possibilities are included in this catalog. Certificates open to Weinberg undergraduates are offered through the School of Education and Social Policy, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Kellogg School of Management, and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Minors in several of Northwestern’s undergraduate schools, as well as other options in music, are also open to Weinberg College students. For more information see the relevant school chapter of this catalog. Interested students should also contact the schools through which the options are offered.
Each major in Weinberg College offers a program that may lead to the award of honors in the major to graduating seniors with outstanding records of achievement. Criteria vary by major, but all share certain features. Students recommended for honors in the major must
- Complete with distinction the regular courses required for the major and at least two quarters of 398 or 399 or their equivalent, or 400-level courses, or some combination thereof. (These courses may count toward major requirements in some departments and programs.) Majors set different GPA criteria.
- Complete a research project or other type of integrative work under the guidance of a faculty adviser. The project must result in a research report, thesis, or other tangible record; coursework by itself is not sufficient. Simple data collection, computer programming, analysis of data with canned programs, and summaries of primary or secondary sources are not by themselves bases for the award of honors in the major.
Each major has an undergraduate honors committee responsible for administering its honors program and for preparing the final recommendations for honors submitted in May to the Weinberg College Committee on Undergraduate Academic Excellence. The faculty adviser proposes a student for honors and writes a letter describing and evaluating the student’s project. A faculty member typically unconnected with the project must submit another letter giving independent and substantive judgments. The departmental honors committee reviews nominations during spring quarter and takes a separate recorded vote on each candidate. Approved nominations are reviewed by the Committee on Undergraduate Academic Excellence, which makes the final decision.
Information on procedures for students pursuing separate honors in two departments or programs, or interdisciplinary honors spanning two majors, is available from the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising and at .
Registering for 399 Independent Study allows students to earn course credit by working on a research or creative project under the supervision of a faculty member. 399 is generally open to juniors and seniors, and department consent is required; in some cases sophomores may qualify. During the quarter before enrolling in 399, students must submit for departmental approval a detailed description of the work they will undertake and the basis for its evaluation. Upon completion of the course, they must submit an abstract of the completed work to the department, where the description and the abstract are filed.
By departmental invitation seniors may take 398 (a senior-year seminar) in one or more quarters, up to a maximum of 4 units.
Students may not register for more than 2 units of 399 in a quarter or take 399 to make up for credit they lack as a result of failure or uncompleted courses. No more than 9 units of 398 and 399 may be presented as credit for graduation. Certain independent study courses offered by some departments with course numbers different from 398 and 399 are also subject to these restrictions.
Many students seek to enrich their education with practical experiences gained off campus. Chicago Field Studies administers several programs that combine seminars taught on campus with internships typically at Chicago-area organizations. Other Weinberg College departments and programs also offer opportunities for off-campus work. These are described in their sections of this catalog. No more than 6 units of credit earned through internship-linked coursework may count toward a Weinberg degree. See the college website for a list of options counting toward this limit.
Students may choose from more than 50 minors offered at Northwestern; among these are Weinberg College minors, interschool minors, and minors offered by some of Northwestern’s other undergraduate schools (see Minors under Additional Baccalaureate Options section of this Catalog). Minor requirements are listed under the appropriate headings in this catalog.
Completion of a minor is optional, not a degree requirement. A student’s total number of majors plus minors may not typically exceed three. Exceptions require permission from the Weinberg College Advising Office and cannot be granted during the first year.
Students may not count any course toward both a minor and a major unless the catalog description of the minor explicitly permits this or the course fulfills a related course requirement for the major. A course may not count toward more than one minor. All courses counted toward a minor, including prerequisites for the minor, must be completed with a grade of at least C–.
Weinberg College offers excellent preparation for subsequent training in professions such as law, medicine, and management. Each year many graduates pursue professional study in these areas. Other students enter the workforce directly.
All majors can furnish suitable preparation for professional schools, provided appropriate courses are taken. No major, however, is intended solely as preprofessional training. The college advisers in the Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising help students design academic programs that combine the breadth of a liberal arts education with adequate preparation for further professional study. Northwestern Career Advancement is another resource; several career counselors specialize in helping Weinberg students identify career goals and paths toward achieving them.
Undergraduates may take specially designed linkage seminars (designated on the transcript by "-LK") that approach social and work-related concerns through the eyes of an accomplished nonacademic professional with an affinity for the liberal arts and a gift for intellectual inquiry. These seminars link liberal education to professional issues, illustrating how theory and practice affect and enrich one another and thus focusing on the transition from the academic to the nonacademic world.
Weinberg College is committed to facilitating student research and to helping undergraduates immerse themselves in challenging, intense explorations through well-focused projects. The college, as well as some of its departments and programs, awards competitive grants to support research and creative projects of students working under faculty guidance. Academic–year awards cover some research expenses, and some summer awards also provide assistance with living expenses. Conference travel grants help fund travel to professional conferences to present research or creative work.
The University’s Undergraduate Research Grant Program is another source of research funding for qualified students. See Support for Undergraduate Research Endeavors for information.
Many departments and programs within the college sponsor student organizations. Some are honorary organizations, recognizing students who have achieved distinction within their fields of study. Others provide opportunities for students with common interests to come together for academic, social, career-focused, and service activities that complement classroom experiences.
The Weinberg College Student Advisory Board is the primary source of student advice to the dean and the associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs. Members also serve on several college committees. The board includes representatives from every Weinberg College department and program offering a major or a minor.
Weinberg College students are encouraged to study abroad. The philosophy of the college is that the best foreign study experience combines continued work in a student’s chosen course of study with significant opportunities for immersion in the culture of the host country. For example, a political science student might study the European Union in France. The college encourages participation in full-academic–year programs that include extensive study of languages and culture. The Office of the Provost offers grants for intensive summer foreign language study abroad. As early as the first year, interested students should discuss study abroad plans with their advisers and obtain information from the Office of Undergraduate Learning Abroad.