Degree Requirements

Your chosen major will determine many requirements as you progress toward your degree at Wellesley.

Class deans and advisors are there to help.

Certain common requirements for graduation apply regardless of your major, the key points of which we outline here. Students with questions about Wellesley College degree requirements should speak with their class dean.

Units Requirement

The Wellesley degree requires 32 units of credit. It is fine to have more than 32, but if you have fewer (even 31.99) your degree is not complete.

You may apply no more than two units toward the degree from the accumulation of fractional units through 1.25-unit courses taken at Wellesley. A two-unit limit also applies to the accumulation of fractional units through Wellesley 0.5-unit courses.

Of your 32 units, you must take 16 units at Wellesley (MIT units are considered Wellesley units). You may earn up to 16 units through a combination of the following: AP credits (no more than four units, or eight for students who entered before fall 2006), courses taken at another institution during the summer (no more than four units), courses taken at another institution during the academic year (no more than four units per semester and eight units total—except in the case of transfer students and Davis Scholars), and courses taken at a college or university prior to your graduation from high school but not included in your high school record (no more than four units). No more than four units may be earned through a combination of AP credits and courses taken at a college or university prior to graduation from high school and not included in your high school record.

Of the 32 units required for the degree, you must have at least 18 units outside any single department.

Distribution Requirements

You must complete:

  • three units total (at least one unit from each distribution area) in Language and Literature and Visual Arts, Music, Theater, Film and Video;
  • one unit in Social and Behavioral Analysis and two units total from two of the following three distribution areas: Epistemology and Cognition; Religion, Ethics, and Moral Philosophy; and Historical Studies; and
  • three units total (at least one from each distribution area) in Natural and Physical Science and Mathematical Modeling and Problem Solving. At least one unit must be a laboratory unit.

Students must ordinarily complete two of the three units in each distribution group at Wellesley (the exceptions are transfer students and Davis Scholars, who should consult the class dean).

If you intend to apply a non-Wellesley course towards a distribution requirement, the course must be equivalent to a full Wellesley unit (or you may transfer credit for more than one course to make up a full unit). The exception is courses taken on one of the formalized resident exchange programs (e.g., Twelve College, Mills, Spelman) and their cross-registered programs. At these schools, for the purpose of distribution (but not for the degree), a course will be equivalent to one full unit, subject to department approval.

You may count one unit of language study at the second-year level toward the Language and Literature requirement. You may also count any language course beyond the second-year level toward this requirement.

AP units may not be used to fulfill distribution requirements.

Writing 125 courses do not satisfy any distribution requirement, unless the section you completed was cross-listed with a department (e.g., Writing 125/Art History 100).

Independent study courses (350s) cannot be used to satisfy distribution requirements.

Writing Requirement

All entering students are required to complete one semester of expository writing in their first year. Courses meeting this requirement are offered in the Writing Program. Transfer students and Davis Scholars who have not fulfilled a similar requirement must also complete one semester of expository writing.

Foreign Language Requirement

Each candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Arts must show, ordinarily before the beginning of her senior year, that she has some proficiency in the use of at least one language, ancient or modern, other than English. The requirement may be met in one of the following ways:

A. By completing two units of language study at the second-year college level (through the Wellesley course numbered 202, or, in the case of Latin, 201); or 

B. In cases where the student can demonstrate to the appropriate department or program through a placement test that she has adequate preparation, by completing one unit of work taught in the foreign language above the course numbered 202 (the appropriate department or program will determine the appropriate placement for these students); or 

C. By course work done at another institution, subject to approval by the appropriate department or program (this requirement may not be met by independent work); approval will typically include a placement test, and may include a requirement that the student take an additional course in the language at Wellesley; or 

D. By passing one of the language tests of the College Entrance Examination Board, either the SAT II at a score of at least 690, or the Advanced Placement Examination at a score of 5; or by passing a Higher Level IB language exam with a score of 5, 6 or 7.

E. In cases of students who are native speakers or very advanced learners of languages other than English, by permission of the appropriate department or program (in cases of speakers of languages not taught at Wellesley, by presenting documentation to the Academic Review Board of proficiency in that language).

Quantitative Reasoning Requirement

This is a two-part requirement. All students must fulfill both a basic-skills component and an overlay-course component.

To satisfy the basic-skills component of the QR requirement, students must either receive a passing grade on the QR Assessment test or successfully take QR 140, Introduction to Quantitative Reasoning. The basic-skills component should be completed in the student's first year.

To complete the QR requirement, all students must also pass a QR-overlay course that involves analyzing and interpreting data in a scientific or social context. The Committee on Curriculum and Academic Planning has designated courses in various departments as QR-overlay courses; they are identified as such in the individual course descriptions in the Wellesley College Catalog. You can also check the QR home page for an updated list of QR-overlay courses. A score of 5 (4 for students who entered before fall 2006) on the AP statistics exam also satisfies the QR-overlay requirement.

300 Level Requirement

The Wellesley degree requires four 300-level units.

At least two 300-level units must be completed in your major. (Some majors require more; check your major's specific requirements.) There is no limit to the number of 300-level courses you can take in one department, nor are you required to take 300-level courses outside your major.

At least two units of 300-level work must be completed in your last two years of college (no matter how many 300-level units you may have completed as a first-year student or sophomore).

In order to get 300-level credit for work done elsewhere than at Wellesley, you must get the approval of the appropriate Wellesley department chair, who is likely to want to review not only a course description but also the course syllabus and the papers and exams you submitted. Use the transfer credit form on the Registrar's website to ask for this approval.

Several MIT courses have been pre-approved for 300-level credit; check with the Registrar's office. Please note that the political science department accepts no transfer credits at the 300 level, including MIT courses.

For the purpose of 300-level credit (but not for the degree), a course taken on one of the formalized resident exchange programs (Twelve College, Mills, Spelman) and their cross-registered programs will be equivalent to one unit, subject to department approval.

Multicultural Requirement

You must have a multicultural-requirement proposal, signed by your faculty advisor or dean, on file with the Registrar's Office. First Year Writing courses may not be used to satisfy the multicultural requirement except in the case of courses cross-listed with another department or program.

Major Requirements

College legislation stipulates a minimum of eight units for a major. However, many departments and programs require more than eight units. Make sure that you know the requirements of your major(s) and that you have a reasonable plan for meeting them.

You should have a major declaration on file in the Registrar's Office by the end of second semester sophomore year or by the end of the first semester if you plan on study away from Wellesley in the junior year. You will officially confirm your major in the fall of senior year.


A minor is not a degree requirement but an "extra" that some students may elect. Check the Wellesley College Catalog or each department's Web page to determine which departments offer minors. If you are interested in completing a minor, see the Department Chair about courses, requirements, and an advisor.

You may have one major, a major and a minor, or two majors. It is not possible to declare two majors and also a minor, nor is it possible to declare a major and two minors. You can, of course, complete the course work for as many majors and minors as you have time for.

Physical Education Requirement

Although it does not appear on your transcript, physical education is a degree requirement for all students except Davis Scholars. (Transfer students will be given partial credit toward the physical education requirement dependent upon year and semester of admission. Usually, students admitted in the sophomore year will be expected to complete four credit points at Wellesley. Students admitted in the junior year will usually be considered as having completed this degree requirement.) If you are unsure about the status of your Physical Education Requirement, check with the PE Registrar.

Transfer Credit

If you began at Wellesley as a first-year student, you may transfer a total of eight units from work completed at another institution during the academic year. (Students who transfer into Wellesley after beginning college elsewhere should see the Class Dean.)

Only four units may be transferred towards the Wellesley degree from summer school, other than Wellesley College. There is no limit to the number of Wellesley College Summer School units you can count towards the degree.

In order to be considered for transfer credit, you must ordinarily pass a course with a letter grade of C or better. The exception is courses taken at one of our exchange schools (Mills, Spelman, or one of the 12-College Exchange schools), where you may receive transfer credit with that institution's passing grade.