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Choosing Appropriate Classes

As you think about possible courses for your first semester at Wellesley, an important consideration in many cases is placing yourself in the appropriate course level. It’s important to find your way into courses that will engage and challenge you, without overwhelming you. This is the best way to build a strong foundation for future academic success.

You have four years to move from introductory studies to more advanced work, and you should take advantage of all that time, and not rush into advanced courses for which you are not well prepared. At the same time, you don’t want to spend time repeating work that you have already done. Although you will find that courses at Wellesley are generally more demanding than what you have experienced elsewhere, you should remember that you have all done good secondary school work and so you are ready for this next step up! Fortunately, there are a number of ways to think about how to choose the right courses with the right level of difficulty.

What’s a prerequisite?

Some Wellesley courses build on specific previous knowledge, and if that is the case there is a prerequisite noted in the course description in the catalog. If there is a prerequisite, your professors will assume that you have that knowledge. If you are uncertain about whether your previous experience is enough to satisfy the course prerequisite, then consult with the professor during the first days of class and talk about whether this is the right course for you.

As a general rule, 100-level courses have no prerequisites and are open to all students, while many 200-level courses and all 300-level courses have some prerequisites. As you think about courses for your first semester in college, do not limit yourself to 100-level classes. Although these are excellent introductory experiences, you may also be ready to dig more deeply into one or two subjects in a 200-level course, particularly one without a prerequisite, so be sure to explore your options broadly.

1. Consider a First-Year Seminar.

First-year seminars are designed especially for first-year students.

Introductory lecture courses are not the only starting points for Wellesley first-year students. The First-Year Seminar Program is intended to ease your transition from high school to college by offering you the option of taking a small class (capped at 15) in which you will work closely with a faculty member and other first-year students.

The classes are called “seminars” because they are designed to foster active and collaborative learning—the emphasis is on discussions, group projects, field trips, simulations, and other experiences rather than lectures and exams. Wellesley students who have taken first-year seminars report that they provide a good way to get to know their fellow students and their professors.

Whatever the topic (see the courses as listed in the Course Catalog), there's an emphasis on active, collaborative, and creative learning. These courses can be great ways to experiment with an area of study that is new to you, or to pursue an interest you already have. Learn more about our First-Year Seminars.  Check out a series of short videos about some of the course offerings for the past year.

2.   Choose courses, not majors

As you applied to college, most (but not all!) of you had an idea about a possible major in mind. Some students consider focusing on a particular major as a structure for thinking about their course selections for their first year. But remember, you are not choosing a major until your sophomore year, and we want you to experiment with the curriculum while at Wellesley.

If you are not certain about a major yet, that’s fine. Use this first year to explore two or three areas of interest, and trust that your longer-term interests (and that major that goes with those interests) will emerge over time, with good work in the classroom and reflection on your goals and strengths. Choose courses out of your own interests, rather than from a sense that you “should” take this course or that you “need” a course in order to meet a pre-conceived idea of what college should include.

Students do best when they are excited and engaged with the course’s material, so pursuing your interests is the best strategy for earning strong grades and building a good foundation for success in later years.

3.   Build on existing strengths while experimenting to find new ones

While we want you to explore the curriculum and find out about the interests you don’t even know you have yet, you should also build on the academic successes you already have. Most students come to a college like Wellesley with a sense of academic areas they enjoy, and it only makes sense to do some further work in these areas right away. For many of you, these will be the areas you end up majoring in, and you will want to find out what college-level work in these areas is all about. So if you have enjoyed math in the past, by all means move on to the appropriate course here at Wellesley this fall. If you have a love for art or music, do that. Take something you already love, and make the most of it; you may be surprised what new pleasures are in store for you!

 

Once you know how to read the course descriptions in the Wellesley catalog, you still have to think about which courses will be right for you. It’s helpful to keep in mind some principles for choosing courses that will be appropriate starting points for your college academic experiences. The following are three general principles to get you started.

Helpful hint: Look at ideas for negotiating requirements and for getting started in math and science, writing, and language):