BACHELOR OF ARTS
THE DEGREE Bachelor of Arts is conferred upon students who have satisfactorily met the requirements described below. The plan of studies leading to this degree is arranged on the basis of the equivalent of an eight-semester course of study to be pursued by students in residence at Amherst College.
The degree Bachelor of Arts cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude (Degree with Honors) is awarded to students who have successfully completed an approved program of Honors work with a department or program.
Other students who satisfactorily meet requirements as indicated below receive the degree, Bachelor of Arts, rite.
Each student is responsible for meeting all degree requirements and for ensuring that the Registrar’s Office has received all credentials.
The Bachelor of Arts degree is awarded to students who:
- Complete 32 full semester courses and four years (eight semesters) of residence,* except that a student who has dropped a course without penalty during the first year, or who has failed a course during the first or second year, shall be allowed to graduate, provided he or she has been four years in residence at the College and has satisfactorily completed 31 full courses.
Transfer students must complete 32 full semester courses or their equivalent, at least 16 of them at Amherst, and at least two years of residence at Amherst, except that a transfer student who has dropped a course without penalty during his or her first semester at Amherst shall be allowed to graduate with one less full course.
*In exceptional cases, a student with at least six semesters of residence at Amherst and at least 24 courses, excluding summer school courses not taken as make-up work or recognized as part of a transfer record, may apply for early graduation. Students seeking to graduate before they have satisfied the normal 32-course requirement will have the quality of their achievement thoroughly evaluated. The approval of the student’s advisor, department, the Dean of Faculty, the Committee of Six, and finally the Faculty must be received to be granted the status of candidate for the degree.
2. Complete the requirements for a major in a department or a group of departments, including a satisfactory performance in the comprehensive evaluation. Standard full courses are equal to four semester credits each. Half courses are equal to two semester credits. Our course system considers all standard full courses to have equal weight toward completing the degree requirements. Courses typically meet for three hours a week, with the expectation that an additional nine hours of academic engagement be spent in class, lab, discussion, studio, film viewing, and/or preparatory work.
- Attain a general average of 6 in the courses completed at Amherst and a grade of at least C in every course completed at another institution for transfer credit to Amherst.
All students except Independent Scholars are required to elect four full courses each semester and may elect an additional half course. The election of a half course in addition to the normal program is at the discretion of the student and without special permission. A student may not elect more than one half course in any semester except by consent of his or her class dean and the departments concerned. In such cases the student’s program will be three full courses and two half courses. Half courses are not normally included in the 32-course requirement for graduation.
A student may combine two half courses to be counted as equivalent to a full course if (1) the students completes 4.5 courses in one semester and 3.5 courses in a subsequent semester, and the two halves match in a manner designated by the offering department, and with permission of the academic advisor; or (2) the halves match within the same semester in a manner designated by the offering department, and with permission of the academic advisor and the class dean. No more than four half courses may be so combined for credit toward the degree.
In exceptional cases a student may, with the permission of both his and her academic advisor and class dean, take five full courses for credit during a given semester. Such permission is normally granted only to students of demonstrated superior academic ability, responsibility, and will. Fifth courses cannot be used to accelerate graduation. On occasion, a student who has failed a course may be permitted to take a fifth course in a given semester if, in the judgment of the Committee on Academic Standing, this additional work can be undertaken without prejudice to the student’s regular program. Students may only retake a course for which they have received a failing grade or from which they have withdrawn in a prior semester.
A student who by failing a course incurs a deficiency in the number of courses required for normal progress toward graduation is usually expected to make up that course deficiency by taking a three- or four-semester hour course at another approved institution during the summer prior to the first semester of the next academic year and no later than the semester prior to the student’s last semester at Amherst.
A student may not add a course to his/her program after the last day of add/drop at the beginning of each semester or drop a course after this date except as follows:
First-year students who experience severe academic difficulty may petition the Dean of New Students for permission to drop one course without penalty during their first year. The Dean of New Students, in consultation with the instructor and advisor, will decide on the basis of the student’s educational needs whether or not to grant the petition. Petitions to withdraw from a course will normally be accepted only during the sixth, seventh, and eighth weeks of either the first or the second semester. Exceptions to this rule shall be made only for disabling medical reasons or reasons of grave personal emergency, and shall be made only by the Dean of New Students.
Transfer students may petition their class dean to drop one course without penalty during the sixth, seventh, and eighth weeks of their first semester at Amherst. They must follow the petition procedure described above. The class dean, in consultation with the student’s instructor and advisor, will decide whether or not to grant this petition.
For sophomores, juniors, and seniors, exceptions to the rule prohibiting the dropping of a course after the ninth calendar day of the semester shall be made only for disabling medical reasons or reasons of grave personal emergency, and shall be made only by the Dean of Student Affairs in consultation with the student’s class dean.
Courses taken by a student after withdrawing from Amherst College, as part of a graduate or professional program in which that student is enrolled, are not applicable toward an Amherst College undergraduate degree.
THE LIBERAL STUDIES CURRICULUM
Under the Liberal Studies Curriculum, the first-year students are required to take a First-Year Seminar. These courses are planned and taught by one or more members of the Faculty as a way to introduce students to liberal studies through a range of innovative and often interdisciplinary approaches. The subject matter of the courses varies, as do the capabilities they seek to encourage. Each seminar constitutes an inquiry-based introduction to critical thinking and active learning at the college level. To achieve this goal, all courses have an enrollment limit of approximately 15 students and provide discussion-based classes, writing attentive instruction with frequent and varied assignments, close reading and critical interpretation of written texts, and careful attention to the analysis of argument in speech and writing. The courses offered for fall 2016 are described on pages 84-93.
Amherst’s liberal studies curriculum is based on a concept of education as a process or activity rather than a form of production. The curriculum provides a structure within which each student may confront the meaning of his or her education, and does it without imposing a particular course or subject on all students. Students are encouraged to continue to seek diversity and attempt integration through their course selection and to discuss this with their advisors.
Under the curriculum, most members of the Faculty serve as academic advisors to students. Every student has a College Advisor until he or she declares a major, no later than the end of the sophomore year; thereafter each student will have a Major Advisor from the student’s field of concentration. As student and advisor together plan a student’s program, they should discuss whether the student has selected courses that:
- develop fundamental capabilities such as critical reading, written and oral expression, quantitative reasoning, and proficiency in using information resources;
- achieve breadth of understanding through study in a range of disciplines and modes of inquiry.
THE MAJOR REQUIREMENT
Liberal education seeks to develop the student’s awareness and understanding of the individual and of the world’s physical and social environments. If one essential object in the design of education at Amherst is breadth of understanding, another purpose, equally important, is mastery of one or more areas of knowledge in depth. Upperclassmen are required to concentrate their studies—to select and pursue a major—in order to deepen their understanding: to gain specific knowledge of a field and its special concerns, and to master and appreciate the skills needed in that disciplined effort.
A major normally consists of at least eight courses pursued under the direction of a department or special group. A major may begin in either the first or second year and must be declared by the end of the second year. Students may change their majors at any time, provided that they will be able to complete the new program before graduation.
The major program can be devised in accordance with either of two plans:
Students may complete the requirement of at least eight courses within one department. They must complete at least six courses within one department and the remaining two courses in related fields approved by the department.
Some Amherst students may wish to declare a major in more than one department or program. This curricular option is available, although it entails special responsibilities. At Amherst, departments are solely responsible for defining the content and structure of an acceptable program of study for majors. Students who elect a double major must present the signatures of both academic advisors when registering for each semester’s courses and they must, of course, fulfill the graduation requirements and comprehensive examinations established by two academic programs. In addition, double majors may not credit courses approved for either major toward the other without the explicit consent of an announced departmental policy or the signature of a departmental chairperson. In their senior year, students with a double major must verify their approved courses with both academic advisors before registering for their last semester at the College.
Students with special needs who desire to construct an interdisciplinary major will submit a proposed program, endorsed by one or more professors from each of the departments concerned, to the Committee on Academic Standing and Special Majors. Under ordinary circumstances, the proposal will be submitted during the first semester of the junior year and not under any circumstances later than the eighth week of the second junior semester. The program will include a minimum of six upper-level courses and a thesis plan. Upon approval of the program by the Committee on Academic Standing and Special Majors, an ad hoc advisory committee of three professors appointed by the Committee will have all further responsibility for approving any possible modifications in the program, administering an appropriate comprehensive examination, reviewing the thesis and making recommendations for the degree with or without Honors. Information on preparation, form, and submission of proposed interdisciplinary programs is available in the Office of Student Affairs.
A part of the major requirement in every department is an evaluation of the student’s comprehension in his or her major field of study. This evaluation may be based on a special written examination or upon any other performance deemed appropriate by each department. The mode of the evaluation need not be the same for all the majors within a department, and, indeed, may be designed individually to test the skills each student has developed.
The evaluation should be completed by the seventh week of the second semester of the senior year. Any student whose comprehension is judged to be inadequate will have two opportunities for reevaluation: one not later than the last day of classes of the second semester of the senior year, and the other during the next college year.
DEGREE WITH HONORS
The requirements for graduation with a degree with honors are as follows:
The degree Bachelor of Arts with Honors is awarded at graduation to students whose academic records give evidence of particular merit. Latin Honors are awarded to students completing a thesis within their major department or program. English honors are awarded to students solely on the basis of performance in course work. The awarding of both Latin and English honors will be made by the Faculty of the College, and will appear on the diploma. In making such awards, the Faculty will observe the following guidelines:
- Candidates eligible for the degree summa cum laude must have a minimum overall grade point average in the top 25% of their class and have received a recommendation of summa based on a thesis or comparable work from a department or program in which they have majored. In addition, the theses of candidates for the degree summa cum laude will be reviewed by the Committee of Six, who will transmit its recommendation to the Faculty. Candidates will also have their entire records reviewed by the Dean of the Faculty and the Committee of Six, who will transmit their recommendations to the Faculty.
- Candidates eligible for the degree magna cum laude must have a minimum overall grade point average in the top 25% of their class and have received a recommendation of magna based on a thesis or comparable work from a department or program in which they have majored. Although each department or program may define additional criteria upon which it will base its recommendation, the candidate must submit a thesis or comparable work that is judged by the department or program to be of magna quality. Candidates will also qualify for the degree magna cum laude if they have been recommended for summa cum laude and are in the top 40% but not the top 25% of their class and have otherwise met the requirements for the degree summa cum laude.
- Candidates eligible for the degree cum laude must have received a recommendation of cum based on a thesis or comparable work from a department or program in which they have majored. Although each department or program may define additional criteria upon which it will base its recommendation, the candidate must submit a thesis or comparable work that is judged by the department or program to be of cum quality. Students recommended for summa sum laude who are not in the top 40% of their class will graduate cum laude. Student recommended for magna cum laude who are not in the top 25% of their class will graduate cum laude.
Candidates eligible for a degree with Distinction must have an overall grade point average in the top 25% of their class.
INDEPENDENT SCHOLAR PROGRAM
A limited number of students who elect to do so may participate in an Independent Scholar Program, usually in the junior or senior years in lieu of a traditional major program. Participants are chosen by the four-member Faculty Committee on Academic Standing and Special Majors, which includes the Dean of Student Affairs, after nomination for the program by a member of the Faculty. Independent Scholars are free to plan a personal program of study under the direction of a tutor, chosen by the student with the advice and consent of the Committee. The tutor provides the guidance and counsel necessary to help the student attain the educational objectives he or she has set. The tutor and one or more other members of the Faculty familiar with the student’s work will ultimately assign a comprehensive grade and provide a detailed, written evaluation of the student’s performance which will become part of the individual’s formal record at Amherst College. Grades in such regular courses as the student may elect will be taken into account in assigning the comprehensive grade, and the student is eligible for a degree with Honors, as well as all other awards and distinctions. An Independent Scholar who studies away from the College may be eligible for a tuition reduction.
The Faculty has instituted a program of Field Study under which students may pursue a course of study away from Amherst for either one or two semesters. Students are admitted to the program by the Committee on Academic Standing and Special Majors after approval of their written proposal and are assigned a Field Study Advisor chosen from the Faculty.
Upon being admitted to Field Study, students become candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Field Study, which is normally attained in four-and-one-half or five years. During the first semester in residence at Amherst after the period of Field Study, students must take a Special Topics course, normally with their Field Study Advisor, in which they draw on both their experience of Field Study and further investigation relating to it. Students may also pursue a related Special Topics course in the semester before they enter their program of Field Study.
Students pursuing a two-semester plan of Field Study will be allowed to continue after the first semester only upon providing evidence to the Committee that they are satisfactorily carrying out their program. No student shall begin study in the field later than the first semester of the senior year.
Students pursuing Field Study shall maintain themselves financially in the field, and during the period shall pay a Field Study fee of $50 to the College in lieu of tuition.
The transcript of a student who has undertaken Field Study shall include a short description and appraisal by the Field Advisor of the student’s project and of the related Special Topics course.
FIVE COLLEGE COURSES
Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts have for some time combined their academic activities in selected areas for the purpose of extending and enriching their collective educational resources. Certain specialized courses not ordinarily available at the undergraduate level are operated jointly and open to all. In addition, students in good standing at any of the five institutions may take a course, without cost, at any of the other four if the course is significantly different from any offered on their own campus and they have the necessary qualifications.
The course must have a bearing on the educational plan arranged by the student and his or her advisor. Professional, technical and vocational courses are not generally open for Five College interchange credit. Those courses accrue credit toward degrees other than the Bachelor of Arts degree which is offered at Amherst College. Individual exceptions must be approved by both advisor and Dean of the Faculty on the basis of the student’s complete academic program at the College.
The Premedical Committee reminds health pre-professional students that required courses (biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics) should normally be taken at Amherst College and not at other Five College institutions.
To enroll in a Five College course, an Amherst student must have the approval of his or her advisor and the Dean of the Faculty. Only under special circumstances will permission be granted by the advisor and the Dean of the Faculty for an Amherst student to enroll in more than two Five College courses per semester. If permission to enroll in a course is required for students of the institution at which the course is offered, students from the other Five Colleges must also obtain the instructor’s permission to enroll.
Free bus transportation among the five institutions is available for interchange students.
Students interested in such courses will find more information on the Registrar’s website. Lists of courses being offered by the other institutions are accessible there and on the other institutions’ websites.
Other aspects of Five College cooperation are described in the Student Handbook.
ACADEMIC CREDIT FROM OTHER INSTITUTIONS
Amherst College does not grant academic credit for work completed at other institutions of higher education unless it meets one of the following criteria: (1) each course offered as part of a transfer record has been completed and accepted by the College prior to matriculation at Amherst; (2) the work is part of an exchange program of study in the United States or abroad approved in advance by a class dean and the Registrar; or (3) the work has been approved by the Registrar as appropriate to make up a deficiency deriving from work not completed or failed at Amherst College (see Delinquencies); (4) The work has been approved by the Registrar as appropriate to meet conditions of involuntary leave or medical withdrawal.
COOPERATIVE DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
A cooperative Doctor of Philosophy program has been established by Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts. The degree is awarded by the University of Massachusetts, but some, perhaps much—and in a few exceptional cases even all—of the work leading to the degree might be done in one or more of the other institutions.
When a student has been awarded a degree under this program, the fact that it is a cooperative doctoral degree involving Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts will be indicated on the diploma, the permanent record, and all transcripts, as well as on the commencement program.
The requirements for the degree are identical to those for the Ph.D. degree at the University of Massachusetts except for the statement relating to “residence.” For the cooperative Ph.D. degree “residence” is defined as the institution where the dissertation is being done.
Students interested in this program should write to the Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Massachusetts. However, a student who wishes to work under the direction of a member of the Amherst Faculty must have the proposal approved by the Dean of the Faculty of Amherst College and by the Amherst Faculty Committee of Six.
ENGINEERING EXCHANGE PROGRAM WITH DARTMOUTH
Introduction. The engineering exchange (or dual degree) program with Dartmouth is an arrangement, offered through the Twelve College Exchange, under which eligible Amherst College students may attend Dartmouth College for a year to take engineering science courses (chosen to be eligible for credit at Amherst College), leading ultimately to both an A.B. from Amherst and a B.E. from Dartmouth in five years. A student spends his or her first two years at Amherst, followed by a junior year at Dartmouth for engineering science coursework. The student returns to Amherst for senior year and graduates from Amherst with an A.B. in an Amherst College major. The student then has the option to return to Dartmouth for an additional year to complete a B.E. degree. Applications to the program are due each year on February 1 of sophomore year to spend junior year at Dartmouth.
Requirements: Students must have completed the prerequisite courses to apply and must follow Amherst college policies regarding withdrawals and course load. Courses at Dartmouth must be pre-approved by the Amherst College Registrar. Students must receive a minimum grade of “C” in the Dartmouth courses to receive Amherst College credit.
1. Calculus through vector calculus (MATH 111, 121, and 211)
2. Two semesters of introductory physics (PHYS 123 and 124 preferred, PHYS 116 and 117 accepted)
3. One semester of introductory chemistry
4. One semester of introductory computer science
Courses at Dartmouth:
Students spend three quarters at Dartmouth, taking three courses each quarter, including three common core engineering courses, 1-2 distributive core engineering courses, 1-2 gateway engineering courses, and 3 courses in the humanities or social sciences. The Amherst College Registrar may consult with the Dean of the Faculty or Amherst College departments to confirm whether a course could qualify for credit at Amherst based on a criterion that the course is consistent with the liberal arts. Final approval is at the discretion the Registrar.
Common core courses: ENGS 21 (Introduction to Engineering), ENGS 22 (Systems), ENGS 23 (Distributed Systems and Fields).
Distributive core courses: ENGS 24 (Science of materials), ENGS 25 (Introduction to Thermodynamics), ENGS 26 (Control theory), ENGS 27 (Discrete and probabilistic systems).
a. ENGS 31 (Digital Electronics)
b. ENGS 32 (Electronics: Introduction to linear and digital circuits)
c. ENGS 33 (Solid mechanics)
d. ENGS 34 (Fluid dynamics)
e. ENGS 35 (Biotechnology and biochemical engineering)
f. ENGS 36 (Chemical engineering)
g. ENGS 37 (Introduction to environmental engineering)
Senior year at Amherst: Students return to Amherst to complete an Amherst College major and graduate with an Amherst College degree. Students are encouraged to take additional advanced science and math courses during this year.
Fifth year at Dartmouth: Students returning for the fifth year take additional technical engineering courses that lead to a B.E. from Dartmouth.
Pre-approved courses. Final approval of courses for Amherst College credit is at the discretion of the Registrar. The following Dartmouth engineering courses have been pre-approved by the Registrar for Amherst College credit. Departments should be consulted for advice on whether courses could be used to satisfy departmental requirements.
ENGS 20: Introduction to Scientific Computing
ENGS 21: Introduction to Engineering
ENGS 22: Systems
ENGS 23: Distributed Systems and Fields
ENGS 24: Science of Materials
ENGS 25: Introduction to Thermodynamics
ENGS 26: Control Theory
ENGS 27: Discrete and Probabilistic Systems
ENGS 30: Biological Physics
ENGS 31: Digital Electronics
ENGS 32: Electronics: Introduction to Linear and Digital Circuits
ENGS 33: Solid Mechanics
ENGS 34: Fluid Dynamics
ENGS 35: Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering
ENGS 36: Chemical Engineering
ENGS 37: Introduction to Environmental Engineering
ENGS 41: Sustainability and Natural Resource Management
ENGS 42: Contaminant Hydrogeology
ENGS 43: Environmental Transport and Fate
ENGS 51: Principles of System Dynamics
ENGS 52: Introduction to Operations Research
ENGS 56: Introduction to Biomedical Engineering
ENGS 60: Introduction to Solid-State Electronic Devices
ENGS 61: Intermediate Electrical Circuits
ENGS 62: Microprocessors in Engineered Systems
ENGS 63: Introduction to VLSI Systems
ENGS 64: Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics
ENGS 65: Engineering Software Design
ENGS 66: Discrete Mathematics in Computer Science
ENGS 67: Programming Parallel Systems
ENGS 68: Introduction to Communication Systems
ENGS 71: Structural Analysis
ENGS 73: Materials Processing and Selection
ENGS 76: Machine Engineering
ENGS 80: Ethics and Engineering
ENGS 91: Numerical Methods in Computation
ENGS 92: Fourier Transforms and Complex Variables
ENGS 93: Statistical Methods in Engineering
Additional details, including admissions requirements and suggested courses of study, housing and financial aid during the fifth year are available at: