William and Mary

Guide for Academic Planning

The following is a basic guide to the Proficiencies and General Education Requirements (GERs) that you will fulfill at William and Mary. Use the Student Academic Planner [pdf] to assist with your academic planning. 

  1. Freshman Seminar. If you are a freshman (defined as having earned 0-23 credits after graduation from high school) this requirement needs to be completed by the end of your first year. If you are unable to take a seminar in the fall (due to scheduling problems, unavailability, etc.), you can take one in the spring. These courses are typically numbered in the 150s.
  2. Writing Requirement. A "W" in a freshman seminar course number indicates that the seminar is writing-intensive. Seminars with a "W" satisfy both the freshman seminar requirement and the lower-division writing requirement with one course. If you have transfer credit from AP, IB or dual enrollment courses, you may be exempt from the writing requirement. In that case, you could take a non-writing-intensive seminar or one that is writing-intensive... the choice is up to you. If you are a transfer student and unable to take a freshman seminar, you can take ENGL 367 to fulfill the requirement or submit a writing portfolio. To learn more about upcoming courses offered, check the on-line course schedule.
  3. Language Proficiency. A proficiency level of 202 (Level IV) in a foreign language is required of all students. If you have not satisfied this proficiency, you should register for a language class that will begin the process of completing the requirement. You may satisfy the requirement by:
    • taking 4 years of a foreign language (one language) in high school,
    • receiving AP, IB or transfer credit for the 202 level or higher,
    • receiving a score of 600 or better on the SAT II achievement test in a modern foreign language (650 or better in Latin), or
    • completing a college course at the 202 level or above.
    • petitioning for profeciency exemption if native language is not English.

    If you have already satisfied the requirement through one of the methods above, you do not need to take any further language courses unless you want to or they are required for a particular major that you intend to pursue. Note: Students intending to major in Global Studies, International Relations or Medieval and Renaissance Studies will need to exceed the proficiency level; check the Undergraduate Catalog for language requirements in these majors.

  4. Digital Information Literacy (DIL) can be satisfied in one of the following ways:
    • Complete and pass the DIL exam in Blackboard prior to the deadline.
    • Take the INTR 160 - Digital Information Literacy in the Spring semester. You must notify the Dean of Educational Policy, prior to the DIL deadline if you intend to fulfill the requirement by taking this course.
    • Transfer students entering W&M with 39 credits or more, earned AFTER high school graduation, and not including AP or IB credits, are not required to take DIL.
General Education Requirements

General Education Requirements (GERs) total 11 courses over a range of 7 study areas. You should try to complete all or most of these requirements by the end of your junior year. Some of these requirements may be satisfied by AP, IB or transfer credit. See the Course Catalog or use the Dyanamic Schedule to search for GER Courses.

  • GER 1 - Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning (one course)
  • GER 2 - Natural Sciences (two courses, one of which is taken with its associated laboratory)
    • 2A Physical Sciences (one course)
    • 2B Biological Sciences (one course)
  • GER 3 - Social Sciences (two courses)
  • GER 4 - World Cultures and History (one course in category A, one course in category B, and one additional course in either category A, B or C)
    • 4A History and Culture in the European Tradition
    • 4B History and Culture outside the European Tradition
    • 4C Cross-Cultural Issues
  • GER 5 - Literature and History of the Arts (one course)
  • GER 6 - Creative and Performing Arts (two credits in the same creative or performing art)
  • GER 7 - Philosophical, Religious and Social Thought (one course)

While some students enter college with a particular major, career, or profession in mind, many will change their minds an average of 4-5 times during the course of their studies. The best approach to course selection is to be flexible, look for interesting, challenging courses, and remain open to change. Here are some hints to help you select courses for your first two years as a William and Mary undergraduate.

  • Complete the Freshman Seminar requirement during the first year.
  • Complete the Lower-Division Writing requirements by the end of your first year.
  • You have until your senior year to complete GERs, so don’t try to complete all of them in the first two years. Instead, try to finish some GERs (not all) in the first two years.
  • Explore new academic interests and unfamiliar courses.
  • Take courses in subject areas that are possible majors.
  • Balance course choice so that courses do not cluster around a single area or mode of inquiry. For example, do not take five courses in one semester that all have large research papers due at the semester’s end.
  • Be aware that certain majors have outside course requirements; learn what these are and plan accordingly.
  • Learn about uses of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate or dual enrollment transfer credits to fulfill GER, proficiency, and major requirements.
First-Semester Load

Pace yourself in the first semester and give yourself a chance to adjust to William and Mary academic expectations. A typical first-semester load will consist of four or five academic courses, and most range from 3-4 credits. A full-time load is 12-18 credits, with a typical first-semester load averaging 13-14 credits.

Explore new courses and venture broadly into the curriculum. You might choose to take a course in a prospective major or check out a class that you have heard is one of the most interesting on campus. Take advantage of academic resources (for example, the Writing Resource Center, Tribe Tutor Zone, faculty office hours) to hone your intellectual skills and class performance. Whatever you do, get good advice - from faculty advisors, peer advisors, and professional academic advisors. Determine to do well in your first semester by taking a manageable number of credits in courses that you find interesting, enjoyable, and rewarding.