The College Curriculum

For a very long time, the W&M Undergraduate Catalog has contained these words: "A liberal education, although it has no single fixed definition, is more than a haphazard accumulation of courses. Its essential purpose is to liberate and broaden the mind, to produce men and women with vision and perspective as well as specific practical skills and knowledge." What does that mean today?


All undergraduate students share the College Curriculum experience — a set of specially designed courses that connect and integrate knowledge from the major and the electives, extending across four years.

Your introduction to the excitement and rigor of College-level study begins over the summer, before you even set foot in a classroom. Our College Studies short course introduces you to the liberal arts and helps you begin planning how to shape your first two years. In your College courses you'll be asked to find, evaluate, and apply information. You get a head start through our online Information Literacy project, which helps you sift through information, figure out what's useful and reliable, and then responsibly shape that information to serve your goals. And we'll be sending you – and every other entering student, and quite a few people on campus – a copy of this year's Common Book with some discussion questions. You can expect to hear a lot about the Common Book and to begin using your information skills starting with your campus orientation.

Your first-year experience includes two types of courses that lay the groundwork for a coherent liberal arts education: COLL 150, with deep readings and group discussions of texts, data, or methods of inquiry; and COLL 100, exploring the concepts, beliefs and creative visions, theories, and discoveries that have shaped our understanding of the world. These COLL courses are offered in every academic discipline and are a great way to explore an area of knowledge that's entirely new to you.

Your second year takes a close look at the various academic disciplines and how they approach knowledge through different paradigms and methodologies. COLL 200 courses structure this investigation explicitly. By the end of your second year, you should have a good sense of the field of knowledge you want to pursue in-depth through your major. You're also ready to begin connecting theory to practice and to place your work in a global or cross-cultural context through a COLL 300 experience.

Your major, your electives, and your College Curriculum experience all come together in your senior year. In the COLL 400 course you choose, you'll create original research and share your work with others. Soon, as a knowledgeable, independent thinker, you'll be ready to decide your next steps after College as you begin the engage the world around you.