Summary of Requirements for Graduation

  • Residence: At least 64 credit hours in four full-time semesters, including the last semester.
  • Quantity: A minimum of 128 credit hours in at least seven full-time semesters.
  • Quality: A minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA
  • Distribution (number of courses):
    • First-Year Writing (1)
    • Foreign Language (up to 3)
    • Arts (1)
    • Historical Studies (1)
    • Literature (1)
    • Quantitative Reasoning (1)
    • Natural Sciences (2)
    • Social Sciences (1)
    • Diversity (2)
    • Wellness
  • Major: Satisfy requirements of a major
  • January Program: Complete three January programs (two for students in residence six semesters or fewer)

Graduation Requirements

To qualify for the degree of bachelor of arts, a candidate must meet specific requirements in residence, quantity, quality, distribution, major, and January Program. Only those seniors who have met all graduation requirements are eligible to participate in the commencement exercises. Students who, because of extreme extenuating circumstances, find themselves unable to graduate with their class, may appeal to the Administrative Committee for permission to march with their class and receive an empty diploma cover.

The following statements define the graduation requirements.

Residence Requirement

Candidates for the degree must earn in residence at least 64 credit hours. They must be resident students at Colby for at least four semesters, including the last semester. A resident student is defined as a full-time student taking at least 12 credit hours and paying tuition charges at the semester rate.

Unless taken as part of an established institutional exchange program, credits earned at another institution while a student is registered concurrently at Colby may not be applied toward graduation requirements.

Quantity Requirement (Credits)

A minimum of 128 credit hours earned in at least seven semesters of full-time college-level study. Among the 128 credit hours, up to 16 may be earned in courses taken on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.

Quality Requirement

At least a 2.00 cumulative grade point average. For each credit hour, a mark of:

  • A earns four points
  • B earns three points
  • C earns two points
  • D earns one point
  • Each plus mark earned adds .3 quality point per credit hour
  • Each minus mark deducts .3 quality point per credit hour

Distribution Requirement

No part of any requirement can be satisfied with the satisfactory/unsatisfactory option.

First-Year Writing
All students, with the exception of incoming transfer students who have completed an equivalent course before entering Colby, must take a first-year writing course (designated W1) during their first year. W1 courses, offered in a variety of subject areas and topics, share a strong emphasis on drafting, argument development, and revision; close focus on individual writing skills and needs; required writing in a variety of forms; frequent professor and peer feedback; and exploration of the ethical, critical, and formal expectations for written work in college.

Foreign Language
This requirement may be met in one of four ways:

  1. By attaining before entrance a score of 640 or higher on the SAT Subject Test in a foreign language or in a Colby language placement test, a score of 4 or 5 in Advanced Placement language or literature, a 6 or 7 in an International Baccalaureate higher-level exam, or 7 on a standard-level exam. Refer to the section on placement in foreign languages in the Academic Advising and Placement section for information concerning Colby language placement tests.
  2. By successfully completing Colby’s intensive language program in Salamanca, Spain, or Dijon, France. The Salamanca language program is available either fall or spring semester; the Dijon program is available in the fall semester only. These programs are open to first-year students, sophomores, and juniors.
  3. By successfully completing the equivalent of three semesters of a modern language (course usually numbered 127 or higher), or of a classical language (course usually numbered 131 or higher). Students will be placed according to ability.
  4. By successfully completing a previously approved intermediate-level language course at an approved college or university (see Transferred Credits in the Academic Procedures section).

Students whose native language is not English or who have studied a foreign language not taught at Colby may fulfill the requirement by presenting evidence of reading, writing, speaking, and listening at an intermediate level of that language. For a language taught at Colby, confirmation from the chair of the appropriate department must be filed with the Office of the Registrar. For languages not taught at Colby, confirmation must be obtained from the director of international student programs. Documentation or testing may be required.

Distribution Areas
Students are required to pass one three- or four-credit-hour course in each of Areas I, II, III, IV, and VI, and two courses in Area V. Normally, students will be expected to complete these requirements during their first two years. Course descriptions use the letter designations A, H, L, Q, N (and sometimes Lb or OptLb), and S to indicate the area requirement met, if any. (See Key to Course Descriptions.)

  • Area I Arts: Courses in the history, theory, and/or practice of the creative arts. (A)
  • Area II Historical Studies: Courses that investigate human experience by focusing on the development of cultures and societies as they evolve through time. (H)
  • Area III Literature: Courses that focus on literary works of the imagination and/or written texts in which ideas and creative or aesthetic considerations play a crucial role. (L)
  • Area IV Quantitative Reasoning: Courses that focus on quantitative or analytic reasoning about formally defined abstract structures. (Q)
  • Area V Natural Sciences: Courses that focus on the understanding of natural phenomena through observation, systematic study, and/or theoretical analysis. (N) At least one course taken to satisfy Area V must contain a substantial laboratory component (Lb for required lab; OptLb for optional lab).
  • Area VI Social Sciences: Courses that focus on theoretically and methodologically directed inquiry into various aspects of human behavior and interaction. (S)

Students are required to pass two three- or four-credit-hour courses that are centrally concerned with:

    • the structures, workings, and consequences of; and/or
    • efforts at political and cultural change directed against; and/or
    • progress in overcoming

prejudice, privilege, oppression, inequality, and injustice.

One of these courses must deal with these issues as they concern the United States (U designation in course description), and one must deal with these issues in a context other than the United States (I).

Wellness Program/Requirement

The purpose of the wellness program is to encourage and assist in the development of responsibility for one’s own lifestyle through programs centered on mental, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual fitness. Meeting the wellness requirement, which is certified by the Health Center, does not earn academic credit hours.

To fulfill the wellness requirement, all new students must complete the Web-based AlcoholEdu and a two-session sexual violence prevention training program and must attend evening wellness seminars, which cover a variety of topics that the College has identified as fundamental health concerns.

In order to select their second-semester classes in November, students must have completed AlcoholEdu and sexual violence prevention training.

In order to select their third-semester classes in April, first-year students must have attended four wellness seminars (in addition to having completed AlcoholEdu and sexual violence prevention training); midyear entrants must have attended three wellness seminars and have completed AlcoholEdu and sexual violence prevention training.

Transfer students must complete AlcoholEdu and sexual violence prevention training in the semester they arrive on campus to be eligible to select the next semester’s classes. In order to select their third semester of Colby classes, they must also have attended four wellness seminars.

In order to select their fourth-semester classes in November, students in their second year at Colby must attend a single sexual violence prevention training session focused on advanced bystander intervention strategies.

Major Requirement

Each student must satisfy requirements of a major. First-year students may declare a major or minor during their second semester before electing courses for their sophomore year. A major may be chosen in a single subject, in one of a number of designated combinations, or in an individually designed independent major. Students are required to declare a major prior to electing courses for their junior year. Students who elect a major during their first year are encouraged to reexamine their choices during their sophomore year. The respective academic departments and programs specify the courses constituting a major; requirements are detailed in the Departments, Programs, and Courses of Study section.

With the consent of the departments or programs concerned, a student may change majors. Forms for officially effecting such change can be obtained from the Registrar’s Office. A student may change majors at the end of the junior year if the equivalent of at least 12 credit hours with a 2.00 average has been earned in the new major. If in the senior year the average in courses completed toward the major falls below 2.00, the major requirement is not fulfilled and the degree cannot be awarded.

Any student whose major average falls below 2.00 will be placed on probation by the Committee on Academic Standing. A student who fails to regain a 2.00 major average in the subsequent semester has lost the right to continue with that major. Each department or program designates the courses to be calculated toward retaining the major.

Majors Offered
Students may elect majors in the following disciplines:

  • African-American Studies
  • American Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Chemistry-Biochemistry
  • Classical Civilization
  • Classical Civilization-Anthropology
  • Classical Civilization-English
  • Classics
  • Classics-English
  • Computational Biology
  • Computer Science
  • East Asian Studies
  • Economics
  • Educational Studies: Human Development
  • Educational Studies: Schools, Society, and Culture
  • English
  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Studies-Interdisciplinary Computation
  • French Studies
  • Geology
  • Geoscience
  • German Studies
  • Global Studies
  • Government
  • History
  • Latin American Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Mathematical Sciences
  • Music
  • Music-Interdisciplinary Computation
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Psychology
  • Religious Studies
  • Russian Language and Culture
  • Science, Technology, and Society
  • Sociology
  • Spanish
  • Studio Art
  • Theater and Dance
  • Theater and Dance-Interdisciplinary Computation
  • Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

These specific options are available within majors:

  • Biology: Cell and Molecular Biology/Biochemistry
  • Biology: Ecology and Evolution
  • Biology: Neuroscience
  • Chemistry: Cell and Molecular Biology/Biochemistry
  • Chemistry: Environmental Science
  • Economics: Financial Markets
  • English: Creative Writing
  • Mathematical Sciences: Statistics
  • Physics: Astrophysics
  • Psychology: Neuroscience

In addition to a major, students may also elect a minor. A minor normally consists of five to seven courses and involves a coherent progression of courses including both introductory exposure to a field of knowledge and advanced work. A minor must include at least four courses in addition to courses taken to satisfy requirements for any major or other minor. Students must maintain a 2.00 average in the minor. Current minors are as follows:

  • African-American Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Art
  • Astronomy
  • Chemistry
  • Chinese
  • Cinema Studies
  • Classical Civilization
  • Classics
  • Computer Science
  • Creative Writing
  • Data Science
  • East Asian Studies
  • Education
  • Education: Professional Certification
  • English
  • Environmental Studies
  • Geology
  • German
  • Human Development
  • Italian Studies
  • Japanese
  • Jewish Studies
  • Managerial Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Religious Studies
  • Russian Language and Literature
  • Science, Technology, and Society
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Theater and Dance
  • Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Major/Minor Limits
A student may declare up to two majors and one minor or one major and two minors. All declarations must be properly approved and filed with the Registrar’s Office. Requirements for majors, minors, and options are outlined in the section Courses of Study.

Independent Majors
The option of an independent major is available to students whose academic interests do not match existing majors. A student may design an independent major and submit a detailed written proposal, prepared with the aid of one or two advisors who accept responsibility for the program throughout its course. Many such majors are interdisciplinary; in these cases, two advisors, from different departments, are required. The program must include a balance of lower- and upper-level courses normally totaling one third or more of the total credit hours required for graduation. Implementation requires the written approval of the Independent Major Committee; this approval must be obtained by the end of a student’s sixth semester at Colby. Students pursuing independent majors must keep in touch with the committee, which must be notified about any changes in their program; substantial changes must be approved by the committee. The target dates for independent major proposals are Oct. 15 for the fall semester and March 15 for the spring semester. Inquiries about independent majors should be directed to the chair of the Independent Major Committee.

January Program Requirement

To be eligible for graduation, each student must complete three January Programs if in residence for seven or more semesters, or two if in residence for six or fewer semesters. First-year students must take a January Program and are given preference in 100-level programs. All students have the option of courses, independent study, or internships. Except under unusual circumstances, no more than one January Program may be taken each year.

January Program Mission Statement
The fundamental purpose of the January Program (also known as Jan Plan) is to broaden and extend the learning experience at Colby by offering students distinctive opportunities not ordinarily available during the traditional academic semesters. By definition, January experiences are intensely focused, emphasizing engagement by faculty and students with a single subject matter or experience. While January experiences share the broader learning goals of Colby’s curriculum, they are especially concerned with strengthening capacities for innovative thinking, independent work, creativity, intellectual exploration, and experimentation.

January Program Core Elements and Dimensions
Jan Plan experiences typically fall into one of three central areas of content and purpose:

  1. Undergraduate Research and Independent Study: Offers students opportunities to work closely with Colby faculty on original research or in courses of student-designed independent study under the guidance and supervision of a member of Colby’s faculty.
  2. Cross-disciplinary Exploration: Encourages Colby students and faculty to explore nontraditional subjects and innovative pedagogies and to push the boundaries of the academic disciplines and the traditional classroom.
  3. Career Explorations: Provides opportunities for students to explore various professional fields and career paths, primarily through funded and unfunded internships and other work experiences both on and off the Colby campus.

Selected courses, designated in the catalogue with “j,” are offered during January. January courses are offered for zero, two, or three credit hours. As a rule, no more than three credit hours may be earned in any January.

Because the January Program assures most students considerable flexibility in the use of their time, it permits them to participate more fully in extracurricular activities in athletics, drama, music, and other fields. While students are encouraged to attend the lectures, seminars, concerts, and art exhibitions scheduled by the College, they are expected to spend 30 to 40 hours a week on their January Program topics.

January Program options are

  • Courses Offered for Credit. Some are created specifically for January; others, originally designed to be offered during semesters, may be modified for January. Such courses are graded in the same manner as semester courses, except that nongraded January courses will be marked credit or fail.
  • Independent Study. An academic project under the direct supervision of a Colby faculty member. Projects ordinarily involve the preparation of an extensive paper or other suitable indication of the student’s independent research or artistic efforts. Two options exist for electing January independent study: (a) for course credit that can be applied toward graduation requirements, to be graded as in the first item above; and (b) for January Program credit only, to be graded honors, pass, or fail.
  • Internships. An internship is a carefully monitored work experience in which a student has intentional learning goals. An internship most frequently takes place at an off-campus job site and is monitored by an on-site work supervisor. An internship during January for Jan Plan credit requires completion of an online application and approval in advance by a faculty sponsor and the internship coordinator in the Career Center. A successful Jan Plan internship will receive transcript notation and may earn, with the approval of the faculty sponsor, one academic credit. Complete internship policies can be found at the Career Center website,
  • Noncredit Courses. These courses fulfill the January Program requirement, but students do not earn course credit that can be applied toward the credit hours required for graduation. These courses may be offered by experts in fields not included in the regular curriculum and will be graded credit or fail.

Other than the grades indicated above, marks of I (work incomplete) may be given only in cases in which the student has made an acceptable arrangement with the instructor. Grades of I must be made up within limits set by the instructor and not later than the second day following spring recess.

A full description of January courses is available on the Web in October, and students elect for January at that time. Changes in preregistration may be filed subsequently; however, students failing to register by the third day of the January Program will be considered to have failed the program for that year, with the failure to be noted on official transcripts. A student choosing not to do a January Program in any year must signify this decision during Web registration. (This is not an option for first-year students).

Requirements for Returning Students

A student returning to college after an absence must meet any new requirements for graduation if fewer than 65 Colby credit hours had been earned prior to the absence. If more than 64 credits had been earned, the student may elect to meet either the new requirements or those in effect at the time of initial enrollment.