A guide to coursework at Northwestern


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

With Northwestern’s vast array of course offerings, it can be overwhelming looking at the four years-worth of classes ahead.

Iris Swarthout, Senior Staffer

While four years down the road seems like a lightyear away, you’ll be embarking on your final year at Northwestern before you know it. Whether you’re undecided on your major or intent on your career path, here are the classes you need to graduate as a Wildcat.

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences

Weinberg is the largest school at Northwestern, and its lack of specificity gives students much leeway in degree options — along with an abundance of requirements.

As a Weinberg student, your first class will be your fall, first-year seminar. This course will be taken with your Peer Advising group. You’ll take a second first-year, writing seminar either in Spring or Winter Quarter of freshman year.  These first-year seminars won’t include your PA group members, however. 

The next Weinberg requirement is a second-language proficiency. If you did not test out of the language requirement or are looking to start a new language, you are required to take two years of coursework. This can be shortened by testing into a higher level language course. AP scores, either a 4 or 5 depending on the language, can also satisfy the language requirement.  

Finally, distribution requirements make Weinberg similar to a liberal arts school. Weinberg students are required to take two courses each from six different areas of study. 

McCormick School of Engineering

McCormick provides students a more streamlined core curriculum requirement than Weinberg. There is no language requirement and the only non-STEM requirement is seven units of social sciences and humanities courses. 

Beyond the first-year sequence, McCormick students are required to take math,  science, design and engineering classes, with additional courses varying by major. 

Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications 

Medill’s minimal degree requirements allow students to easily double major in other schools or partake in certificate programs. 

First-year students take a three-course sequence to learn the basics of print reporting, introductory-level video and photo reporting and the business and real-world applications of journalism.  

After freshman year, students are required to take classes in law and ethics, reporting and media history prior to their Journalism Residency. Students must also take 14 elective units and one year of a foreign language unless they prove proficiency.

Like Weinberg, Medill also has distribution requirements. There is also a diverse culture requirement. 

The Journalism Residency program is a quarter-long internship that allows students to put the skills they gained from Medill into the field at an array of publications, digital platforms and marketing firms. Most students do the program during their junior or senior year. 

School of Education and Social Policy

SESP students must choose one of four concentrations with separate learning tracks: Human Development in Context, Learning & Organizational Change, Learning Sciences, and Social Policy. All SESP students are required to fulfill the Methods in Context and Heterogeneity, Systems and Inequalities overlays to graduate. Additionally, they must earn a Global Engagement credit either through study abroad or a one-year language requirement. 

First-year students must take SESP 200: a seminar titled “Understanding Knowledge in Policy, Research & Practice. 

Bienen School of Music

Students within Bienen either graduate with a Bachelor of Music, a Bachelor of Arts in Music or a Bachelor of Science in Music. 

For the Bachelor of Music, students can choose between specializations, each with separate degree requirements. Music Theory classes typically make up the core classes, while performance and conducting classes satisfy the major requirements. 

Within the Music Studies degree, students can concentrate in composition, musicology, music cognition, music education or music theory.

Course requirements for both the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science include music theory and ensemble courses with specializations in various concentrations. 

Bienen’s distribution credits are similar to Weinberg’s. 

School of Professional Studies

Students looking to double major in a more specific interest area that isn’t offered in the traditional undergraduate major line-up can look into SPS. 

This school is typically renowned for graduate-level and part-time programs, and degree offerings like Humanities and Biological Sciences are more readily accessible in Weinberg. However Communication Studies and English Major in Writing, for instance, are not offered within Weinberg and do not require any distribution credits — only those related to the major program itself. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @swarthout_iris

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