Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

About Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Psychology

Should I take biology my first semester?

The initial biology course is typically not offered during the fall semester.  F&M students pursuing coursework in biology begin with Biology 110 (Principles of Evolution, Heredity and Ecology) during the spring semester of the first year.

Should I take chemistry my first semester?

F&M's graduation requirements do not include a chemistry course, however chemistry is needed for several science majors and many graduate health professions programs.  The first chemistry course in the sequence, chem. 111, is offered only in the fall and, due to the verticality of the subject in this course, must be taken prior to any additional chemistry courses. You should consider taking chemistry, however, if any of the following apply:

  • You are interested in pursuing a major in Biology, Chemistry, Biological Foundations of Behavior, or Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and possibly environmental science.

  • You are interested in pursuing health professions requirements and plan to complete them by the end of the junior year, or are interested in a study abroad experience either semester of your junior year.

Students taking chemistry the first semester and planning to major in the sciences typically take mathematics and two additional courses. The same advice applies to most students pursuing health professions requirements.

Should I take physics my first semester?

You are encouraged to enroll in the physics FYS if you might be interested in majoring in physics or astrophysics; or if you are interested in the 3/2 engineering program.

If you are planning to major in physics or astrophysics, you don't have to take physics your first semester but there are advantages to starting early.

To satisfy the affiliate school requirements for admission under the combined degree engineering program, students typically need two years of physics and one year of chemistry. To satisfy the F&M requirements students must complete their major while at F&M. Given its overlap with the engineering requirements, physics is OFTEN the most convenient major (but certainly not the only possible major). In order to finish a physics major by the end of your third year, you must either start your first semester or bring credit in. In short, the answer to the "yes or no" question above is "probably" if you plan to go 3/2 engineering. The combined degree engineering plan also has a four year option in which case you only NEED to take physics your first semester if all three of the following conditions apply 1.) you don't bring any physics credit with you, 2) you plan to major in physics and 3) you also want to study abroad.

If you are not interested in engineering but might like to major in physics and study abroad, you should take physics your first semester.

If you want to major in physics and complete the health professions program, you should take PHY 111 and CHM 111 your first semester. This is necessary because chemistry only teaches introductory courses in a fall-spring sequence and you want to start your major and prepare for the MCAT at the same time. Either physics or chemistry can be postponed but that will restrict freedom down the road.

If you have any questions about physics placement or timing of courses, please contact the Physics and Astronomy Department chair, Professor Andrea Lommen; ; 717-291-3810).

Should I take psychology my first semester?

If you are interested in the field of psychology, taking Introductory Psychology (Psychology 100) your first semester is a great idea.  If you are pursuing health professions requirements, however, it is strongly recommended that you do not enroll in Psychology 100 the first semester. In fact, phealth professions students interested in integrating psychology into their curriculum do so through either the Biological Foundations of Behavior (BFB) program or the Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind (SPM) programs. Students pursuing either of these areas of academic interest bypass Psychology 100.

What if I have AP or IB credit in the math and/or the sciences?

It is often appropriate that students with AP or IB credit in science courses consult with a faculty member during the summer to clarify and work out their proper placement.

If you are considering medical school and wish to use AP credit for an introductory science course, be advised that many medical schools have a variation of the following policy: "AP coursework can be used to fulfill basic premedical requirements if they are supplemented by more advanced course work in that subject."  Questions regarding AP credit and the health professions can be addressed to the Director of Health Professions Advising, Dr. Glenn Cummings (; 717-291-4191)

What if I have AP or IB credit in math and/or chemistry?

If you have AP or IB credit in calculus (including AB or BC), it is very likely you will begin mathematics at a higher level such as Calculus II (MAT 110). If you have scored at a sufficiently high level on the AP test, you will receive AP credit towards graduation. Questions about AP credit in mathematics should be directed to Professor Alan Levine (; 717-291-4040) in the Mathematics Department.If you have AP or IB credit in chemistry, it is strongly recommended that you consult with the chair of the Chemistry Department, Professor Jennifer Morford (; 717-358-4590).

What if I have AP or IB credit in biology?

 An Advanced Placement (AP) Biology exam score of 4 or 5 is awarded one credit listed on the transcript as Biology (BIO) 179. This biology credit may satisfy the Natural Science with Lab general education requirement, but BIO 179 does not count toward any life science major course requirements. Students interested in studying biology at F&M typically start the biology curriculum with Biology 110 during spring semester of the first year.

Occasionally students with International Baccalaureate (IB) credit in biology, if they are considering further study of biology, wish to take Biology 220 in their first semester or qualify to take Biology 230 during their second semester. Although F&M generally advises students not to take two laboratory sciences in the first semester (such as Chemistry 111 and Biology 220), such a schedule may be appropriate for some students. To discuss this option, you should contact the Associate Chair of Biology, Professor Janet Fischer; ; 358-4519), as soon as possible in the summer so that it may be determined if it is appropriate for you to receive credit for Biology 110 and/or Biology 220, and thus move directly into Biology 220 or Biology 230.

What if I have AP or IB credit in physics?

If you have AP credit for Physics C: Mech. you will receive credit for PHY 111. AP credit for Physics C: F&M will give you credit for PHY 112. If you IB credit in physics please consult with the Physics and Astronomy Department chair, Professor Andrea Lommen (; 717-291-3810).