The Franklin & Marshall Curriculum combines a spirit of innovation with a strong sense of tradition, and provides a framework for our students’ intellectual development over their four years at Franklin & Marshall College. Called “Connections,” our curriculum encourages students to become responsible, creative, ambitious participants in learned discourse and discovery by making connections: connections across disciplines, connections between theory and practice, and connections between their liberal arts education and the world. A liberally educated person is one who is inquisitive about all realms of thought, who is able to take into the wider world a comfort with ambiguity and respectful debate, who understands the limits of knowledge and the value of evidence, who has refined his or her judgment about the good and the beautiful, and who has learned to analyze critically, to speak persuasively, and to listen attentively. The Connections curriculum guides students to become such educated people.

The curriculum has three phases: Introduction, Exploration and Concentration. Together with electives, these phases offer appropriate balance between structure and choice to allow the construction of an individualized educational experience.

In the Introduction phase, students take one small, intensive seminar, Connections , which aims to introduce students to the standards of intellectual discourse and the communities that sustain it. This course also sequences instruction in writing, research, and oral presentation. In Connections, students become members of our intellectual community and learn the practices of critical analysis, research, writing, and civil debate that will help them attain their academic goals.

In the Exploration phase, students take courses that promote understanding modes of study in different intellectual arenas, from creating art to gaining competency in a foreign language to applying the scientific method. As they progress, students make connections among the ways different disciplines seek truth and structure inquiry.

The Concentration phase is the culmination of our students’ four years of work and study. This phase is represented by their study in a major discipline and may include synthetic projects, capstone seminars, and one-on-one research. Given their growing intellectual maturity, students will be in a position to reflect on the connections they have drawn and the paths they have charted through the curriculum, both inside and outside their major fields.

All courses undertaken to fulfill the introduction, exploration, and concentration phases of the curriculum must be taken for a regular letter grade.

Introduction: Connections Seminar

In their Connections Seminar, students will:

  1. Develop curiosity in order to learn how to read, write, listen, and converse in an intellectual community
  2. Develop judgment in order to create and evaluate effective arguments, ideas, and solutions

The Connections seminar is a small class limited to 16 students focused on three important characteristics: inviting first-year students into an intellectual community and a life of the mind; building skills in close reading, writing, research, and oral presentation; and integrating classroom work with residential life.

Connections Seminar

The Connections Seminar will spark curiosity and teach students to value and practice our shared commitments to reasoned and respectful discourse. Students will develop comfort with debate and ambiguity and become active participants in a culture of evidence. The Connections Seminar will enfranchise students first as members of the intellectual community of their classroom, and then as members of wider and interconnected intellectual communities on campus and beyond. Students learn to observe closely the world around them, the details of the arguments they read, and the way those arguments marshal evidence. They also listen carefully to their peers’ ideas, and improve their expression of truth, conciseness, and accuracy in their discourse.

Students who enroll in a particular Connections  seminar live together in one of the College Houses. This promotes an integration of the residence hall and the classroom that enhances both the academic success and the personal growth of students.

Students are expected to complete a Connections  Seminar in their first semester. A list of current Connections  Seminars appears on the Course Offerings page.


Exploration: Liberal Learning

In their Exploration courses, students will:

  1. Acquire familiarity with broad divisions of knowledge, modes of inquiry, and creative practices characteristic of different intellectual and expressive arenas
  2. Develop intellectual breadth and versatility, fostering the ability to make connections across a broad range of disciplines, practices, and experiences

To this end, students will complete courses  among the traditional divisions of intellectual inquiry in the liberal arts, including the Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences, in addition to language study and exploration of world perspectives, as described below.  Students may also choose to pursue a Certificate, as described below.


Certificates are not required for graduation. They are optional experiences that allow students to plot novel pathways through the curriculum and document interests and competencies outside of the major or minor. A certificate is a curated list of three to five credit-bearing activities in two or more departments that explore a coherent topic. For a list of currently offered certificates and their requirements, please see fandm.edu/catalog/table-of-contents/certificates.


Goal: Create, perform, or study art

Courses that meet this goal are designated A in the catalog, and include the study of the creative and performing arts, as well as courses in the history, analysis, and criticism of the arts, including creative writing, but excluding the study of literature. Students must earn one course credit in this area.


Goal: Analyze the systems of belief, knowledge, and ideas of the humanities

Courses that meet this goal are designated H in the catalog, and focus on the study of ancient and modern literature, classical and modern languages, religion, or philosophy. Students must earn one course credit in this area.

Social Sciences

Goal: Learn about one or more societies or cultures in terms of their social, political, or economic organization and/or their history

Courses that meet this goal are designated S in the catalog. They focus on history, ethnographic study, or the political and economic organization of the social world. Students must earn one course credit in this area.

Natural Sciences

Goals: Practice the scientific method and better understand the larger social implications of science

Students may satisfy these goals in either of two ways:

  1. They may take two science courses with labs (N);
  2. They may take one lab science course plus one course designated “Natural Science in Perspective” (NSP)

Natural Science in Perspective (NSP) courses help students understand:

  1. The role played by theory in the natural sciences
  2. The role of evidence in developing and testing scientific theories and what constitutes acceptable evidence in the natural sciences
  3. How science deals with uncertainty, thus increasing students’ ability to reason quantitatively
  4. The role science plays in today’s society, including those questions science attempts to answer and those questions that lie outside its domain
  5. Real-world situations in which policy decisions need to be made without complete understanding or certainty

A list of Natural Science in Perspective courses can be found on the Course Offerings page.

Language Study

Goal: Acquire linguistic and cross-cultural competency through foreign language study

Competency in a foreign language helps students develop an informed and thoughtful awareness of language as a system and facilitates their exploration of other cultural worlds. Students are strongly encouraged to begin language study in their first year and to complete the sequence of classes promptly; lengthy gaps between levels may disadvantage students in the next level course. Students are encouraged to complete their intermediate language competency by the end of their junior year (Please note that most departments offer the 101 introductory level course only in the fall semester.)

On-campus placement tests are available throughout the year and will determine the student’s appropriate level. Placement results are valid for two semesters; after that a student must retake the placement test. Students enrolled in a language class may not take the placement test in the same language after the first two weeks of class.

To fulfill the goal to “acquire linguistic and cultural competency through foreign language study,” students must pass, with a regular grade, the third course in a foreign language sequence or demonstrate equivalent proficiency through testing. The requirement may be satisfied in any of the following ways:

  1. Passing at least one course at the 200 level or above taught in the student’s non-native language
  2. Studying in a non-English speaking country and completing a course at the 200 level or above in a foreign language
  3. Scoring 4 or 5 in the Advanced Placement Exam in a foreign or classical language
  4. Scoring 5 or higher in a Foreign Language Course via the International Baccalaureate
  5. Placing into the fourth semester course or higher in the language sequence as taught at Franklin & Marshall through a placement exam administered by the appropriate Franklin & Marshall academic department

Note that a student who tests out of this requirement for a particular language and who then decides to enroll in the 101, 102, or 201 level (the first three semesters) of that language forfeits the waiver and must complete a foreign language through the 201 level (third semester).

By completing and submitting a petition to the Committee on Academic Status, international students from non-English speaking countries may receive a waiver of this requirement. International students should contact the Office of Student Affairs to begin this process.

Courses that satisfy the Language Study requirement are designated (LS).

World Perspectives
(For students entering the College in the Fall of 2021 and following years)

Goal: Engage with and analyze the diversity of cultures and interrelated historical processes that have shaped the contemporary world; develop the skills to reach beyond and question the historically dominant perspective of European and European-settler societies; and grapple with perspectives originating from outside these dominant traditions, including the perspectives of indigenous, colonized, diasporic, and/or exilic groups.

A non-F&M course (including one taken abroad) may count toward the WP requirement if that course satisfies the goal described above; such courses will require approval by the appropriate department or program chair. (In cases where a course in question falls outside the domain of a department or program, the decision to approve will be made by the director of International Studies.) This requirement cannot be met via a proficiency exam, but only by earning a course credit for having completed an academic experience after matriculation at a college or university.

Non-Western Cultures
(For students entering the College in the Fall of 2020 and preceding years)

Goal: Gain an understanding of the widely disparate ways in which human social and cultural life can be experienced and organized through an investigation of non-Western cultures and societies, including indigenous, colonial, and postcolonial contexts and/or gain a critical understanding of the West/non-West distinction, the limitations of this dichotomy, and the hybridity present in most cultures and societies.

Courses that meet either or both of these goals are designated (NW) in the catalog and are offered by a variety of programs and departments.

The NW requirement can also be met by achieving linguistic and cultural competence in a non-Western language as demonstrated by the completion of a course in such languages at the 200 level or beyond. (Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese)

A non-F&M course (including one taken abroad) may count toward the NW requirement if that course satisfies at least one of the goals described above but requires approval as satisfying these criteria by the appropriate department or program chair. (In cases where a course in question falls outside the domain of a department or program, the decision to approve will be made by the director of International Studies.)

This requirement cannot be met via a proficiency exam, but only by earning a course credit for having completed an academic experience after matriculation at a college or university.


In the Concentration phase, students will:

  1. Gain depth and breadth within a specific field of inquiry.
  2. Extend and deepen writing and analytical skills within the context of a specific discipline
  3. Reflect on their intellectual development and prepare for the future

At Franklin & Marshall College, focus on a major field of inquiry allows students to pursue advanced work, which may include independent study and original research. Over four years, students hone their interests to develop a greater mastery over an area of specialty, and many do exceptional work in advanced research, upper level seminars and independent investigations. Students will have opportunities to participate in assessment and reflection exercises, whether formal or informal, curricular or non-curricular, and will be able to meet with advisers and professional staff to help prepare them for post-graduate life.

To qualify for the Bachelor of Arts degree, a student must complete a prescribed concentration of courses, referred to as the major. A major program must consist of at least eight required course credits and may not exceed 16 required course credits. All courses meeting major requirements must be taken for a regular grade; a student must earn a minimum of a 2.0 grade point average in those courses used by the major department to compute the major grade point average.

Descriptions of course requirements for each major offered by the College can be found in the Catalog sections on Departmental offerings.

A student may declare more than one major. A student who wishes to declare more than two majors must have the approval of the Associate Dean of the Faculty.

Students may also satisfy the major requirement by designing a Special Studies major or a Joint major.

Special Studies Major

Students design a Special Studies major in consultation with the Special Studies adviser and a primary and secondary adviser. The design must be intellectually coherent and include courses from three different departments. The major must be a genuine liberal arts major that could legitimately be offered at the College and must progress through higher levels of courses; an assemblage of introductory courses from three departments is not acceptable.

Joint Major

A Joint Major is a concentration of courses from two departments/programs (at least one of which offers a major) and requires a rationale and the approval of both departments and the Associate Dean of the Faculty. Each of the component majors must be represented by eight distinct course credits. The regulations for admission to, and the maintenance of, an academic major at Franklin & Marshall College can be found in the Majors and Minors section of the Catalog.

The Minor

Students may choose to complete up to two minors. Minors, either disciplinary or cross- disciplinary, consist of six course credits. A student may officially declare one minor. Departments and programs that offer minors are: Africana Studies; Anthropology; Art; Chemistry; Classics; Comparative Literary Studies; Computer Science; Dance; Economics; English; Environmental Studies; Film and Media Studies; French; Italian; Geosciences; German; History; International Studies (includes Area Studies); Judaic Studies; Latin American Studies; Mathematics; Music; Philosophy; Physics; Psychology; Religious Studies; Russian; Science, Technology and Society; Sociology; Spanish; Theatre; and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Specific requirements for a minor are listed with each department’s offerings. All courses meeting the requirements for a minor must be taken for a regular grade.

The regulations for admission to, and maintenance of, a minor can be found in the Majors and Minors section of the Catalog.

Electives: Extended Exploration 

Within each phase of study, the curriculum is designed to incorporate additional curricular explorations. These are electives—courses that do not satisfy a requirement in the introduction, exploration, or concentration phases. Electives allow students to gain additional depth of knowledge outside their major or minor field of study, and to explore unfamiliar areas of knowledge. In addition to regular courses in the curriculum, electives may include internships, off-campus study, guided group study, or independent studies undertaken outside the major. Through the strategic use of electives, students individualize their academic experience. Thus, there is no curricular structure imposed on electives; students may take as many or as few as their other curricular commitments permit. However, students are encouraged to consult with their advisers so as to make best use of these opportunities in the context of their course of study.