Well over a century ago, Carleton started promising its students a “liberal and thorough” education. That goal is embodied still in the College’s requirements for graduation, which are designed to expose students to a wide variety of disciplines, as well as to allow them to concentrate on a major subject.
Carleton’s Graduation Requirements
To receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton, a student must earn at least 210 credits and a cumulative grade point average of C (2.0) or better.
Liberal Arts Requirements: (A&I, Curricular Exploration, Global Citizenship, Writing, QRE, and PE)
A good liberal arts education requires not only rigor and depth, but also sufficient breadth to expose students to a wide range of subjects and methods of studying them. The college seeks to ensure that its students study one field in depth by requiring a major and an integrative exercise within the major. We encourage students to acquaint themselves with the major divisions of knowledge and modes of inquiry by requiring them to complete six credits with grades of S or C- or better from each of six curricular exploration areas.
Students must also complete an Argument and Inquiry seminar and fulfill requirements in writing, quantitative reasoning, global citizenship (international studies, intercultural domestic studies, and demonstrate proficiency in a second language), and complete four terms of physical education. Successful completion of all course and credit requirements requires grades of S or C- or better in each course.
Finally, students must spend six academic terms in residence at Carleton, including their senior year (last three academic terms), and earn at least 108 credits enrolled at Carleton.
Argument and Inquiry Seminars (A&I) – 6 credits
All first-year non-transfer students must take an Argument and Inquiry (A&I) seminar in their first term. Each fall term, the College offers over thirty A&I seminars designed to introduce students to a liberal arts approach to learning and to develop the critical and creative skills they will need to thrive in academic work at Carleton. Offered in many different subject areas across the curriculum, A&I courses share certain structural elements and a set of common goals. These courses are small, discussion-based seminars, and carry the WR (writing rich) designation.
Designed to foster students’ intellectual independence, A&I courses develop habits of critical thinking, clarify how scholars ask questions, and teach students how to find and evaluate information in reading and research and to use it effectively and ethically in constructing arguments. Encouraging students to become collaborative learners and active members of Carleton’s learning and living community, the seminars strengthen students’ habits of cooperation with peers and offer opportunities and tools for critical reading, deliberative discussion, and effective college-level writing.
Curricular Exploration Requirements – 36 credits; 6 credits in each of 6 areas
Arts Practice (ARP) The act of imagining and creating art is an important way of understanding and knowing art and the creative process. At least six credits are required in courses in which students develop an appreciation of artistic creative practice through experience.
Formal or Statistical Reasoning (FSR): The development of logical systems, formal models, abstract mathematical reasoning, and statistical reasoning has been foundational to intellectual development in many disciplines. At least six credits are required in courses that focus on methods of formal reasoning including mathematics, logic, and the design and analysis of algorithms or statistical reasoning.
Humanistic Inquiry (HI): At least six credits are required in courses in which students are introduced to humanistic inquiry with an emphasis in its historical, cultural, ethical, and/or intellectual contexts.
Literary/Artistic Analysis (LA): At least six credits are required in courses in which there is an emphasis on analysis of literature or the visual and performing arts.
Science with Lab (LS): Modern citizenship requires an understanding of the processes and methods of the natural sciences. At least six credits are required in courses that focus on developing an appreciation of the scientific study of the natural world. Courses must include a lab component to qualify. In the case of a student using a six-credit course/two-credit lab pair to satisfy the LS requirement, a grade of C- or better must be earned in each paired course.
Social Inquiry (SI): The study of human and social behavior and how these are shaped by, and shape, socially constructed institutions is essential to a liberal education. At least six credits are required in courses that focus on the variety of disciplinary approaches to the study of individuals and societies.
Language Requirement: Language is the way that members of a culture organize and encode their thoughts, allowing them to communicate with each other. Moreover, language shapes one’s relationship with other people, and different languages will shape that relationship differently.
At Carleton we think that a liberally educated student should understand the way language is embedded within cultural practices and worldviews. To this end, we expect students to cross linguistic borders, experiencing another language “from the inside.” In addition to the primary benefits a degree of competency in a language can offer (including basic communication, the ability to read foreign texts, and interaction with those of a different culture), the study of a foreign language provides students with a fuller understanding of the role played by their own native tongue. Also, crucially, it requires each student to experience the challenges of dealing with other cultures and peoples on their own terms. Language learning at Carleton, therefore, advances and supports the stated values and goals of the College’s Mission Statement.
The four basic language skills for most modern languages (reading, speaking, aural comprehension, and writing) are mutually reinforcing as well as individually valuable, although the emphasis will vary among different language sections and individual teaching styles. In special cases, students’ strengths (in speaking, for instance) might make up for weaknesses in reading and writing, and vice versa.
The requirement aims to assure that students will acquire a usable level of competence in a second language. This competence is demonstrated either (a) through successful completion of a fourth-level language course (fifth-level in Arabic, Chinese or Japanese) or (b) through acceptable performance on a standardized or departmentally designed examination. Fluent speakers of second languages may ask to be tested for fulfillment of the requirement or, in the case of languages not offered at Carleton, may ask that testing be arranged. Students whose native language is other than English may fulfill this requirement by demonstrating competence in their native language, as well as English.
Entering students may fulfill the requirement by satisfactory performance on a College Board Advanced Placement or Achievement test, International Baccalaureate Higher Level examination or on another placement examination most appropriate for the particular language. Students who have not taken such a test before entering the college should take the language placement examination either during the summer prior to matriculation or during their first week at Carleton. Students beginning their study of language, as well as those who need more study to complete the requirement, should enroll in language in their first year.
Students who complete language courses equivalent to courses 101 through 204 (205 in Arabic/Chinese/Japanese) at domestic post-secondary institutions after being enrolled at Carleton may take the appropriate placement or proficiency examinations to gain advanced standing or exemption. Credit toward the degree is typically not awarded, however.
Language study at Carleton aims at far more than the satisfaction of the requirement. Students are encouraged to increase their proficiency through advanced courses and study abroad and to apply their language skills in their academic work in other areas. With this foundation, language will enrich their studies at Carleton and enable graduates to become contributing members of the multi-cultural world.
International Studies (IS) – 6 credits: Courses that meet the IS requirement contain a geographic scope broader than the United States and by pedagogy and/or content develop in students an understanding of other perspectives on global, comparative, and historical subjects. Courses mostly focused on the United States but with a notable comparative or transnational component may satisfy the requirement.
Intercultural Domestic Studies (IDS) – 6 credits: Courses that meet the IDS requirement focus on the United States. Course content addresses the role of identity and status in shaping the experiences of American society. Scope of instruction can be historical and comparative and include opportunities for reflection.
The ability to write well is particularly important in college, not only as a means of demonstrating mastery of material, but as part of the process of coming to that mastery. For many people, writing well is a life-long learning process. As students develop greater understanding of themselves, the world, and language, they become more adept at expressing precisely, and perhaps eloquently, what they have in mind. The Carleton Writing Requirement is meant to be a checkpoint on that journey, not the final destination. It is a measure of progress and assurance that Carleton students are on the right path, and that with continued learning, they will develop into fully competent writers by graduation.
To guide students as they begin to work on writing at the college level, the College has developed some general criteria for good writing at Carleton. Although individual assignments, genres, or disciplines may place more or less emphasis on each criterion, faculty agree that student writing should feature the following:
- The rhetorical strategy should be appropriate for the audience and purpose.
- If argument is a part of the rhetorical strategy, it should contain a thesis and develop that thesis with coherence, logic, and evidence.
- Whatever the purpose, writing should be as clear, concise, and interesting as possible.
- Narration, description, and reporting should contribute to analysis and synthesis. The parts of a paper should lead to a greater, connected whole.
- Writing should be edited to address surface error, including irregularities in grammar, syntax, diction, and punctuation.
Students are required to successfully complete 1) the A&I seminar (WR1), 2) six credits of additional coursework designated WR2, and 3) successfully complete a writing portfolio to be reviewed by faculty after the third term, and no later than the sixth term.
For further information, see the Writing Rich Guidelines.
Quantitative Reasoning Encounter (QRE) – Three courses
Students will complete three courses that have been designated as providing quantitative reasoning encounters (QRE). Quantitative reasoning — the inclination and ability to interpret, assess, and use quantitative information in one’s scholarly work, civic activities, and personal life — is recognized by the College as a vital part of a liberal education for each student. Through multiple exposures to examples of quantitative reasoning a student will better appreciate the ways that quantitative evidence is developed and used. Courses offering meaningful opportunities for this exposure will be designated as quantitative reasoning encounters.
The goal of the requirement is to increase students’ appreciation for the power of QR and to enhance their ability to evaluate, construct, and communicate arguments using quantitative information. A course designated as a “Quantitative Reasoning Encounter” (QRE) will include at least one substantial assignment or module designed to enhance one or more of the following QR skills:
- Possessing the habit of mind to consider what numerical evidence might add to the analysis of a problem;
- Identifying appropriate quantitative or numerical evidence to address a question;
- Locating or collecting numerical or quantitative data;
- Interpreting numerical evidence properly including recognizing the limitations of methods and sources used;
- Effectively communicating arguments that involve numerical or quantitative evidence.
Since an example of work demonstrating an ability to employ quantitative or numerical evidence in arguments is an element of the Writing Portfolio, students are strongly advised to take QRE courses early in their academic careers.
Four terms of Physical Education activity are to be taken by each student. Only one activity per term may count toward this requirement. The Physical Education program includes a wide variety of activity courses, designed with an “activity for all” approach, to appeal to students of varying ability levels. We believe that physical activity can contribute to students’ health and well-being now and in the future.