Prefrosh Preview: The freshman-year requirements

Here’s part two of our feature on academics.  We’ll be highlighting the main general education or core requirements you’ll have to deal with your freshman year for each of the schools and giving you some tips on how to deal with them.

The College

Because the College is so varied, this guide assumes that you’re not too seriously interested in these departments, and you mostly just want to get your requirements taken care of. If you’re planning on being a Philosophy major, for example, you probably won’t find our just-getting-by approach to the Philosophy requirement all that useful.  Also bear in mind: you also don’t need to take care of all your requirements freshman year.


That’s right, you have to take Philosophy classes. Two of them: an intro class in either Ethics or non-Ethics, and then a higher level course in the other one. Skip Intro to Philosophy in favor of Intro to Ethics (if you have masochistic tendencies and choose to ignore this advice, at least avoid Professor Ver Eecke), and then take a Philosophy, preferably “Philosophy of [something that exists in reality].”

Social Sciences

Georgetown requires you to take two social sciences unless you’re a Chem, Bio, Biochem, or Physics major. Economics, Psychology, Linguistics, Anthropology, and Government classes fall under this category. Especially if you’re not big on abstract concepts (like you’ll find in International Relations), U.S. Political Systems is a good choice. Most Psych introductory courses are pretty easy.

Then there’s Econ. Just say no.


Unless your AP or SAT II scores or a merciful placement exam exempts you from this requirement (standards vary by department), Georgetown requires four semesters of classes in one modern language, or two intensive semesters in a language. The latter meet every day, and they actually are intensive, so be prepared to take them seriously if you sign up for one.

The best language is the once you already kind of know. If you have some Mandarin or Italian under your belt and you can remember how to order a sandwich, have at it. Starting from scratch? For the ambitious, Georgetown boasts solid programs in languages like Arabic and Chinese. But if this is something you “just want to get out of the way,” or if languages aren’t your strong suit, don’t take something that will require you to learn a new alphabet.


Everyone in the College is required to take two theology courses. The first will be Problem of God or Biblical Literature and you have free reign to choose the second. Our advice is to hold off taking your second theology course, ideally until your Junior year, so you have a better chance of getting into more sought-after courses, like “Catholics Go to the Movies.”

It doesn’t hurt take a class that complements your major. For the American Studies crowd, there’s “Religion in America.” For Psych majors, “Religion After Freud.” Classes about Islam are notoriously tough unless they’re intros.


A two-course requirement, consisting of an “introductory sequence” in Bio, Biochem, Chem, Physics, Math, or Computer Science, or one science course (the first four departments) and one in math (the last two).

If you like science, more power to you. For the English majors among you, take courses designed for non-majors (but avoid the Science of Sound and Music). Our favorites are Chemistry in Everyday Life and Introduction to Information Privacy (a really terrific class) for science, and Mathematic of Society and Mathematic Modeling (recommended for spreadsheet enthusiasts) for math. Astronomy is just as easy here as at any college, just don’t point out celestial bodies to your friends on Saturday nights—they don’t care.

Humanities and Writing

That’s one writing seminar and one class in Art, Music and Theater, English, Classics, African American Studies, Women’s Studies, Comparative Lit… the list goes on.

The people who teach writing seminars are all pretty serious about writing, so there are no easy picks. That doesn’t mean there aren’t awesome picks. Among our favorite professors are Margaret Debelius and Jennifer Fink.

As for the second requirement, the choices vary so widely that it’s best that you choose a class based on what likely drew you to a College major in the first place: “Ooh, that sounds really interesting!”

—Molly Redden (COL ’11)

The School of Foreign Service

picture-17The SFS has extensive core requirements (we’re talking 17 classes plus language proficiency), and they encourage/force you to get a significant number of them out of the way early on. The following are some of the classes you’ll almost certainly find on your schedule this year.


The fall of your freshman year you’re required to take a Proseminar, an intimate seminar on a global issue with a prominent professor. They vary significantly, but are generally pretty excellent. The one unifying factor they have is that they all require a significant amount of writing (generally a bunch of short papers so your professor can give your frequent feedback).

The odds of getting one of the Prosems you actually requested are marginal, but don’t get too upset when you find something random on your schedule—it’ll probably turn out to be great (and if not, you’ll have something to bond with your classmates over).

Political and Social Thought

PST, another class you’re required to take your freshman year, is the most theoretical of the SFS core requirements. A bit of a snoozer for wonky, fact-focused SFSers, as long as you pay attention to the main points in lecture and participate in discussion sections, you should be fine.

International Relations

Intro to IR is a pretty broad look at inter-state relations, and most of it is common sense—expect to spend a week on the concept of anarchy, for example. You probably won’t need to do too much of the reading if you pay attention in class and discussion section.


Unless you’ve had AP Econ in high school, Micro will probably be your first introduction to the GPA-wrecker that is Economics. If your head starts spinning at the first mention of guns and butter, get read for a fun four semesters and make sure you go to TA sessions religiously. Even if you wind up with a bad TA (and there’s a fairly good chance of that), it’s still a good chance to do review work.


Don’t get too excited about Macro being an economy-wide look at economics—there’s still plenty of quantitative stuff to trip you up. Again, take advantage of the TAs while you’ve got ’em.

Map of the Modern World

Yes, it’s as horrifyingly intimidating as you’ve heard. Professor Hrebenak, an imposing guy with a walrus mustache, barks out facts about country’s you’ve never heard of rapid-fire, and refuses to put his maps on PowerPoint. TAs pace the aisles looking for any unfortunate soul who falls asleep, dares to check the internet or forgets to put their cell phone on silent so that Hrebenak can publicly humiliate the offender.

While the class itself is a bit like boot-camp, take solace in the fact that it’s pass/fail, and the percentage of multiple choice questions you need to get right on the final exam isn’t all that high. Memorizing the countries placement on maps, the general pattern of decolonization in a region, and a few key facts about the Law of the Seas should be enough to get you by.

—Juliana Brint (SFS ’11)

The McDonough School of Business

The MSB is nice enough to ease you into the core, only requiring three business classes your freshman year.

Accounting 1 (Fall Semester)

Go to class, and do the homework problems as much as possible. Doing the homework is more important than reading the book. TAs are a good resource if you need help.

Accounting 2 (Spring Semester)

Harder than Accounting 1, so choose your professor wisely and study hard. You’ll suffer if you can’t do the practice problems, because that’s what’s on the exams.

International Business

International Business is largely a bunch of fluff, but reading the book can be helpful. Professors vary (check out Rate My Professor for recommendations), but there generally isn’t much homework.

—George D’Angelo (MSB ’12)

Nursing and Health Studies

The NHS is a special case: with only four majors, requirements are based on majors rather than the school as a whole. The one class all freshmen are required to take is the freshman colloquium. This one credit course introduces new students to health care, paper writing and studying.

—David Lee (NHS ’10)

9 Comments on “Prefrosh Preview: The freshman-year requirements

  1. Some people really like Econ and the logic clicks for them. For lots of people it really is that terrible, though. Hopefully you’ll wind up in the former camp!

  2. A lot of it is people who are surprised when Econ requires them to do math

  3. I bit stingy with the NHS comments (and MSB for that matter). While David is right that Colloquium is the only class that all NHS freshmen take, it is joke. It’s a one credit pass/fail extension of freshmen orientation, NHS style. There are other courses that most NHS students will take (ie the dreaded Human Bio) plus you should probably note that all four schools have theology, philosophy, and humanities/writing/english general requirements not just the college.

  4. For the SFS language requirement I recommend keeping up with whatever language you’ve studied before if you just want to pass proficiency asap and if you don’t have a burning passion to learn a new language. Just stick it out till proficiency if you are tired of the language. If you want to go for intensive Arabic or Mandarin; good luck. I hear it is rewarding in the end but it will own your life.

    And remember, proficiency is easier than fluency.

  5. Intro to Philosophy with Frank Ambrosio is one of my favorite classes that I’ve taken at Georgetown. Don’t skip it!

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  7. As far as the science requirement goes, does anyone know anything about the Science and Society freshman seminar? More specifically, is it a good choice for a more english/languages oriented person or am I making a huge mistake taking it?

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