Advising and Registration

Major-Specific Advising Tips for First-Year Students

  • Africana Studies

    The Africana Studies Program emphasizes the history, culture, politics, intellectual heritage, and social development of people of African descent. It is an interdisciplinary program that offers courses in the social sciences, humanities, and arts. Africana Studies offers a full major, an inter-departmental major and a minor. Students align the current set of Africana Studies course offerings into three tracks: African, African-American and Latin American/Caribbean. Each of the tracks can be utilized to pursue a 12-course full major, an 8-course ID major, or a 6-course minor. First year students with an interest in Africana Studies are strongly encouraged to take AFR 100 Introduction to Africana Studies as soon as possible.

    Africana Studies affiliated mini-terms offer students an opportunity to explore the African and African diasporic experience. This includes mini-terms to South Africa and Senegal; a Community Service mini-term in New Orleans and the Louisiana wetlands; and a Civil Rights Mini-term, which takes students on a tour of the sites of major civil rights actions in the American South. There is also a Cuba mini-term and the Brazil full-term abroad, which address issues related to Africana Studies.

    The Africana Studies page provides a description of major, ID major, and minor requirements, as well as lists of Africana-related courses.

  • Chemistry

    Before pre-registering for their first term, chemistry majors MUST take the placement exams in Chemistry and Mathematics. Failure to do this will severely limit a student’s ability to go on terms abroad and to take electives in later years.

    Chemistry majors should complete two things during their first year:

    1. The introductory chemistry courses CHM 101* (FWS) / CHM 102 (WS) OR CHM 110 (F only). Students who place into CHM 110* must take it in the fall.
    (*Completion of chemistry placement exam required for enrollment in either course.)

    2. The introductory calculus courses, MTH 110** (FWS)/ MTH 112 (FWS) OR MTH 113** and MTH 115. (**Completion of math placement exam required for enrollment in math courses.)
    This leaves the students with one slot for FP and three slots for free electives. As students are fulfilling all of the math and science components of the Common Curriculum, these electives can truly be free electives.

    A typical first-year schedule is:

    Fall Winter Spring

    CHM 101 (or 110)

    CHM 102 elective


    elective elective

    MTH 110

    MTH 112 MTH 115

    Students with significant AP credit can start physics during their first year.

    A typical first-year schedule is:

    Fall Winter Spring

    CHM 231

    CHM 232 CHM 240

    PHY 120

    PHY 121 elective


    elective elective
  • Economics

    Students interested in the economics major should take Economics 101 as first-years, and if desired, one or two economics classes numbered below 240. They should also take Math 110 or Math 101 (or a higher math class) as first-years if possible, since calculus is a prerequisite for two of the sophomore economics core classes (Economics 241 and 242). Students who take Math 100 must take it no later than fall term sophomore year in order to complete the economics major on time.

    Majors normally take the core classes (241, 242, and 243) as sophomores. Majors may only take courses numbered below 240 as first-years or sophomores. Students interested in ID majors with economics as one half should complete the economics core no later than the middle of the junior year.

    Also look at the Economics' Department Website Advising FAQ.

  • Engineering
  • English

    For all students:

    Students who wish to take classes in English should begin with one of the three introductory courses, English 100 (Introduction to Literary Studies: Poetry), English 101 (Introduction to Literary Studies: Fiction), or English 102 (Introduction to Literary Studies: Drama).

    Students must take at least one Introductory Course, or must have a score of 5 on one of the English AP exams, before enrolling in an Intermediate Course. Students must take at least two Intermediate Courses before enrolling in a Junior Seminar. Students must take at least four Intermediate Courses before enrolling in a Senior Seminar

    For English Majors:

    For English majors, the program begins with two of the three gateway courses: Introduction to Literary Studies. These courses introduce the basic skills every English major needs. The student then moves on to intermediate coursework. Advanced students take three seminars, among which are at least one Junior and one Senior. The seminars in both categories are writing intensive, typically research oriented, and organized around the work of particular authors or topics.

    Requirements for the Major

    Twelve courses, including two of the three gateway courses, Introduction to Literary Studies: Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (100, 101, and 102); seven intermediate courses (200-level) including at least one course on Shakespeare (200 or 201), one pre-1700 course (202-215) and one pre-1900 course (216-235); and three seminars in total: one or two junior seminars (300-level) and one or two senior seminar (400-level).

    Requirements for the Minor

    English Minors have a 7 course requirement, which (for students declaring after Spring 2014) includes one Introductory Course (100, 101, or 102), and six others, with at least one pre-1700 course (202-215), one Shakespeare course (200 or 201), 3 200 level courses of choice, and 1 300 level course of choice.

    Requirements for Interdepartmental Majors

    All proposals for interdepartmental majors involving English must be approved by the department; the student should consult the department chair.

    English I.D. Majors have a 8 course requirement, which includes one Introductory Course, and seven others, with at least one pre-1700 (202-215), and Shakespeare (200 or 201).

    Students seeking I.D. Honors in English have a 10 course requirement, the additional two beyond the requirements for the English I.D. Major being the two-term Honors thesis seminar.

  • Environmental Science and Policy

    The ESPE program is focused on students with a strong interest in the science behind the myriad environmental problems that face our world, the political policy mechanisms that may provide solutions to these issues, and the nexus between the environment and the human condition. Students in the ESP program choose either a BS degree in Environmental Science or a BA degree in Environmental Policy.

    The BS degree emphasizes the biological, chemical, geological sciences, and also physics and engineering. The BA degree emphasizes the social sciences and humanities, and there is considerable overlap between these two tracks. All students take a common introductory course, a core of between 8 and 11 required courses, and 4-6 courses that define an area of concentration. During the senior year, students complete 2 terms of independent research, and senior BA students take a seminar on environmental policy.


    Environmental SCIENCE MAJOR (BS degree; all tracks together, Planner)

    Environmental POLICY MAJOR (BA degree; all tracks together, Planner)

  • History

    History is the foundation of the liberal arts, providing the knowledge necessary for global citizenship, and the skills (research, writing, critical analysis and inquiry) so desired in today’s workplaces and graduate programs. The Union College History Department offers courses in global history, along with the history of Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, South Asia, and the United States. Courses focus on a variety of compelling and relevant themes, including gender, race, culture, science, inequality, sustainability, colonialism and imperialism, and war and conflict.

    First Year Students: Whether students wish to major or minor in History, or just take History courses for enjoyment, all courses are open to students of all levels, although most first year students are encouraged to enroll in 100 or 200 level courses.

    History Majors: History majors will combine courses that explore geographical and chronological breadth with a core geographical or thematic concentration that ensures depth of knowledge in one particular area of history. All majors will take at least two 300-level courses, one 400-level research seminar (usually in their junior year), and complete a two-term senior project.

    History Minors: Minors need to take six History courses, including one at the 300 level, and three of the six courses must be in one core concentration.

    For more on core and distribution requirements, please click here or contact the Chair of the History Department.

  • Latin American and Caribbean Studies

    Distinctively emphasizing plurality, diversity, and inclusiveness, Latin American and Caribbean Studies recognizes the crucial presence of Latin American and Caribbean cultures, peoples, and societies in shaping the world from as far back as pre-recorded history to the 21st century. With an interdisciplinary focus, LACS offers a major, an interdepartmental major, and a minor in the study of the history, culture, language, and politics of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

    First-year students with an interest in the region should consider taking LAS 101, Introduction to Latin American & Caribbean Studies, as well as other LACS courses (check with the instructor for 300 and 400-hundred level courses). In addition, given the importance of language proficiency to succeed in LACS, first-year students should contact the Department of Modern Languages to have their language level assessed and to start taking language courses early. All students are welcome to visit the LACS site, to reach out to LACS faculty, and to attend LACS-sponsored events to learn more about the program.

  • Modern Languages

    The faculty members of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures consider the role of the advisor essential to students’ access to invaluable opportunities during the academic career and later on in life. With this document, we hope to provide some guidance to academic advisors regarding the study of languages and cultures at Union.

    We would like to stress to all academic advisors the nationwide interest in and demand for courses in foreign languages and cultures as a response to shifting patterns in professional fields, in global markets and economies, and in our national demographics. These trends are leading students to combine the study of languages and cultures with other academic fields. Students in the medical professions and the sciences, the social sciences, engineering, and the humanities are increasingly opting for the study of languages to solidify their academic formation, and to diversify their future career options. As academic studies and feature newspaper articles point out clearly to teachers, parents, and employers, students with a background in language and/or cultural studies do better and have higher acceptance rates at graduate and professional schools (medicine, law, MBA, education, international relations, media, among other academic fields).

    Students who select languages and cultures as their academic major are pursuing diverse paths at the graduate and professional levels.

    Quick Reminders for Language Placement

    1) It is strongly recommended that students begin to take a language in their first year at Union College because language courses are sequential and most beginning sequences are only offered in the fall (Arabic, Chinese, French, Hebrew, German, Russian, Spanish). Beginning sequences offered in the winter include Chinese, French, Japanese, Spanish.

    2) With the exception of first-­year students’ initial fall registration, all students must see a MLL faculty member when registering for their first language course at Union. Please make sure your advisees contact our department before their pre-­registration appointment (our administrative assistant has an appointment sign-up list in her office each term, and the department chair can field inquiries to individual program section leaders). We place students depending on their education, experience abroad, home language experience, and so on. Guidelines vary according to language program.

    3) We have faculty members at the Add/Drop session before the start of the fall term each year to assist with those students wanting to add/drop a language course. If a student has no experience with a language, he or she may petition for the 100 (Basic Language I) class.

    4) Although most of our students start the study of languages within the first two sequences (100’s and 200’s), those with advanced linguistic proficiency could be placed at the 300 or 400-­‐level. Please have students contact our department for placement, schedules, and availability as soon as they convey interest in the language.

    Please note that all of our language courses satisfy LCC and HUM Gen Ed requirements, and that many of our courses satisfy HUL and WAC requirements. (To satisfy the LCC requirement, you must complete a sequence of two language courses at the 101 level or higher).

    Portuguese is only offered to students preparing for the Brazil term abroad every other year. Italian is offered to all students and those preparing for the term abroad in Sicily, Italy.

    Students with previous language experience should be strongly encouraged to continue as soon as possible regardless of their intended major. Proficiency in a language will provide students with an edge and make them more competitive in their field (e.g., health professions, law, business, anthropology, engineering, economics). We welcome any questions and thank you for your support!

    Guidelines to Advisors

    1) Advise students to start or to continue the study of a language as soon as they enter Union College. Students in the US are increasingly combining a foreign language degree with a second field of study. You are an important voice to help make students aware of the important role that language and cultural competency may play in their future careers or in the diversity of their professional paths.

    The likelihood for students to combine the study of a language with any other academic field (Economics, Political Science, Biology, etc.) without scheduling problems increases IF they continue / start the study of a language upon entering Union College and work with faculty advisors in MLL and the other department. Students who start their study of a language in their junior or senior year (especially those who did not declare a major early on) cannot opt to declare a double major or an interdepartmental major with Modern Languages and Literatures. Sometimes, by the time a student declares a major, s/he already has no “room” for many courses outside the major.

    The earlier a student starts or continues the study of a language in college, the better the chance to achieve native-like linguistic fluency and strong cultural competency.

    Students with previous language experience (in high school) must make an appointment for a placement meeting with a MLL faculty member before pre-registration.

    2) Tell students to familiarize themselves with the various offerings in terms abroad with language components (Brazil, China, France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, and Vietnam) upon entering Union. These programs have language courses as prerequisites (or, as is the case for the program in Japan, students are strongly advised to take some courses in Japanese before traveling). It is not uncommon for students to realize late in their academic career that they cannot fulfill the prerequisites in order to participate in one of these programs. For details, please contact the International Programs Office.

    3) Inform students about the various interdisciplinary programs with which the Department of Modern Languages has academic ties. Depending on their academic concentration and future career inclinations, students can declare double majors, interdepartmental majors, and/or minors in such programs as Asian Studies, Latin American & Caribbean Studies, film studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and East European Studies.

    4) Language course can be challenging as well as very rewarding. College-level language pedagogy has evolved greatly since many of us (advisors) took language courses, and has little in common with the study of language at the high school level. The successful study of any language requires discipline and academic rigor. It enhances the development of critical thinking and analytic capabilities, and it strengthens the writing and communicative skills in both the native and foreign tongues. The department faculty use ACTFL Standards for language proficiency, which includes a communicative approach that employs communication within and outside the classroom, technology, and media skills so as to foster lifelong learning.

    5) Encourage your advisees to seek the input of a faculty member in our department when in need of more specific information regarding any of our programs, or to discuss the academic options for a student in relation to the study of a language. Please feel free to contact the Chair, who will gladly address your questions or refer you to a faculty member in the area of interest.

    Please also see our Language Advising Guide.

  • Music

    Ensembles and Lessons

    All students are welcome to participate in any one of our five faculty-led ensembles:

    Choir (AMU014 – MW 5-6:15 pm, see Prof. Liu),
    Early Music (AMU018 – F times TBA, see Prof. McMullen),
    Japanese Drumming (AMU012 – Th 7-9 pm, see Prof. Matsue),
    Jazz Ensemble (AMU015 – W 7-9 pm, see Prof. Olsen),
    Orchestra (AMU017 – T 7-9:15 pm, see Prof. Liu).

    Private lessons are available in voice and on almost every instrument at an additional cost (10 x 50 minute lessons = $500 per term). See Director of Performance, Shou Ping Liu, TMC 222.

    Academic credit is available for participation in ensembles and for lessons with approved studio teachers at a rate of one course credit for the successful completion of three terms (for up to two full credits). Transcript recognition is always available.

    Music Majors, ID majors, and Minors

    The following courses are required for all music majors and minors: Theory 1: Diatonic Harmony (AMU101); Theory 2: Chromatic Harmony (AMU102); either Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (AMU213) or Romanticism (AMU214); a world music course (AMU202 Musical Thinking: World and Pop or AMU220 Music and Culture); and at least one full credit of faculty-run ensemble participation (see list of five faculty-led ensembles above).

    Since music theory courses are sequential, entering students are advised to begin the sequence as soon as possible. In addition, first-year students are encouraged to take advantage of required Music History or World Music courses when they are offered since these courses are cycled and may not be offered again the following year.

    World Music Minor

    Entering courses can be chosen from Theory 1: Diatonic Harmony (AMU101); Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANT110); or Introduction to World Music (AMU120). The ensemble requirement must be chosen from Japanese Drumming (AMU012) or Jazz Ensemble (AMU015).

    For additional information about the 12-course music major, 8-course interdepartmental major, 6-course music minor, and 6-course world music minor, please see the Academic Register and/or visit the Taylor Music Center to speak with a member of the music faculty.

  • Neuroscience

    Neuroscience Advising Tips

    1. It is recommended that students in this major start with BIO 110, BIO 112, and PSY 210 as these courses are prerequisites for Neuroscience students to take the neuroscience-related courses in the Psychology department without taking PSY 100 (Introduction to Psychology), which does not count toward the Neuroscience major.
    1. After completing PSY 210, Neuroscience students may take other Psychology courses without first completing PSY 100. Students are strongly encouraged to take BIO 242, BIO 225, PSY 200, PSY 210, CSC 106 (or CSC 103) as early as possible, preferably in the sophomore year.
    1. BIO 242 is a prerequisite for BIO362 & 363.
    1. CSC 106 is preferred over CSC 103, but both satisfy the same requirement.
    1. Students are should take CHM 101 prior to taking BIO 225.
    1. Cognitive Track majors should take senior seminars in the Psychology department, and Bioscience Track majors should take senior seminars in the Biology department.
    1. Courses taken outside of Union College will not be counted toward the major. However, exceptions can be made under extenuating circumstances on an ad-hoc basis. To receive Neuroscience credit for courses taken elsewhere, students must contact the program director(s) to request permission, and the courses must match a Union course or have similar neuroscience content to Union courses that do receive credit.
    1. Students cannot double major in Biology and Neuroscience, or Psychology and Neuroscience.
  • Philosophy

    Course Selection Guidelines

    While our course numbers reveal levels of difficulty (so that 100-level courses are introductory, 200-level and 300-level courses are intermediate, and 400-level courses are advanced), philosophy courses afford great flexibility. In other words, students, including non-majors, can sometimes take courses at the 200 and 300 level, even if they have not taken an introductory in philosophy. Please contact the professor offering any given course for further information and advice.

    Introductory Courses

    Introductory Courses, whether issues-oriented or historically-oriented, do not presuppose any prior acquaintance with philosophy. They may be taken in any order. For more advising information, consult the Philosophy Department website.

    Intermediate Courses

    Intermediate Courses do not presuppose any prior acquaintance with philosophy. They may be taken in any order; and are pitched at a level that is more appropriate for second and higher year students than for first year students. However, in some cases an order for taking intermediate courses is recommended (for this and other advising information, consult the Philosophy Department website).

    Advanced Courses

    Advanced courses may be taken in any order, although in some cases certain orders will be recommended. Unlike Introductory and Intermediate courses, most advanced courses presuppose that the student has already taken at least two philosophy courses. Although first and second year students will be allowed to take advanced courses, these courses are pitched at a level that is more appropriate for third and fourth year students.

    Senior Writing Requirement

    Students who take Departmental Honors and ID majors who are required to write a senior thesis by their other major Department will satisfy this requirement by writing a senior thesis. All other students will in PHL 408/PHL 418 significantly develop a paper that they have written.

    All students are strongly advised to consult the advising information on the Philosophy Department’s Website.

  • Physics

    The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics as well as a Physics minor. The major sequence has ten courses, plus two courses in mathematics, and two other science courses. The minor program requires six courses. First year students with an interest in physics are strongly encouraged to take Physics 100: First Year Physics Seminar in the fall term.

    The Department of Physics & Astronomy Program page provides Sample Schedules for Physics Majors with some examples of how the required courses fit into four years. For an introduction to the courses offered within the department, select one of the following links

    A Guide to the Physics Major

    A Guide to the Astronomy Major

    A Guide to Non-Major Courses

    A complete listing of courses and requirements can be found in Union’s online course catalog.

    Some of the best education a young scientist can obtain occurs outside the classroom, and the department provides a variety of extracurricular opportunities with this in mind. Independent research with a faculty colleague is encouraged for the degree in physics, and many of our majors go well beyond the minimum requirements, spending summers at Union or at national laboratories doing research. The results of these student research projects have been presented at national and international conferences, and in student-coauthored articles for scientific journals. The department also maintains an active colloquium series to help keep students and faculty in touch with exciting developments.

    The Department also offers majors and minors in Astronomy/Astrophysics: see Astronomy Advising Tips.

  • Political Science

    Students contemplating majoring in Political Science normally should begin with our introductory courses: PSC 111, Introduction to American Politics; PSC 112, Introduction to Global Politics; and PSC 113, Introduction to Political Theory. Majors must take two of these courses, one of which must be PSC 113. These courses also serve as prerequisites to upper-level PSC electives for students who do not yet have Sophomore Standing.

    Prospective Political Science majors also should familiarize themselves with our Foreign Experience Requirement, which is normally fulfilled either by completing a three-course language sequence or by participating on a full-length term abroad. More details are available in the FAQ section of the PSC website. As students cannot count on acceptance into a term abroad program, it may make sense to begin language study earlier rather than later.

  • Psychology

    Interested in psychology? Make sure you visit our "How-To Page." There you'll find a checklist of required courses for the major, ID major, and minor; a list of course offerings for the entire academic year; requirements for Honors; opportunities for research, and so much more.

    Psychology majors complete PSY 100 (introductory psychology), PSY 200 (statistical methods in psychology), and PSY 300 (research methods in psychology). Majors also complete four "area" courses, one laboratory course, one seminar course, and three electives.

    Along the way, we strongly recommend that students get themselves involved in faculty members’ ongoing research programs, and perhaps conduct a research practicum, independent-study project, or senior thesis.

  • Russian and East European Studies

    The Russian and East European Studies program provides students with a broad education focusing on the languages, cultures, literatures, history and politics of this vast region. It draws from a number of disciplines, including history, modern languages, political science and economics.

    First year students with an interest in the region should consider taking RUS 100, Beginning Russian language, as well as other REES courses such as PSC 112 (Introduction to Global Politics). Extra-curricular activities in the program include weekly Russian Tables, Russian and East European Culture Club events, a summer min-term and full term to Siberia. Please visit the REES site or reach out to REES faculty to learn more about the program.

  • Sociology

    Students considering a major in Sociology should begin with our introductory course (SOC 100: Introduction to Sociology). This course serves as a prerequisite for other courses in the department.

    In addition to opportunities for internships, fieldwork and research, we offer a range of courses in areas such as community, family, education, health and medicine, mass media, the environment, crime and justice, social work, public policy, diversity and change.

    Course numbers do not correspond to class standing or workload; rather, the 300-level courses generally assume a greater working knowledge of sociological methods and theory. Most majors take the required courses in methods and theory during their junior year (SOC 300 and 305).

    For more information on the major, please see our CURRICULUM PLANNER.