Academics and Research

General Education Requirements

Does W&L have a required core curriculum?

Yes. We believe strongly in exposing our students to the traditional liberal arts and sciences to complement what they are learning in their major field of study.

What does this mean?

Well, it does NOT mean that your whole first year of college if planned for you. Our approach to the core curriculum, which we call the Foundation and Distribution Requirements (FDRs), is flexible and gives you choices about what classes to take. There are plenty of courses that can satisfy your FDRs - some even in your own major. Far from cramping your style, FDRs are intended to be liberating! Have more questions? You can read more about FDRs on the Registrar's website.

What are W&L's First-Year Seminars?

The idea behind the First-Year Seminars is to give new students the chance to explore a field of study by focusing on a specific problem or issue within that field. The seminar is limited to 15 first-year students who work closely with the faculty member and produce papers or projects as the main work of the course.

Enjoy learning about the natural world? Study the geologic history of the area around W&L in the field-oriented General Geology seminar. Curious to know what effect all that surfing you've been up to is having on your communication skills? Sign up for The Wired Self: Communication Technologies, Society, and You. Want to know more about Islam and the Qur'an? Consider taking The Lives of the Prophet Muhammad. The topics are interesting, the class sizes are small, and you'll sharpen your critical reading and discussion skills in these and the other First-Year Seminars available this year.

What kinds of academic support can I expect at W&L?

W&L offers a range of academic support services, starting with your faculty advisor, a professor who will work with you every step of the way. Your advisor will keep an eye on your academic progress overall, and is a concerned advocate who can help you locate any specific support you might need. Our Academic Peer Tutoring Program is free and available to any student who needs a little help or just wants to get ahead in his or her classes. Also, W&L's Writing Center is staffed by upperclass students who are specially chosen because of their strong writing skills. They are available to work with you on your own writing as you develop papers for your classes.

Concerned about a disability or have an accommodation you might need? We will work individually with you to make sure you have the tools you need to succeed.

Majors and Minors

What are W&L's strongest majors?

The truth is, all of our programs are strong! With 37 majors, 21 minors and over 1200 courses to choose from, the real question at W&L is, what do YOU want to study? W&L has a wide range of choices, including some options seldom found in a liberal arts college environment.

W&L's accredited Williams School of Commerce Economics and Politics offers programs not usually found in a small college, such as business and public accounting. Throw in programs from the College of Arts and Sciences -- like journalism, museum studies, neuroscience, teacher education, geology, women's and gender studies, creative writing, African-American studies, Latin American and Caribbean studies, and East Asian studies -- and you've got a recipe for academic exploration! And if you're like some W&L students, you love more than one subject: about 20% of our students choose to double major.

How is the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics different from other business schools?

Actually, while the Williams School is AACSB accredited, we do not consider it to be a business school in the traditional sense. For one thing, it is broader, including programs such as politics and environmental studies. In addition, unlike most other business programs, we are firmly rooted in the liberal arts tradition. There is no separate application for the Williams School, and students are free to take courses from both the College and the Williams School throughout their four years.

What sort of arts programs does W&L offer?

There's a little something for everyone inside W&L's Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts, whether you're an artist or an audience member. With state-of-the-art facilities and programs in studio art, art history, dance, music, theater and film, the Lenfest Center and its companion facility, Wilson Hall, our recently completed music and art building, welcome serious art students and novices alike. Both majors and non-majors take lessons and classes, audition, perform, and enjoy the extensive calendar of performing and visual art events on campus all year long.

What do students do with their degrees after graduation from W&L?

A better question is what DON'T they do?

W&L graduates have been recognized by many of the world's leading postgraduate fellowships, including (but certainly not limited to) our 16 Rhodes Scholars, over 80 Fulbright scholars, and dozens of Goldwater fellows, National Science Foundation fellows, Truman Scholars, and Beinecke Scholars.

Our Career and Professional Development Center offers a range of services to help our students explore internship possibilities and secure that first job.

W&L graduates and alumni also have great success in graduate programs. Typically, more than 90 percent of applicants to programs in law and in medical, dental, veterinary, and other professions are admitted. Applicants to humanities, social science, arts, science and mathematics graduate programs programs are admitted at similar rates.

Research Opportunities

If I'm interested in research opportunities, what does W&L offer?

Few liberal arts colleges are as well-equipped as W&L to provide students with intensive research opportunities. Our Summer Research Scholars Program awards paid summer appointments to students, allowing them to collaborate with their professors on research projects in a wide range of disciplines. Working alongside a professor in this way sometimes results in the opportunity to present findings at a professional conferences or get published in a professional journal. 

W&L offers other opportunities to engage in research or present one's findings, such as our Student Summer Independent Research program (SSIR), intended to support individual research or creative projects, primarily in the arts and humanities. Or W&L's annual Science, Society, and the Arts conference, where students present original research or creative work they've developed in the course of their W&L studies or on their own, outside of class.

Signature Programs

What study abroad options are available to W&L students?

Where in the world do you want to go? Our Center for International Education will help you get started.

W&L-approved study abroad options can take you to Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, or the U.K. or Ireland. W&L students can study abroad for credit for a whole year, one term, during the summer, or with one of the W&L sponsored Spring Term Abroad programs. Over half of W&L students engage in foreign study or significant time abroad during their years at Washington and Lee.

You can read more about Study Abroad in our Study Abroad FAQ.

What exactly is this Shepherd Program that I've heard about?

The nationally recognized Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability (The Shepherd Program) integrates academic study and learning through service and reflection. The Shepherd Program provides a structure for student leadership and volunteer service in the local Rockbridge community and across the nation as a part of Washington and Lee's effort to accentuate student honor and leadership. We hope students in the program will be conscious of how their conduct as professionals and citizens will affect the opportunities of disadvantaged persons to contribute to a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities. 

What is the Mudd Center for Ethics?

The Roger Mudd Center for Ethics was established in 2010 through a gift to the University from award-winning journalist Roger Mudd, a member of W&L's Class of 1950. When he made his gift, Mudd said that "given the state of ethics in our current culture, this seems a fitting time to endow a center for the study of ethics, and my university is its fitting home." In addition to enhancing the University's ethics courses and sponsoring symposia, lectures, conferences, and other public events, the Center continues W&L's tradition of hosting professional ethics institutes in the areas of business ethics, legal ethics, medical ethics and environmental ethics. 

Do you teach entrepreneurship?

Absolutely. A liberal arts university is the ideal setting in which to foster entrepreneurship. Students are immersed in a course of study that emphasizes analytical thinking, qualitative and quantitative reasoning, creativity and innovation. The Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship provides them with the necessary tools to develop business plans that are both executable and fundable, and an extremely supportive faculty and alumni community helps shepherd students' ventures from concept to business plan to launch and beyond.

12-12-4 Academic Calendar

What is "Spring Term"?

During W&L's four-week Spring Term, our students take one, and only one, uniquely designed course that holds their undivided attention for the duration of the term. W&L professors have developed over 200 courses, some involving travel in and outside the United States, with the kind of innovative teaching and experiential learning that is possible only in this intensive format.

What does this mean for you?

The options are limitless.

Imagine studying the mathematics behind some of your favorite games, including the Rubik's cube, poker, or solitaire; or making a pilgrimage from southwestern France through northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela; or taking a course called the Science of Cooking, for an introduction to the chemistry of food and cooking (and two weeks of study in culinary schools); or traveling with our Drawing Italy course, to explore that country's vast artistic heritage and work on your own drawing on visits to Rome, Spoleto, Florence, Venice, and other destinations; or studying the literary and cultural contexts that informed the development of the superhero genre in our course aptly named - what else? Superheroes. The list goes on and on.