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Graduation Requirements

Graduation requirements of particular interest to first-year students

Distribution Requirements

Breadth is essential for a liberal arts education.  The distribution requirements ensure students take some courses in each of our four academic divisions.  It’s a good idea to complete these distribution requirements early in your college career, but you won’t complete them all in your first semester, or even your first year.

  • Social Sciences (8 semester credits required):
    Courses with a Social Sciences designation may be found in Anthropology, Economics, Educational Studies, Environmental Studies, Geography, International Studies, Linguistics, Media and Cultural Studies, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology.
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics (8 semester credits required):
    Courses with a Natural Sciences and Mathematics designation may be found in Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Geology, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy and Psychology.
  • Humanities and Fine Arts (12 semester credits required; with at least 4 credits in Humanities and at least four credits in the Fine Arts):
    Courses with Humanities designations may be found in American Studies, Asian Languages and Cultures, Classics, Educational Studies, English, Environmental Studies, French and Francophone Studies, German and Russian Studies, Spanish, History, International Studies, Linguistics, Media and Cultural Studies, Philosophy, Portuguese, Religious Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
    Courses with the Fine Arts designations may be found in Art and Art History, English, Music and Theatre and Dance.

More information about course designations is available in the College Catalog and in the class schedule, both of which can be accessed here.

Internationalism (I) Requirement

By recognizing that all lives are shaped by historical dynamics and contemporary structures that operate on transnational, international, and global levels, the Internationalism Requirement contributes to Macalester’s commitment to preparing a thoughtful and principled citizenry that takes account of the complexities of a global society.  An understanding of these complexities dislodges presuppositions about what is universal and what is particular, informs thoughtful consideration of how to address pressing issues, places persons and nations in context, and encourages reflection about one’s identity, agency and responsibility in the world.  One course with the “I” designation is required for graduation.

United States Identities and Differences (USID) Requirement

Social groups and identities emerge from complex cultural, economic, political, social and institutional processes.  The United States Identities and Differences Requirement focuses on the historical origins and contemporary implications of these power-laden processes. While this requirement focuses on the United States as an exemplar, the knowledge and skills it fosters are transferable to other national and international contexts.  One course with the “USID” designation is required for graduation.

Quantitative Thinking Requirement

Many policy debates, scientific discussions, political issues, and personal and organizational decisions involve judgments about claims based upon quantitative evidence. To critically evaluate these claims, the individual must have basic familiarity with such concepts as counting, measurement, estimation, and data analysis.  Equally important is the capacity to ask and answer questions in a manner appropriate to these quantitative tools and to understand when the use of quantitative tools is or is not appropriate. The purpose of the Quantitative Thinking requirement is to ensure that students have the opportunity to develop such skills.

Students must take one or more courses with a Q3, Q2, or Q1 designation. A single Q3 course completely satisfies the requirement; alternatively, a Q2 course together with another Q2 or Q1 course, or three Q1 courses, can meet the requirement.

Writing Requirement

Macalester seeks to ensure all students receive writing instruction, experience writing as a process, and receive feedback on the mechanics and substance of their writing.  To meet our Writing Requirement students will take three courses designated as argumentative writing (WA), writing as craft (WC) or writing as practice (WP).  Of the three at least one must be WA and no more than one WP.  Incoming First Year Students must take one course designated WA or WC in their first semester.

The list of courses approved to meet the general education (GenEd) requirements in Internationalism, US Identities and Differences, Quantitative Thinking and Writing can be found here,

Second Language Proficiency Requirement

In order to graduate from Macalester all students must demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English equivalent to four semesters worth of college level instruction in that language. This level of proficiency enables students to meaningfully engage both the language itself as well as the cultures connected to it. Most students meet this requirement by completing Intermediate II in their chosen language at Macalester. Students who receive college credit for Intermediate II through a qualifying score on the AP exam or take Intermediate II at another college and receive transfer credit will have this requirement marked as met once we receive the official scores or transcripts.

Students whose native language is not English should submit appropriate documentation to Academic Programs and Advising to have their proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking in more than one language verified. The most common means of demonstrating proficiency is a transcript from high school that indicates the language of instruction was not English or that the student took courses in the native language as well as in English. Students who do not have such documentation should contact Academic Programs and Advising once on campus to discuss other options for demonstrating multilingual proficiency.

Students who have met our four semester proficiency requirement are welcome to take advanced level courses in that language or to pursue a new language at the appropriate level based on their preparation. Learn more about the Languages Macalester offers.  Additionally, please join us at the Languages Fair, Tuesday August 27, 1-3, to meet our language faculty, have your questions answered, and enter a drawing to win a gift card to Macalester’s favorite local Middle Eastern food restaurant.

Language Placement

Students who have previously studied another language have several options for determining placement.

Students who have a college level course in the language are welcome to register for the next course in the sequence.

Those who have taken a qualifying exam (i.e. AP, IB) may submit test scores to determine where in the language sequence they should begin.

Students who have not taken these exams, but will continue studying a language they pursued in high school, should place themselves in the course they feel is appropriate given their experience, course work, ability and the guidelines provided by the corresponding language department.

Students without college credit who wish to continue in the study of French, German or Spanish are required to take an online placement test offered through a program called Emmersion. The test is offered free of charge and will help students decide which course to take.

Instructions for taking the Emmersion exam are as follows:

  1. Go to Emmersion Placement exam.
  2. Enter your name, email address, ID# and create a password. Then click “Create Account”.
  3. Once you create an account, you will be re-directed to a screen asking you to sign in. Enter your email address and the password you just created.  Then click “Sign In”.
  4. Select the appropriate language.
  5. Follow the instructions on screen.

The test takes approximately 15-20 minutes. At the end of the test the main screen appears indicating your score and the corresponding course to take.

The purpose of this test is to help you decide what level of language course to register for with a degree of confidence you will complete the course successfully. Accordingly, we require you take this test closed-book, with no assistance from others.

Information about the placement exams in Chinese and Japanese is available here. The Chinese Placement Exam is online. The Japanese Placement Exam will be at 10:00AM (CDT) on Friday, August 23, 2024 on Zoom. Fill out this Google form to receive the Zoom link for the exam.