Your academic journey at Barnard is shaped by the innovative Foundations curriculum. Exhilaratingly rigorous yet flexible, Foundations hones your ability to skillfully interpret information, think critically, and powerfully communicate your ideas.
With Foundations, you will explore disciplines across the arts and sciences and master different Modes of Thinking, including a distinct technology requirement that sets Barnard apart.
The First-Year Experience
You’ll launch your intellectual journey with a two-semester sequence of intensive seminar classes. Composed only of Barnard students, our small and collaborative women-centered classrooms are what makes a Barnard education unique.
In this seminar, you’ll read challenging literary texts and develop fundamental skills in analysis and writing that will prepare you for college coursework and beyond.
Tackle challenging material, often across fields, as you develop your ability to read critically, speak clearly and effectively, and write logically and persuasively. Developed by faculty based on their research interests, First-Year Seminars give you a strong jumping-off point for your coming years at Barnard by allowing you to choose an interdisciplinary topic aligned with your interests.
Barnard history professor Mark Carnes pioneered the game-based teaching and learning experience Reacting to the Past. Since its inception, hundreds of colleges have implemented the experience, leveraging role-playing games to absorb the nuances of classic texts and wrestle with thorny issues. Here, present-day Barnard and Columbia undergraduates play “Defining a Nation: India on the Eve of Independence, 1945.”
The Physical Education requirement allows students to pursue their personal interests and learn the importance of regular participation in physical activity in the pursuit of wellness. Interested in building your core strength? Want to take a break from the world and finally take some yoga?
General Education Requirements
During your sophomore year, you’ll expand on and strengthen the critical thinking and writing skills that drove your first-year experience. The General Education Requirements weave together Distributional Requirements and Modes of Thinking. This intersection encourages you to explore multiple disciplines before picking your major and helps you make connections between topics and subjects. You can also choose electives that support and extend your interests.
You start exploring your Distributional Requirements in your first year. They’ll expose you to the disciplines, approaches, and skills that together form a Barnard education. Certain courses may even satisfy the requirements within your major.
You’ll take 2 courses in:
- Languages (must be in the same language)
- Arts and humanities
- Social sciences
- Sciences (one with lab)
The Distributional Requirements cover a wide spectrum, with each category offering dozens of course options. Interested in pursuing STEM? Maybe a class on scientific writing can expand your viewpoint. Love to dance? Maybe a lab in human anatomy is right for you. Filmmaker? A lab in screenwriting could be a good fit for you.
» Courses currently satisfying these requirements
Prof. María de la Paz Fernández takes her introductory neuroscience class from textbook to reality by bringing physical human brains and brains from other species into the classroom.
The six Modes of Thinking are at the heart of the Foundations curriculum. They emphasize the dynamic process of thinking over the certainty of knowing.
You’ll take one course in each of the following:
- Thinking Locally — New York City: Inside and outside of the classroom, you’ll examine your community and environment to better understand the significance of local context.
- Thinking Through Global Inquiry: You’ll consider communities, places, and experiences beyond your immediate location, expanding your perspectives on the world and your place in it.
- Thinking About Social Difference: Examine how difference is defined, lived, and challenged, and consider disparities of power and resources in all their manifestations.
- Thinking With Historical Perspective: These courses challenge you to look at the past with fresh eyes by examining the ways in which historical context shapes and conditions the world.
- Thinking Quantitatively and Empirically: You’ll gain exposure to numbers, data, graphs, and mathematical methods — sharpening your critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
- Thinking Technologically and Digitally: Discover new ways of learning that open up innovative fields of study, including computational science and coding, digital arts and humanities, geographic information systems, and digital design.
After completing a course, you may submit an appeal for a GER designation via the Student GER Appeal Form. If approved by the COI Sub-Committee of Student Appeals, the form is submitted to the Registrar’s Office and your degree audit is updated. Please note that only courses with at least 3 credits are eligible for GERs. Reference this page if you'd like to get a better understanding of the Modes of Thinking. If you are appealing for Nine Ways of Knowing, please reference the aims on this page in the Online Course Catalog.
The Office of the Registrar handles any GER appeals for summer or transfer courses.
Choosing a Major
Don’t be surprised if you end up picking a major that has nothing to do with what interested you when you first arrived on campus. Your time at Barnard will introduce you to new fields of study that excite you. With support from your advisor, you’ll decide on a major that will anchor your remaining study at Barnard. Each of the College’s 50-plus majors and programs engage you in a thorough analysis of your subject and high-level content.
The Senior Thesis or Project
After three years of interdisciplinary breadth and disciplinary depth, you’re ready to take on your senior project: a semester- or year-long endeavor that represents the culmination of your work in your major. Your senior project could be a written thesis, a creative project, supervised original research in a lab, or even research within a dedicated senior seminar. Senior projects are often presented at a campus-wide event, and abstracts for all senior theses are collected and published.
The number of electives you take will vary and may include a minor or prerequisites for professional school. They may be adjacent to your major, intersect with it in an innovative way, or offer an opportunity to try something completely different. Whichever way you go, you’ll have a full menu of courses from which to choose.
Choosing Your Classes
How to choose?
- Speak with your class dean or faculty advisor
- Explore what the different departments and programs at Barnard offer
- Check major and minor requirements, course listings, and detailed Foundations requirements in the course catalog
- Search the Columbia directory of classes for courses on both sides of Broadway
Visit the Office of the Registrar website for detailed instructions on registering for classes