Joining the Biology Major After Sophomore Principles of Biology

Some pre-health students do not begin as Biology majors, and were therefore advised to take Principles of Biology in the sophomore year. It is still possible to declare the Biology major and complete it in a timely manner, and we encourage students who have become excited by Principles of Biology to do so! The following are general guidelines for joining the standard track of the Biology major after taking Principles of Biology in the sophomore year. Students with any questions, especially those students interested in the Ecology track of the Biology major, the Global Public Health/Biology major, or Honors, are advised to contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Biology. We also welcome questions about the Biology program from students who do not start out as either Biology majors or pre-health, but get excited by a first-year seminar or CORE course in Biology.

The typical course plan for pre-health students who are not already intending to be Biology majors involves taking General Chemistry and Calculus freshman year, then Principles of Biology sophomore year along with either Organic Chemistry or General Physics. The good news is that all of these courses count toward the Biology major. A pre-health student who joins the Biology major after taking Principles of Biology as a sophomore should take Molecular and Cell Biology as a junior, along with either General Physics or Organic Chemistry (whichever was not taken sophomore year). In addition to Principles of Biology, Molecular and Cell Biology, Calculus, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and General Physics, the standard track of the Biology major requires five upper-level Biology elective courses (which include at least one Quantitative Skills course, one Reasoning Skills course, and one Laboratory Skills course). Most electives have as a prerequisite Molecular and Cell Biology I but not Molecular and Cell Biology II. Some electives have only Principles of Biology as a prerequisite, and others have courses beyond Molecular and Cell Biology as prerequisites. It is therefore possible to craft a course plan that spreads the required five electives out over the junior and senior years while tailoring it to a student’s individual interests.

To craft the best course plan for completing the major by the end of senior year, we strongly encourage students to use the course planning tool on this site to explore what electives are offered when, and to declare the Biology major as soon as possible. When a student declares the Biology major, they are assigned a Biology faculty adviser, who can help them choose electives and plan out the remaining semesters to make sure both major and CAS requirements are met.