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Courses of a typical first year undergraduate

  1. Dec 13, 2015 #1
    I am a senior in high school who is anxious to begin my physics major. Next year, I will likely attend UC Berkeley or UT Austin. I have general question, but if someone has information particular to these schools, that would be appreciated too. What does the course load for a first year physics major in college look like, typically? I ask this because I am ready for my classes to only pertain to aspects of my major, which would mean Physics and Math courses. How much of a freshman's course load is major-specific? That is, are there courses like English and History? If so, at what level are courses mostly major-specific? Sophomore, junior, senior? How much does it vary with differing institutions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2015 #2
    I'm too lazy to look for UT Austin's, but most universities have a sort of "proposed timeline" showing typical courses taken each semester of one's undergrad career.

    UC Berkeley's can be found by going here: http://physics.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/_/PDF/phys_major_blltn_boggscrnt.pdf
    And going to page 5.

    It only shows one math class first semester, which means that a typical freshman will probably take some gen eds. If you came in with AP credits or something, you might be off the hook and maybe can start major-specific courses earlier - don't do what I did and put your gen eds off until senior year. Speaking of which, time to go study for my English 110 exam...

    Anyway, by the time you hit your junior year, I'd wager to say your courses will probably be mostly major-specific.
  4. Dec 14, 2015 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    It really depends on the particular school, particularly on how much they require in general education courses, and on how much AP credit you have, or credit from community college courses. As dishsoap said, you can often find sample or recommended courses sequences on college/university/departmental web sites.

    The small liberal arts college where I work has a lot of general education requirements, and we tend to encourage students to start getting them out of the way early. A typical course load for first-year prospective physics majors might include:

    Calculus-based intro physics I and II, 4 credits each semester
    Calculus I and II, 3 credits each semester
    English composition and liturature, 3 credits each semester
    Foreign language, 4 credits each semester
    Physical education, 1 credit each semester.

    That's 30 credits for the year which is enough to put a student on track for overall graduation requirements. Strong students can add another course each semester, usually either another gen ed course or or for a physics major, maybe a programming course.

    Physics majors here have to take general chemistry also, so they might swap it for one of the other gen ed courses. There aren't really any other physics-major courses that freshmen can take, without AP credit. The higher-level courses all require intro physics and calculus as prerequisites.
  5. Dec 17, 2015 #4
    Thanks for the link! The information there is very informative. I guess when I have specific inquiries about the undergraduate schedule I'll try to find similar documents for each university.
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