A Guide to Open Curriculum at Wesleyan University
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Alexander Oddo, Julia Fondiller, and current Wesleyan University students in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Wesleyan University is one of approximately 30 liberal arts institutions in the United States with an open curriculum. Most colleges and universities have distribution requirements, which means a student must take a set number of courses in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities in order to graduate. In contrast, an open curriculum discards distribution requirements and gives students the freedom to structure their own academic experience.
The Benefits of Open Curriculum
An open curriculum enables students to take classes that interest them during their first semester on campus. In the absence of distribution requirements, students can cultivate a wide range of academic interests by taking introductory courses across many different disciplines. For instance, if you are interested in learning about how the brain works and the history of China, you can take introductory courses in neuroscience and Chinese history and still have space in your schedule to explore other interests.
In addition to freedom and flexibility, a benefit of an open curriculum is that you will have classmates who are enrolled in a class because they are genuinely interested in the material, not just because the course is a requirement. This sets the stage for a higher level of commitment and engagement among students in the class, leading to a more enriching learning experience.
You must fulfill two main academic requirements. First, you must declare at least one major by the end of your sophomore year. Second, you must complete 32 academic credits, where one credit equates to one class. A major consists of eight to 12 classes, which means if you choose to declare one major, you can take approximately 20 to 22 other electives.
Registering for Classes
During pre-registration at Wesleyan, students use WesMaps, an online course catalog that lists every course offered in exhaustive detail. Many classes are cross-listed in multiple departments, which is a testament to the many opportunities for interdisciplinary work available at the university. During course registration, you can rank up to seven courses. You will be placed into two to four classes and then allowed to edit your schedule. Drop/Add takes place during the first few weeks of the semester, which is when you can add or drop any course in your schedule for any reason without the changes impacting your transcript.
As you select courses each semester, it is helpful to strike a balance between fulfilling the requirements of your chosen major and taking interesting electives. Make an effort to speak with your friends, past classmates, professors, and advisors to see if they have any course recommendations. Most of all, do not be afraid to challenge yourself and explore topics and fields of study that excite you!