At Hobart and William Smith, we've built our education around exploring the world from multiple perspectives, collaborating with your peers and mentors to enhance learning and scholarship, and providing opportunities to use your education for action. If you can imagine and create connections among numerous spheres of study or thought, then you can manage, enable and even maximize change with confidence.

To ensure that HWS students receive an education that prepares them to lead lives of consequence, students must complete a course of study that includes two integrated goals of critical thinking and communication, and six aspirational goals ranging from scientific inquiry to understanding cultural differences.

For those who enrolled at HWS during or after the Fall semester of 2016, your course of study must include:

  • Passing 32 academic courses or their equivalent with a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 (C). At least 28 of these courses must be passed with a grade of C- or higher. At least 30 of these courses must be full-credit courses;
  • Spending three years in residence: the first year, the second or third year, and the senior year. Normally, the senior year is defined as one complete academic year taken in sequence (fall and spring semesters);
  • Passing a First-Year Seminar with a grade of C- or higher;
  • Completing the requirements for an academic major, including a capstone course or experience, and an academic minor (or second major). Students cannot major and minor in the same subject.
  • Completing any faculty-mandated writing requirement(s);
  • Completing a course of study, designed in consultation with a faculty adviser, which addresses each of the following skills, areas of knowledge, and qualities of mind and character. These are referred to as the eight educational goals of our general curriculum; two of the goals are integrated across the four-year curriculum, and six are aspirational goals satisfied through the completion of specific coursework that addresses each goal.

When you need to do it:

  • You should meet each semester during Advising Week with your current primary academic adviser to discuss and identify courses toward completion of the requirements of the major, the minor, and the goals.
  • You should declare a major by March of your sophomore year.
  • You should declare a minor or second major by March of your junior year.

Note that with the exception of the First-Year Seminar, the Colleges do not dictate that students take a particular set of courses.

The Colleges’ curriculum is controlled by the faculty and overseen by its Committee on Academic Affairs. This committee includes faculty, administrators, and student representatives from Hobart and from William Smith. These student representatives are appointed by the two student governments.

Animating Principle of the Curriculum

Explore, Collaborate, Act is the animating principle that unifies the HWS curriculum. Academic work at HWS is integrated in all that we do, including our remarkable Global Education program, our rich integration of Service Learning into and beyond our academic offerings, our longstanding focus on thinking and working across traditional disciplines, and the close work of research and creativity that connects faculty and students. Moreover, this principle also defines the distinctive role of the Colleges in the twenty-first century, expressing what we aspire our students to embody, an ethos that focuses their progress through college and beyond. In the broadest sense, Explore, Collaborate, Act articulates what we—students and faculty alike—do at the Colleges, highlighting our vibrant interconnections and interdisciplinarity.

The curriculum of the Colleges emphasizes the breadth of critical thinking and communication found across disciplines, as well as specific modes of analytical reasoning, communicating, and critical thinking within disciplines. Over the course of their studies at the Colleges, students develop the ability to examine and evaluate facts and phenomena, discern patterns and arguments, and understand and form connections between ideas, issues, and values. The ability to share one’s discoveries, interpretations, or analyses is essential to becoming a creative and critical thinker and communicator. Our curriculum embodies the fundamental mission of a liberal arts education to develop, in all of its elements, each student’s capacity for analytical, expressive, empathetic, critical, and effective reasoning and communication, which can be carried forward into life, work, and the world.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.