Mathematical, Physical, and Biological Sciences

All students must complete 6 courses across three areas of the Natural Sciences: at least one (1) in the Mathematical Sciences, two (2) in Physical Sciences, two (2) in Biological Sciences. Students also take a 6th course that falls into one of those three categories. Be aware:

  • There are a variety of ways to complete each of these categories, but some majors dictate which sequences you must use to do so.
  • A single quarter of Calculus will not satisfy the Mathematical Sciences requirement; you would need to have credit for both Calculus I and Calculus II. By default, this means that students using Calc to satisfy the requirement will take two courses in each of these three disciplinary categories.
  • Some options for satisfying these requirements assume prior knowledge. If you’re looking to take Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, and/or Advanced Biology, you should read more about determining your appropriate placement.

Mathematical Sciences

Courses eligible for the Mathematical Sciences requirement present broadly applicable techniques for formulating, analyzing, and solving problems and for evaluating proposed solutions. These courses may investigate a number of different lines of inquiry, including methods for learning about the world using imperfect or incomplete data and developing approaches to quantifying and characterizing natural processes.

All students are required to take at least one approved course (100 units) in the Mathematical Sciences. However, a single quarter of Calculus will not satisfy the requirement; you would need to have credit for both Calculus I and Calculus II. Learn more about the Mathematical Science course options. Remember that Calculus enrollment is dependent on your math placement. All incoming students are required to take the Mathematics Placement Test, regardless of their plans regarding Math coursework while at UChicago.

It is recommended that students taking Calculus or higher-level Math begin their Mathematics coursework right away. Students opting to satisfy the requirement with one or two approved non-Calculus course option(s) should plan to complete it by the end of second year.

Physical Sciences

Physical Science Core courses help students develop the basis for judgement through the principles of experimentation, observation, and the principles of scientific inquiry. The College requires you to explore a particular subject within the Physical Sciences (e.g. Geophysical Sciences, Physics, etc.) in depth by completing two complementary courses (200 units). Accordingly, most eligible courses must be taken as two-quarter sequences. There are also some standalone course options available to non-science majors, but only certain combinations of these courses can satisfy the requirement. Learn more about the Physical Science course options

If your intended major requires you to complete this requirement with specific courses (e.g. General Chemistry or Physics), it’s generally because these courses provide foundational knowledge for future coursework. If that’s the case, you should generally plan to complete it in first year, though a couple of majors (like Computer Science and Math) offer more flexibility.

If your major is not picky about how you satisfy this requirement, plan to complete it during your first or second year.

Biological Sciences

A knowledge of biology – the study of life and the structures that support it – is essential for understanding many of the most pressing problems of modern life and for intelligent involvement in their eventual solution. As such, all students are required to complete at least two courses (200 units) in the Biological Sciences, but the specific courses that can satisfy the requirement may depend on your major. Learn more about the Biological Science course options.

Students planning to major in Biological Sciences or pre-health students in any major typically begin their Biology coursework in Winter of their first year. The exception is students eligible for and choosing to take the Advanced Biology sequence, which begins in Autumn of first year with BIOS 20234 Molecular Biology of the Cell. All other students (outside Biology and not intending to pursue the health professions) should plan to complete the requirement by the end of second year. Options for Autumn quarter enrollments will be outlined under the appropriate "First Quarter Schedule" page.


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