Classrooms don't need four walls. Here a class meets on the open-air porch of the Straus Room... Classrooms don't need four walls. Here a class meets on the open-air porch of the Straus Room, with Bar Island and Frenchman Bay in the background.As you design and define your own major there are some degree requirements that will structure and guide your exploration of COA’s academic program. These requirements serve as a foundation on which you build your own curriculum


In order to graduate you must earn 36 COA credits. Each COA course carries one credit. You will typically take three courses in one ten-week term. In addition to earning 36 credits, the following are graduation requirements:

You can search for courses that meet these requirements on the courses page.

Transferring in? The following discussion concerns degree requirements for students who enter COA with less than nine COA credits—i.e., they enter as first-year students.  Here is information for transfer students.

Human Ecology Core Course: All entering students take this interdisciplinary, seminar-style course. The course helps build a community of learners to explore the questions of Human Ecology from the perspectives of the arts, humanities and sciences, both in and outside the classroom. [Back to top]  

COA students have diverse interests. In following their passions and taking courses they’re excited about, students often fulfill the distribution requirements without even trying.

Distribution requirements: Three multi-disciplinary areas organize the curriculum.  A distribution of courses from each area helps a student become familiar with a range of methodologies, perspectives, and practices and to incorporate these into her or his own work. Students must take at least two courses in each resource area, each from a different faculty member. [Back to top]

  • Arts & Design (AD). Includes almost all classes in the visual and performing arts, as well as music. Art and music history classes meet the AD requirement, too, but at least one of your AD classes must be a studio course.
  • Environmental Sciences (ES). Includes courses in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. Almost all science classes meet the ES requirement.
  • Human Studies (HS). Includes the humanities and social sciences: literature, philosophy, history, economics, law, politics, psychology, business, and so on. Almost all human studies classes meet the HS requirement.

Writing. There are two parts to the writing requirement.

  1. Coursework: The goal of the first phase of the writing requirement is to ensure that all students take a writing class shortly after starting their studies at COA. All entering students must take either one writing class, College Seminar, or two writing-focused classes within their first five terms. Writing-focused classes are regular courses, such as literature or philosophy classes, which have an additional focus on writing, including a weekly workshop and peer-review session.
  2. Portfolio: The goal of the second phase of the writing requirement is to ensure that all students write at an advanced collegiate level. All students submit a writing portfolio after they have completed 15 COA credits. This portfolio, consisting of three essays written for courses, gets reviewed by a team of faculty. If a student’s writing at this point is not assessed at an advanced college level, he or she may be required to take an additional writing course or work with a tutor in the Writing Center. [Back to top]

Quantitative reasoning. All students must take at least one quantitative reasoning (QR) class.  All math and physics courses meet this requirement, as do many classes in chemistry and economics. There are QR classes taught at all levels, so you’ll be able find a good course for you, whatever your math background. [Back to top]

History. Students must take at least one history (HY) class. Historical study is the sustained enquiry of human experience from a range of perspectives that takes into account primary sources such as oral narratives, textual discourses, art forms, and material culture originating in specific places and periods. It is through the broader field of vision present through a human ecological enquiry that the study of history transforms our understanding of the past, present, and helps to fathom what could or needs to happen next. [Back to top]

Internship. All students much complete an eleven-week, 450-hour internship.[Back to top]

Human Ecology Essay.  The Human Ecology Essay is a work of exposition, argumentation, extended description, or narration in which a student chooses and develops a subject of personal or social significance and explores her or his perspective on human ecology. The form and content of Human Ecology Essays vary widely. The Human Ecology Essay must be approved by the student’s advisor and one other faculty reader.   [Back to top]

Community service.  All students must complete at least 40 hours of community service prior to their last term of enrollment. There are opportunities for community service projects on campus and off. [Back to top]

The best way to appreciate senior projects is to browse and explore some examples.

Senior project.  The senior project is a three-credit independent effort required for the Human Ecology degree. A significant intellectual endeavor, experiment, research project, or original work, the senior project both expands understanding in a particular academic area and brings together the skills and knowledge acquired during the student’s college career. Earning three credits, the senior project is a major work at an advanced level, occupying at least a full term. All students design their own senior project, so you can come up with a senior project that is the perfect finale for your personalized Human Ecology degree. [Back to top]

Requirements for transfer students

If you transfer in more than nine COA credits—if you enter as a sophomore or junior—then you are not required to take a  quantitative reasoning course, a history course, or a writing course. You are, however, required to submit a writing portfolio for review. Transfer students must fulfill the Distribution Requirements and may transfer in one course for each of the three resource areas. For example, a transfer student could use one arts class taken at another school to partially meet the Arts and Design distribution requirement; another arts class would have to be taken at COA. Transfer students must also complete the internship, Human Ecology Essay, and Senior Project. [Back to top]

Please note that while pages on the website contain accurate descriptions of degree requirements, they do not give the complete sets of policies that govern the fulfillment of these requirements. For this information, please consult the course catalog, available on the Registrar’s Office page.