Political Science BA—Old Requirements

Current major requirements

These requirements are not available to students in the Class of 2021 and later. Only students in earlier classes may follow these requirements.

  1. Requirements for the political science major
  2. How to declare a major
  3. Checklist for requirements for the major
  4. Overlap policy
  5. Course recommendations for freshman through senior years
  6. Honors program
  7. The Richard and Nancy Fenno Summer Fellowships
  8. The Washington Semester and Undergraduate Political Science Research Fund
  9. Undergraduate Prizes

Requirements for the Political Science Major

The major in political science requires that students successfully complete at least twelve courses, achieving a minimum overall grade point average of 2.0 in these courses. None of the twelve courses may be taken on a satisfactory/fail basis.

The twelve courses are: PSC 202W, FOUR political science field requirements, and SEVEN other courses--

PSC 202W

PSC 202W (Argument in Political Science) is the only course specifically required for a major in political science.

Four Field Requirements

Our courses in political science fall into different fields. Students must choose courses that sample from at least four different fields in political science, as specified here. A few courses fit intellectually into two different fields. They can be used to satisfy only one field requirement, however. Introductory courses are classified by field and will satisfy relevant field requirements.

Techniques of Analysis. Choose PSC 200 (Data Analysis I) or PSC 205 (Data Analysis II, for which PSC 200 is a prerequisite). Students may also satisfy this requirement with ECO 230, ECO 231W, PSY/CSP 211, STT 211, STT 212, STT 213, STT 214, or any other course in statistics, or if they have received a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement exam in Statistics. Note that students who do not use PSC 200 or PSC 205 to satisfy their Techniques of Analysis requirement are permitted only two other courses in their allied field, so at least nine courses for the major are in PSC/IR.

American Politics. Choose at least one course.

Comparative Politics or International Relations. Choose at least one course in either field, making certain that the course appears in the lists linked here. (Note that some courses that carry an “IR” designation do not satisfy this requirement.)

Positive Theory or Political Philosophy. Choose at least one course in either field.

Seven Additional Courses

Students may choose any seven additional courses in political science (whether listed with an "IR" or "PSC" number). These may include any courses from the various fields, but may also include individualized research courses, internships, and associated courses. No more than three of these, however, may be chosen from the list of associated courses. As many as three of these seven courses may come from another department, provided they follow the guidelines in the next paragraph for courses in an allied field. Also, no more than four courses counted toward the major may be at the introductory level (generally, 100-level courses); of these four introductory courses, no more than one may come from another department.

Courses in the allied field (up to three) may consist of any courses from either Economics, History, or Philosophy, provided that the courses come from the same department and that no more than one of these courses is at the introductory level. (Students satisfying their Techniques of Analysis requirement with ECO 230 or ECO 231 may take up to two additional courses in the allied field, for a total of up to three courses in Economics or up to two courses in another allied field. Students satisfying their Techniques of Analysis requirement with PSY/CSP 211 or coursework in Statistics may take just two other courses in the allied field.) For courses from other departments or for interdepartmental allied fields, advisors will expect students to provide a coherent justification for the courses chosen. A general guideline used to determine acceptability of a proposed allied field is that the courses enhance your understanding of politics. Proposals that cut across departments or that include more than one introductory-level course require special justification. Changes to allied field courses other than those in the three listed departments must be approved in writing by an advisor.

The Writing Requirement

Political science majors fulfill the Department's writing requirement by taking PSC 202W and one or more 200- or 300-level courses in political science or international relations that are designated as writing intensive. These courses carry a "W" designation. "W" courses require students to write a term paper of 10-15 pages (about 3500 words), with the term paper involving research that goes beyond the regular class material. Faculty are encouraged to have students submit a draft of a portion of the term paper before they turn in the final product. No more than one of these courses may be used to satisfy the writing requirement in a second or third major.

Additional Guidelines on Courses in the Major

AP and IB Credit. Students who receive a grade of 4 or 5 on the AP exam in either American or Comparative Government or a grade of 5, 6, or 7 on the Higher Level IB exam in Global Politics will be granted 4 credits in the major. Students who take more than one exam are not eligible for additional credit. This credit is considered a transfer course and an introductory course.

Transfer Courses. Except in extraordinary circumstances, no more than three courses in the major may be transferred from other schools. No transfer courses may be used to satisfy field requirements. Credit is not granted for online courses.

Transfer courses applied toward the major in political science must be approved by an undergraduate advisor in the department. Advisors are best able to assess the suitability of a transfer course through examination of a course description or syllabus. In addition to the basic substance of the course and the institution offering it, advisors consider its equivalence to courses taught here in terms of frequency of class meetings, total class meeting time, and methods of evaluation. Approval is granted for specific courses, with no presumptions that other courses are acceptable substitutions. Generally, internships transferred from other institutions may not be applied toward the major in political science. (For exceptions regarding internships, see Professor Gamm.)

Internships. The department sponsors three internships and supports some individualized internships.

Summer Courses at the University of Rochester. Courses taught in the summer session by graduate students in our department are considered as associated courses, not as courses satisfying field requirements for the major--regardless of the course number or name.

Two-Credit Courses. The department occasionally offers two-credit courses in political science. These courses may not be applied toward the major.

Substituting Courses after Declaring a Major. The course plan approved by an undergraduate advisor in political science must meet the requirements for the major. Students who substitute courses after declaring a major are responsible for ensuring that substitutions satisfy requirements. If in doubt about substitutions, students should check with one of the department's undergraduate advisors. Students are reminded, in particular, that, apart from courses in Economics, History, and Philosophy, changes in specific allied field courses must be approved in writing by an advisor.

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How to Declare a Major

Pick up a blue Approval Form for Concentrations and Minors, available in the Center for Academic Support at Lattimore Hall 312 or in the Department of Political Science office at Harkness Hall 333.

Collect information at this website regarding requirements for the major.

Complete Part A of the Approval Form, following the information about requirements. List the relevant courses you have already taken, are currently taking, or plan to take before you graduate. You are not committed to following this course plan exactly, but you must fulfill the relevant requirements if you wish to graduate with a major in political science. If you ultimately substitute courses for those listed on your Approval Form, you may wish to check with an undergraduate advisor in political science to confirm that the substitutions are acceptable. Students in the classes of 2005 and beyond are reminded of the need for approval of some changes to allied field courses.

In deciding which courses to take, you may wish to examine the course descriptions. You may also wish to consult with an undergraduate advisor in political science for advice about courses best suited to your particular intellectual interests and career goals. If you would like advice, list only those courses you have taken, are taking, or know for certain you wish to take.

Once you have completed Part A of the Approval Form as best you can, take it to an undergraduate advisor in political science during his or her office hours. Your advisor will check the form, answer any questions you may have, and sign it. If you plan to double major, request that "permission to double major" be written and initialed by the advisor on the Approval Form.

Submit the completed and signed Approval Form to the Center for Academic Support at Lattimore Hall 312. The Center will send one copy to the Department of Political Science.

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Overlap Policy

Students are reminded that they are subject to the College's "overlap policy" with respect to double majors and a major and minor. The policy applies to all students in the College:

Major: No more than three courses overlapping between any two majors.

Minor: No more than two courses overlapping between a minor and either a major or another minor.

If a cross-listed course (such as PSC/ECO 288) is listed under two majors, it counts toward the overlap limit even if it is listed under the Political Science number in one case and a cross-listed number in the other case.

For more information, see the Advising Handbook.

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Course Recommendations for First Year through Senior Years

First Year

We strongly recommend that students interested in political science take one or two courses in the department in their first year-choosing from introductory courses, including Quest courses, or 200-level courses open to first-year students. Although it does not count for the major, you might also choose a version of CAS 105 that emphasizes politics and government.

The department offers a number of courses that introduce foundations of political science through an exploration of American politics (PSC 103 and 105), politics in countries other than the United States (PSC 101), international relations (PSC 106), positive political theory (PSC 107), political philosophy (PSC 104), and political economy (PSC 108).

Sophomore Year

We strongly recommend that students take PSC 202W (Argument in Political Science) in the sophomore year. This course is required for the major. Sophomores are also advised to take PSC 200 (Applied Data Analysis), PSC 201 (Political Inquiry), PSC 203 (Survey Research Methods), or PSC 205 (Introductory Statistical Methods). One or two of these courses is typically offered each semester; completing this requirement will help prepare you for material that you will encounter in other political science courses.

Most students formally declare a major in the sophomore year, and this is an excellent opportunity to map out, with the advice of an undergraduate advisor in the department, the course plan that meets particular intellectual interests and career goals. In the sophomore year, students should sample from courses in different fields to discover their interests. As well, students may begin to consider whether or not plans for the junior and senior years will affect their political science course plan at the College. For example, students interested in European Political Internships may wish to choose, for the sophomore year, only courses that satisfy field requirements, in the expectation that some courses taken while in Europe will be counted among "additional" courses in political science used toward the major.

Junior Year

We recommend that students complete four courses satisfying field requirements before the end of the junior year.

Senior Year

Ideally, the senior year is not characterized by last-minute panic about completing degree requirements. Rather, the senior year should be as much a beginning as an end--a time to engage in concrete preparations for your work or study beyond graduation, as you enjoy your last year of undergraduate study. Be warned, however: spring semester senior year is typically too late to begin these preparations. For example, applications to graduate school require carefully conceived and well-written statements of purpose. Successful applicants are not the students who submit first drafts or statements that have undergone no review by an outside person. Graduate schools and prospective employers alike usually require letters of recommendation. Students need to consider carefully who to approach for these letters; moreover, neither professors nor past employers can be expected to produce really substantive letters of support on very short notice.

Senior year should be the time in which students best use the resources available to them to take a variety of practical measures that open doors to opportunities beyond graduation. This should be done with an open mind about possibilities and a clear understanding that, for example, some opportunities may not materialize, some that look attractive in the abstract may be less attractive as concrete offers, and new opportunities may emerge in the process of pursuing options. Students are encouraged to talk to their professors, attend workshops organized by the department and the Undergraduate Political Science Council, and make good use, as early as possible, of the variety of resources provided by the Career Center.

Thinking about Graduate Studies?

We encourage students who think they may wish to pursue graduate studies in political science to consult an undergraduate advisor or other professor in the department about their plans. The beginning of the junior year is not too early to seek advice, and the senior year is a little late. We can offer students both general advice and specific information about graduate programs across the country. We can also help students better gauge their prospects for acceptance into graduate programs, opportunities for financial aid, and career prospects beyond graduate studies.

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Honors Program

The honors program provides a capstone experience during a student’s senior year. Students have an opportunity to conduct original social science research in a small collaborative setting. “Original research” means that students will propose an original hypothesis and evaluate it, as opposed to standard political science courses in which students’ written assignments summarize existing arguments. Most theses contain a statistical analysis component, although this is not required. (For example, a thesis could be primarily qualitative or theoretical.)

During the fall, honors students will enroll in PSC/IR 389W (4 credits), taught by the Honors Coordinator, in which they will develop a topic and learn research design techniques. Students will receive feedback from the Honors Coordinator, from peers in the class, and from an additional faculty member who will serve as the main advisor. Contingent on satisfactory performance in the fall, students will write the bulk of the thesis in the spring, enrolling in PSC/IR 393W (4 credits). They will meet periodically with the Honors Coordinator and classmates, and regularly with their thesis advisor, who will assign their spring grade. The end result is a written thesis that will be due on April 15 and will be graded by the advisor and by a second member of the department faculty at the end of the senior year. Students who complete a satisfactory thesis and have a major GPA of at least 3.5 (calculated by averaging the grades of all courses that are listed or cross-listed as PSC or IR as well as any other courses used to satisfy the requirements of the major) will graduate with honors, and exceptional theses may merit high or highest honors.

Admission to the honors program will be based on invitations issued by the Department of Political Science by March 1 of a student’s junior year, or by petition from students with excellent academic records who were overlooked in the invitation process. Invitations will be restricted to juniors majoring in Political Science or International Relations who have demonstrated outstanding levels of achievement in their academic work, as demonstrated by the rigor of their course schedules and their GPAs. Students who are not invited may petition for admission to the honors program. The deadline for a student petition is March 15. The Department will respond to the petition within two weeks, before the fall registration period begins.

In addition to receiving an invitation or having a petition approved, students must have completed the following minimum requirements before the beginning of the fall semester of the senior year, with a grade of B or better:

1. At least two courses in tools of political analysis (PSC 107, PSC 200, PSC 202W, PSC 205, PSC 281, or PSC 288). Prospective honors students are strongly encouraged to have completed at least one statistics course no later than spring of their junior year. In lieu of PSC 200, students may substitute one of the following introductory statistics courses: ECO 230, STT 211, STT 212, STT 213, or STT 214.

2. An upper-level writing course, designated with a W.

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The Richard and Nancy Fenno Summer Fellowships

The Richard and Nancy Fenno Summer Fellowships are designed to support and encourage Rochester undergraduates to engage in activities that will stimulate their personal and intellectual growth and which will make them even more valuable members of the university community upon their return to campus. Specifically, a summer stipend of $2,500 will be offered for students engaging in activities broadly related to politics and policy. Such activities could include working in any of the government branches in Washington, D.C., in state or local governments, or, in some cases, in analogous international positions. Applications for Summer 2016 are due by March 31. 

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The Washington Semester and Undergraduate Political Science Research Fund

The Department has money available to assist undergraduate students with research projects of various sorts. This money could be used for those particularly interested in studying Congress, for students in the honors program, or for students engaged in other research projects. In all cases, the money would go directly to support the research itself; money is not available to provide a stipend to students. The maximum grant is currently $500, though, in exceptional cases, a second application will be considered. Application should be made in a letter to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

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Undergraduate Prizes

The four prestigious undergraduate prizes described below are awarded annually and presented at the spring Political Science and International Relations commencement ceremony. A committee of faculty members in the Department of Political Science, appointed by the department chair, selects the winners.

James D. McGill Memorial Prize

The James D. McGill Memorial Prize was established in 1942 by former students and friends of Professor McGill, who came to the university in 1927 and was the first professor to head our department, a position he took up in 1934. In establishing the prize, Professor McGill's students and friends noted that "he saw his students as future participants in a living and dynamic democracy, and he prepared them for this service." The prize is awarded to the undergraduate student who is deemed to have shown the greatest interest and demonstrated the highest achievement in the field of political science or international relations. The name of the winner is recorded on a plaque displayed in Harkness Hall.

Jay F. Birdsall Memorial Prize

The Jay F. Birdsall Memorial Prize was established in 1967 by friends and relatives to honor the memory of Jay F. Birdsall III, Class of 1967, who graduated with high honors in political science, earning the respect of all for both his academic excellence and the involvement in public service that he showed as an intern in state government in Albany. The prize is awarded to a graduating senior in political science or international relations who has demonstrated an interest in--and a commitment to--practical politics. The name of the winner is recorded on a plaque displayed in Harkness Hall.

Helen S. Jones Award

The Helen S. Jones Award is given annually to a student who demonstrates significant achievement in the areas of sociology, international relations, and/or political science.

Laurin Taylor Frisina '06 Ventura Award

The Laurin Taylor Frisina '06 Ventura Award, established in 2014 in memory of Laurin Taylor Frisina, is given to "the graduating senior who, as a Political Science research assistant or in other research activities, best represents creativity and collaboration in pursuit of knowledge."

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