New Student Academic Experience

As a liberal arts college with a strong interdisciplinary curriculum in the social and behavioral sciences, Pitzer College presents a unique opportunity for self-expression and for exploring the world around us. Pitzer believes that you should take an active part in formulating your individual plan of study, bringing a spirit of inquiry and adventure to the process of learning. In order to graduate, you are expected to fulfill the educational objectives of the College by designing, in coordination with your faculty advisor, a program of study that meets your intellectual needs and interests. You must complete 32 courses (usually translated into a normal load of four courses each semester), complete a major, and earn at least a 2.0 grade point average. By the end of your sophomore year, you will consult with your faculty advisor and complete the process of choosing a major.

  • New Student Orientation Sakai Site

    New Student Orientation will have components that will be delivered online prior to your arrival on campus. The primary locations of all online content for the delivery and storage of information will be hosted on the New Student Orientation Sakai site. Sakai is the course management and collaborative learning environment that serves the Claremont Colleges. It is used by faculty and students to deliver course materials, set up learning activities, and collaborate on projects. Staff use the system to assist with administrative tasks and projects.

    The New Student Orientation Sakai site will include:

    • The most up to date online New Student Orientation timeline (will be updated on an ongoing basis as information becomes available for new students)
    • Information on First Year Seminars, your faculty advisor, and advising information
    • Registration information for Fall 2021 courses
    • Information technology guides and resources for online support
    • Placement exam information for math and languages at Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges
    • Online presentations, including information about live online events and asynchronous presentations to assist new students with learning new information about the academic transition
    • Information about campus resources, tools, events, online communities and much more!
  • Your First Class: First-Year Seminar

    One of the exciting things about a Pitzer College education is the opportunity to engage ideas in small, interpersonal and innovative classes. Each fall, new Pitzer students enroll in a small seminar class designed just for first-year students. These first-year seminars, required for new students, are limited to about 15 students and are structured to encourage class discussions and to engage in intensive writing experiences. These are not lecture courses; the expectation is that you will be an important part of the learning process.

  • Your Academic Advisor

    Each student entering Pitzer is assigned a faculty member as an academic advisor. The professor teaching a given first-year seminar will also serve as their students’ faculty advisor for the first three or four semesters, until a student declares a major. Students develop strong mentoring relationships with faculty and gain a broad understanding of how the curriculum intersects with their individual educational goals. Academic advising is an integral part of faculty-student interaction and teaching at Pitzer. You and your advisor will meet online during New Student Orientation to create a program of study that meets your needs and fulfills Pitzer’s educational objectives. Our faculty members represent a range of expertise and interests and will be glad to talk with you at any time.

    In addition to your academic advisor, first year students will meet your Academic Guide during New Student Orientation. New Student Guides are sophomores, juniors and seniors who have received special training and are ready to give you the inside scoop on life at Pitzer and any advice or assistance you might need as a new student.

  • Register for Classes

    You will receive information about how to access your online portal which will give you access to the 5-College Undergraduate Schedule of Courses, your academic advisor information, as well as other helpful information. All advising, class selection and registration will take place during New Student Orientation. You will have a couple opportunities to meet with your academic advisor to discuss your course of study during orientation before you register. It can be helpful to look over the online 5-College Undergraduate Schedule of Courses before your advising appointment, but the only thing you will need to do for class registration before online orientation is submit your preferences for the First-Year Seminar over the summer. All transfer students will have a member of the dean of faculty’s office as an advisor until paired with a suitable faculty member in your major of interest.

  • Placement Exams

    To assist you in choosing the appropriate level of courses for math and foreign language, placement exams will be available for new students to take online prior to your arrival on campus. If you are unsure which courses you are prepared for, the placement exams and/or your faculty advisor may assist you. All dates, times and locations will be available in your New Student Orientation schedule. If you are interested in taking language courses, you will need to take a placement exam. More information will be posted on the New Student Orientation Sakai webpage over the summer.

  • Introductory Sciences at the Keck Science Department: An Informal Advising/Orientation Guide

    Introductory Sciences at the Keck Science Department: An Informal Advising/Orientation Guide

    If you are considering becoming a science or pre-health major, please talk with a Keck Science faculty member before enrolling in your first-semester courses. Science faculty can help ensure that you are enrolled in classes appropriate to your previous experience and can assist with the advanced planning that is often necessary to navigate through the prerequisites required for many upper-division courses.

    For the majors listed below, these faculty indicated are available for consultation:

    Biology— Professor Patrick Ferree (

    Chemistry— Professor Katie Purvis-Roberts (

    Physics— Professor Adam Landsberg ( (Fall 2020); Professor Scot Gould ( (Spring 2021)

    Biochemistry— Professor Aaron Leconte (

    Biophysics— Professor Adam Landsberg ( (Fall 2020); Professor Scot Gould ( Spring 2021

    Economics and Engineering – Professor Scot Gould (

    Environmental Analysis— Professor Donald McFarlane (

    Environment, Economics, and Politics (EEP)— Professor Branwen Williams (

    Human Biology— Professor Marion Preest (

    Management-Engineering— Professor Scot Gould (

    Molecular Biology— Professor Patrick Ferree (

    Neuroscience— Professor Melissa Coleman ( or Professor Thomas Borowski (

    Organismal Biology— Professor Sarah Gilman (

    Science Management— Professor Anna Wenzel (


    The minimal science requirements for students planning careers in the health professions include: “Basic Principles of Chemistry” (14L and 15L), “Organic Chemistry” (116L and 117L), “Introductory Biology” (43L and 44L), and “General Physics for the Life Sciences” (30L and 31L) or “Principles of Physics” (33L and 34L). Please see the Keck Science Pre-Health website ( for additional information on required and recommended courses for pre-health students.  Susie Fang, the department’s Pre-Health Professions Advisor, may also be reached at


    Below is some informal course-specific advice we provide to help determine your first year of courses.


    We generally advise potential Chemistry, Biology and pre-health-intended majors to take introductory Chemistry the first year. This allows them to take organic chemistry the following year if needed, which frees up the possibility of studying abroad during the junior year. There are several paths to taking introductory Chemistry at Keck (see Figure 1).

    The traditional path is Chem 14 in the Fall and Chem 15 in the Spring. These courses are to be taken in order, and each semester there are multiple lectures/professors with associated weekly laboratory sessions. For those with weaker mathematics preparation there is a section of Chem14 with additional time dedicated to problem-solving, please contact Professor Hatcher-Skeers at for more details on this section.

    An interdisciplinary path is to take Chem 14 in the Fall, and Chem/Bio 42 in the Spring. Chem/Bio 42 is an Integrated Biology and Chemistry course that is co-taught by Biology and Chemistry professors. It is not an accelerated course – it has largely the same content as the second semester of introductory chemistry (Chem15), and of introduction to biology (Bio 43), but is taught with an additional emphasis on interdisciplinary connections. There is only one section of it offered this Spring, and entry is via regular pre-registration in the late-Fall (there is no admission-test, and the only prerequisite is Chem 14). For those deciding whether to take Bio 43 in the Fall vs. Integrated Biology and Chemistry in the Spring, please email professor Sanii at .

    An accelerated path for a student with a strong high school chemistry preparation is to take a placement exam which is to be announced and register for Accelerated General Chemistry (Chem 29) in the Spring. This accelerated course surveys the content of the traditional chemistry courses in one semester. For further information, please contact Prof. Nancy Williams at



    Biology majors or any student wishing to take upper division courses in biology are generally advised to complete the two course Introductory Biology series (Bio43 and Bio44) by the end of their second year. These courses serve as prerequisites for all upper division biology courses. The courses may be taken in either order, but Bio43 is offered only in the Fall and Bio 44 only in the Spring. Note that a Bio43 equivalent may be taken in the Spring through the Integrated Biological Chemistry (IBC) double course. Both Bio 43 and Bio 44 have a laboratory component that meets once each week for four hours.

    There are several options for taking the introductory biology series. If a student has taken some Chemistry and Calculus in high school, then taking Bio 43 in the first semester (along with Chem 14) is a possibility. A popular option is to take Bio 44 in the second semester (Spring), and Bio 43 in the third semester (Fall semester of the second year). A student who wishes to have an integrated Biology-Chemistry experience may take IBC in Spring semester of their first year and Bio 44 in Spring semester of their second year. All of these options will allow a student to stay on track with their upper division coursework.

    For students wishing to major in biology, it is strongly advised that they complete the introductory chemistry series in their first year. This means enrolling in Chem 14 in fall and Chem 15 (or IBC) in the spring of the first year.


    The neuroscience major requires both semesters of Intro Bio and Intro Chem, which should be taken during the first and second year. Foundations of Neuroscience (Neuro095) is only offered in the Spring and should be taken during the first or second year. It is not advised that

    Foundations be taken at the same time as two other science courses as that requires taking 3 labs in one semester.  It is highly recommended that students take Foundations prior to Neuro1 or Neuro2. The material covered in Neuro1 and Neuro2 are quite integrative and can be a little overwhelming for students with less science background.

                Students decide on a ‘sequence’; a set of 4 courses in a particular area. These are listed on the neuroscience website For example, students interested in psychology-based neuroscience will take 4 psychology-related courses. The courses in the second ‘tier’ are based on the sequence. Students taking psychology-based courses should take Research Methods and Psych Stats (these usually have to be taken at their home institution), along with math or CS. The non-psychology students should take some combination of biostats, computer science, math, or physics (only one semester of physics counts).



    Students contemplating a Physics major should take Principles of Physics (Physics 33) in the Fall semester of their first year, followed by Physics 34 in the Spring. Waiting until sophomore year before taking intro physics is strongly discouraged, since it can produce a variety of scheduling challenges later (including with study abroad). Potential physics majors should also plan on finishing at least through second-semester college calculus by the end of their first year. (Math 31S at Pomona has a focus on applied calculus and might be an especially good choice for science majors who need second-semester calculus.)

    Students contemplating a Biophysics major have the option of taking either the Principles of Physics (Physics 33-34) intro sequence or the General Physics for Life Science (Physics 30-31) intro sequence (see below), though we recommend starting with Physics 33. Ideally, biophysics majors should take intro physics starting in the fall semester of their first year, though it is possible for biophysics majors to wait until sophomore year.

    Students with a potential interest in physics or biophysics should always consult with a physics professor before making their course selections; students with a definitive plan to major in physics or biophysics should switch to a physics professor as their academic advisor.

    Students contemplating participating in our Engineering program should immediately consult with Prof. Scot Gould,

    The physics program has two distinct intro physics course sequences: Principles of Physics (Physics 33-34) and General Physics for the Life Sciences (Physics 30-31). Physics, Chemistry, and Engineering majors should take Physics 33-34, while life science majors often take the Physics 30-31 intro sequence; biophysics majors can do either sequence, though 33-34 is preferred. Although the two intro sequences are similar, the key differences are: (a) 33-34 is frequently taught in an integrated lecture-lab format, whereas 30-31 has separate lectures and labs; (b) while both sequences use calculus, 33-34 uses it more heavily; (c) 30-31 has more life science related examples; (d) 33-34 uses numerical software packages more; (e) 34 covers

    electromagnetism and waves, while 31 covers electromagnetism, waves, and some modern physics.

    Environmental Analysis Science Track

    The environmental analysis science track major requires both semesters of Intro Bio and Intro Chem (or equivalent), which should be taken during the first and second year. Majors must also take an introductory earth science course (e.g., EA55L KS, GEOL 20 PO, or equivalent). The core courses, Introduction to Environmental Studies (EA10PZ or PO) and either Nature, Culture and Society (EA20PO) or Environmental Justice (EA86PZ), are not generally prerequisites for other courses, but are required for the major and are recommended to be taken within the first two years. EA30LKS, Science & The Environment is not required for the EA science track major. Please make sure you consult with an EA-affiliated Keck Science faculty member.