Political Science Major

Learning Outcomes for Political Science Majors

Requirements for the Political Science Major

A major in Political Science consists of at least nine units. Courses at the 100 level may be counted toward the major, but not toward a subfield distribution requirement (see below).

It is strongly recommended that students interested in further work in political science take one of the small 100-level courses offered each fall. The Department of Political Science divides its courses beyond the introductory level into four subfields: American politics and law (POL1), comparative politics (POL2), international relations (POL3), and political theory (POL4). In order to ensure that political science majors familiarize themselves with the substantive concerns and methodologies employed throughout the discipline, all majors must take one 200-level or 300-level unit in each of the four subfields offered by the department. Recommended first courses in the four subfields: in American politics and law: POL1 200; in comparative politics: POL2 202 or POL2 204; in international relations: POL3 221; in political theory: POL4 201 or POL4 216.

In addition to the subfield distribution requirement, all majors must do advanced work (300 level) in at least two of the four subfields; a minimum of one of these units must be a seminar, which normally requires a major research paper. Courses fulfilling the seminar requirement are denoted by the word "Seminar" before the course title. Admission to department seminars is by permission of the instructor only. Interested students must fill out a seminar application, which is available on the political science department homepage prior to registration for each term. Majors should begin applying for seminars during their junior year in order to be certain of fulfilling this requirement. Majors are encouraged to take more than the minimum number of required 300-level courses.

Research or Individual Study

Individual or group research of an exploratory or specialized nature. Students interested in independent research should request the assistance of a faculty advisor and plan the project, readings, conferences, and method of examination with the faculty sponsor. These courses are offered at the 250 (intermediate) and 350 (advanced) levels and for one or 0.5 unit of credit.

Honors in Political Science

In the political science department, the only route to honors in the major is writing a thesis and passing an oral examination. To be admitted to the honors program, a student must have a minimum 3.5 grade point average in work in the major above the 100 level. Students who fall slightly below this minimum requirement may petition for an exemption if they present a particularly strong proposal and if they have the strong support of a potential thesis advisor. Majors who are interested in writing a senior honors thesis are urged to discuss their ideas and plans with a potential faculty advisor as early as possible in their junior year. The deadline for submitting an honors thesis proposal is the second Monday in April; all students are expected to submit their proposals by this date.

Graduate Study in Political Science

Students considering going to graduate school for a Ph.D. in political science should talk with their major advisors about appropriate preparation in quantitative methods and foreign languages.

Transfer Credits in Political Science

A minimum of five units for the major must be taken at Wellesley, as must the courses that are used to fulfill at least two of the four subfield distributions and the seminar requirement. The department does not grant transfer credit at the 300 level for either the major or for College distribution or degree requirements. This policy applies to courses taken at MIT.

For the purpose of meeting a subfield distribution requirement in the major, a student may count a course taken elsewhere provided that it transfers as at least .75 Wellesley units. 

Although Wellesley College does not grant academic credit for participation in internship programs, students who take part in the Wellesley in Washington Summer Internship Program may arrange with a faculty member to undertake a unit of 350, Research or Individual Study, related to the internship experience.

Advanced Placement Policy in Political Science

Students may receive units of College credit if they achieve a grade of 5 on the American Government and Politics or the Comparative Politics AP examinations. Such AP credits do not count toward the minimum number of units required for the political science major nor for the American or comparative subfield distribution requirements for the major. If a student does receive a unit of College credit for the American politics exam, she may not take POL1 200 (American Politics). Students who are uncertain whether to receive a College AP credit in American politics or to take POL1 200 should consult with a member of the department who specializes in American politics/law or comparative politics.