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First-Year Focus

Getting Started/Declaring a Major in Biological Sciences

First year students at Northwestern: WELCOME to Biological Sciences in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences! 

To Declare this major:

We will forward the form to WCAS. You will be assigned an advisor in our major, who will help you navigate the requirements of our major during your years at Northwestern. Our  Program Assistant and Associate Director are also available to answer questions. While you are encouraged to Declare as early as possible (and optimally by the end of the sophomore year), you may do so at any point up until you Petition to Graduate from the College. 

Suggested Course Sequence for First-Year Students*

During the first year, students typically complete:

Students sometimes take Physics 130-1,2 or 135-1,2 during the first year, as allowed by their schedules; but more often, these courses are taken later. Students who place out of the entire general chemistry sequence, may take an organic Chemistry sequence during the first year, instead: Chemistry 212-1,2 or 215-1,2 or 217-1,2,3.

Advanced Placement

A credit of undifferentiated biology can be awarded based on an AP exam score.

Some Related Course requirements for our major can potentially also be waived due to placement exams scores (AP scores, or scores on exams given by other departments), including those in calculus, physics, general chemistry, and/or statistics. 

Placement Exam

It may be possible to place out of BIOL SCI 201-0 Molecular Biology, and thus into BIOL SCI 202-0, via our own online placement exam (which does not award course credit per se). Please note that this exam can only be attempted once and is offered during the summer. Students typically sit the placement exam in the summer prior to their first year at Northwestern. 

This optional exam is recommended for students with a strong background in biology who think they could be ready for BIOL_SCI 202 Cell Biology. The exam covers core competencies in the molecular biology subject area and goes further than most high school AP/IB biology classes. Any student interested in taking this exam should sign up here by 07/05/2024: The exam will be offered from 07/15/2024 – 07/28/2024 and can be accessed via Canvas. 

The Canvas site will become available July 11th 2023. If you have signed up for the exam and do not see the site when you log into Canvas after July 11th, please email for assistance.