An Honors Guide to Core Cirriculum

September 11, 2017

Welcome (back) to college. You now have the privilege, the joy, of taking part in that most magical time of year: registration season. It comes twice per year. For some, registering for classes is a simple matter of inputting some course registration numbers. For others, it is a mildly stressful scramble to locate class information before registration opens.

For an unlucky few, myself among them, registration and the preceding advisement is a period of intense panic during which unfortunate students, baffled by the intricacies of the Core Curriculum system, do the following: question their life decisions; consider changing their major again; shout at their computer screen; solicit looks of concern from roommates who suspect that muttering “pin number, pin number” in a low, strained voice is not healthy; and eventually end up standing in the middle of Third Street, holding up traffic and screaming “Core Curriculum!”  to the horror and fascination of passersby…no, I am exaggerating.

We do not actually use PIN numbers for class registration any more.

Really, though, with the following tips and tricks, you too can become one of the happy students in the first or second category. Go to advisement, look to the future, and take note of the following vital information to guide you through the mysteries of Core Curriculum.



The Basics

Being a millennial, you probably open a window in your favorite browser and do a web search whenever you have a question. If you apply this strategy to any questions about the Core Curriculum at SNC, you will quickly come across the college’s page dedicated CC on the official SNC website. (Click here.) In addition to explaining why we have a Core Curriculum program and describing the classes available in each category, the website will tell you that each student must take at least one course from each of the following categories:

  • Theological Foundations (TF)

  • Philosophical Foundations (PF)

  • Writing Intensive (WI)

  • Quantitative Reasoning (QR)

  • Second Language Competency (SL)

  • Beyond Borders (BB)

  • Catholic Imagination (CI)

  • Difference & Diversity (DD)

  • Expression & Interpretation (EI)

  • Individual & Society (IS)

  • Physical & Natural World (PN)

  • Western Tradition (WT)


Do not be daunted! It is not as complicated as it seems, even for Honors students. First of all, Honors students have special sections for the theology and philosophy intro classes, (You lucky thing, you!) which you will take as soon as you finish Honors 101. For the TF and PF categories, all students take the THRS 117 and PHIL 120 intro classes in their first two semesters. The honors-only sections of these will be set aside for you in your second and third semesters. Theological Foundations, check. Philosophical Foundations, check.

You don’t have to worry about taking a Writing Intensive class either, because Honors 101 is designated WI. You will fulfill that requirement in your very first semester!



Careful readers of the SNC website will see that each category comes with a deadline telling tells you when you ought to have completed at least one class in that category. Those first three areas, PF, TF, and WI, are no problem, but what about the rest?

Plan to take your Quantitative Reasoning (QR) class by the end of your second year and fill the Second Language (SL) requirement by the end of your third year. The rest just need to be done by the time you graduate. However, do not make the mistake of waiting until the last semester to finish all your Core classes. Take the deadlines seriously. If you do not, the registrar will remind you and your advisor repeatedly, with email after email.


Advanced Core

Additionally, at least three of your Core class choices must be at the 300- or 400-level. That means you have to take a 3rd- or 4th-year class to satisfy three of those categories, instead of taking the intro-level class for every single one.


Transfer Credit and Testing Out

You may be thinking, what about the AP and college credit courses I took in high school? What if I already know five languages? Do I still have to take similar classes to fulfill St. Norbert’s requirement? Thankfully, no.

The Second Language category is the only one with a reliable shortcut: a placement test. Tests are given at orientation and throughout the academic year. The St. Norbert College language competency requirement is a two-semester requirement, which means that as soon as you can score above the cutoff for 203 (meaning you know the material in 102), you are home free. If you took a language that is not taught at SNC, you can request to be tested in that language.  Note that after your sixth semester, you lose your chance to test out of his requirement - so don’t procrastinate if you think you have the skills to test out. If you took college-credit foreign language classes in high school, you may also be eligible for exemption, but the same is not automatically true for AP classes.


In fact, some of your AP classes may be acceptable substitutions for a Core requirement. For instance, AP Psychology counts for IS.  But there are two problems with relying on your AP credits to rescue you from Core Curriculum. First, your AP results will not be available until after you have already signed up for your first semester of classes, so you cannot count on that credit coming through before your first semester. Remind your advisor NOT to sign you up for any courses that may be covered by your AP exams.

Second, even if it sounds like a perfect fit, only the Registrar and Core Curriculum Committee (more about them later) know or can determine the eligibility of an AP class as a substitute for a Core Curriculum class. To know for sure, take a turn through Todd Wehr, visit the Registrar’s Office on the first floor, and ask about your AP class. Basically, your AP credits have the potential to count for Core requirements, but they aren’t guaranteed- double check with the registrar and/or your advisor.


Substitutions and Exceptions

There is a process in place for students to make requests for Core requirement substitutions and exceptions. When a petition is submitted, it goes before the Core Curriculum Committee. (See? I told you we would come back to them.) The Committee consists of our Honors Program’s Director, Dr. Paul, as well as the Associate Dean of each Division (Humanities, Natural Sciences, etc.), elected faculty members, and a representative of the Registrar’s Office.

Students who study abroad often successfully petition the committee to allow a course taken outside SNC to count as a Core Curriculum class. Exceptions are also commonly granted to transfer students. Occasionally, an advisor makes a mistake or there are extenuating circumstances which occasion leniency for students in other cases. Being uninterested in a class is not an extenuating circumstance though, so please don’t ask to be exempted because you think you will be bored in your PN class. (Seriously, the number of people who have been converted to Geology minors or even majors after taking the class to fulfill a Core requirement? It’s a big number. Watch out, or you may end up loving a course you only signed up for because it was mandatory!)  

If you have a good reason for appealing to the committee, you need to show them the evidence that supports your case. Discuss it with your advisor, ask them to write a letter, send a carefully written explanation of your situation, and include the syllabus of the substitute class you propose. Before you go through all the work of compiling the materials necessary for a successful request, be sure to look at the course you hope to substitute. Does it really fit the description of its category and meet the goals of the Core Curriculum program in general? Re-read the objectives and descriptions on the Core Curriculum page (here it is again) of the college catalogue before you decide.


Study Abroad

Fear not, bold traveler. It is possible to conquer your Core requirements, even with a semester abroad. The key here is to plan ahead and consult your advisor and the Study Abroad Office often. There are lists of pre-approved courses on the informational website specific to your program, but things can get very complicated to coordinate between two institutions as massively complex as St. Norbert College and whichever school you will attend at your destination. Make a back-up plan, and a back-up plan for your back-up plan, and, if things change when you get where you’re going, send emails to your advisor, the study abroad office, and the registrar right away.


Final Advice

My persistent reader, if you managed to make it all the way to the end of this exhaustive article, you are truly tenacious. As a reward, here are a few final suggestions to help you manage your class planning like a pro.

First, get a list of your major and minor requirements, and see which of your requirements qualify as Core Curriculum classes. For example, say I am an Education major looking for an interesting class to fill an empty slot in my schedule.  I see that AMER 221: Religion in America, is listed as a Difference & Diversity class. But one of the requirements of my major is SSCI 408: Social Inequalities, and that class is a DD class, too. I’m not going to take AMER 221 just to cross Difference & Diversity the list of Core classes I need, because I have a mandatory DD as part of my major anyway.


Second, keep an eye on the Honors newsletter and an ear out at Honors Program meetings for announcements of upcoming course offerings. If you can possibly double up and get more than one requirement out of the way in one class, all the better, right? Take the previous example. If the Education major plans carefully, they might be able to check three requirements off their list. This semester, for instance, there is an Honors section of SSCI 408. Not only will it count as a DD class and an Honors class, it counts as an Adv. Core class, too!

Third, use DegreeWorks. Your student account (accessible via the Student Services tab when you log on to KnightLine,) displays an organized, itemized list of the classes you’ve taken. It also shows your progress on major and minor requirements, Core and Honors program classes, and loads of other important stuff like credits and GPA. Another helpful tool is the “What If” feature, which allows you to enter the classes you plan on taking and see the updated list of requirements. DegreeWorks is even—and this is my favorite feature—color-coded.

Finally, talk to your advisor. Go to their office hours. Send them a courteous email. Keep a list of questions for them on your phone or in the back of a notebook. If they can’t answer your questions, they ought to know where to look for the answers. Of course, the Registrar’s office is a safe bet too, and dropping in to ask a question in person is especially helpful. You can find their contact information here.   


There you have it: all the need-to-know info on the Core Curriculum. After all this research and preparation, you are practically an expert. You can now relax and look forward to Advisement Season, my favorite holiday after Halloween and Christmas. This year, Advisement falls on Tuesday, November 2 and Wednesday, November 8. Happy Holidays.


Special thanks go to the Office of the Registrar, the Financial Aid Department, and especially Dr. Paul, who investigated my very long list of questions and graciously responded with detailed and specific answers.   


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