Sometimes, planning a curriculum can feel a little like playing "blind man's bluff;" you always feel like you are feeling around in the dark, sure that you've perhaps missed taking a course you'll need as a prerequisite later, or maybe forgot about that elective lab until it is too late. Consulting regularly with your Bioscience Advisors should alleviate your tension. But even before that, you can follow some simple tips for planning your schedule for any of the majors offered in the Department of Biological Sciences. There is no one "correct" way of planning which courses you take, or when you take them. For example, some students need to take the Physics courses by their junior years to prepare for MCATs; others do not. But these are some simple guidelines that can help you avoid some common mistakes that have often led to problems for other students in the past.
- Spread out your math and science classes over four years. You should never need to take more than 2 or 3 math and science classes (not counting labs) at the same time! These are time-consuming and intellectually demanding courses, and overloading during any one semester is usually not a good idea. View sample schedules (for majors in Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolution, Microbiology, or the Molecular Biology Biochemistry or Cell and Development tracks) for examples of how to do this.
- Spread out your General Education and Elective courses over four years. A semester with no science may seem fun at the time, but could haunt you later (see above). View sample schedules listed above for examples of how to do this.
- Biological Sciences majors do not need to take all the required courses (i.e. Genetics, Ecology, Biochemistry) before taking Biology elective courses. Many of the Biology electives only require BIOSC 0160 as a prerequisite. In fact, taking a biology elective earlier in the sequence may help you home in on your interests within the Department!
- Plan ahead!
- Make sure you will have taken the appropriate prerequisite courses by the time you take specific upper division courses. For example, you must take Genetics before taking Developmental Biology. See the course list for details on prerequisites.
- Some courses are only offered in the fall or in the spring. This could throw your schedule off by a whole year if you’re not prepared. For example, Molecular Biology majors must complete Organic Chemistry 1 & 2 before taking BIOSC 1810. BIOSC 1810 is only offered in Fall and is a prerequisite for most of the other classes in the Molecular Biology Major. For more information on when courses are offered, see the course list.
- Earn a minor or certificate while fulfilling general education requirements. For example, you can feasibly complete a history minor as well as your history and 3 international culture requirements with only 5 courses total. For more information on minors and certificates see the Arts and Sciences Advising webpage.
- Pursue a passion; take an elective course! Depending on your academic background, you usually have room for at least 5-15 credits of free electives. Use these elective credits to learn something new, take a PE class and get in shape, or just have fun.
The Biological Sciences Undergraduate Advising Office is always open to any student (not just our majors) with questions regarding Biology classes or majors. You are encouraged to stop by and use our resources or just talk to us about deciding on a major, planning coursework, and exploring opportunities for non-classroom experiences at the University of Pittsburgh.