Academic Programs

The College Year

The College’s calendar consists of two 14-week semesters. Students will normally elect four full-credit courses each semester to meet the minimum graduation requirement of 32 credits.

Academic Advising

The College relies heavily on a system of academic advising to assist students as they establish their academic goals and select courses. Each advisor is a member of the faculty with a term of service beyond one year. Although students ultimately decide which courses to take, their advisors help them determine the level and sequence of courses appropriate to their needs and guide them in planning a balanced four-year program. Each first-year student is assigned a faculty advisor who provides guidance during the first and second years.  In the second semester of the second year, students elect their concentration, after which time advising becomes the responsibility of a faculty member in the student’s field of study.


Among the requirements for graduation is the successful completion of a concentration (major) offered by several departments and programs of instruction. (See areas of study.)

The number of courses comprising a concentration normally ranges from eight to 10. Every student is required to complete a senior program as defined by his or her concentration.

Senior Program

All students are required to complete the Senior Program in their concentrations. Each department and program of concentration has designed a senior program that serves as an integrating and culminating experience for the concentration. Students use the methodology and knowledge gained in their first three years of study. Building on their courses and showing their increasing ability to work independently in terms of both motivation and subject matter, seniors are required to produce a significant synthesis of knowledge by means of one of the following: a research project leading to a written, oral or visual creation; a seminar for concentrators, including a major presentation and research paper by each student; or comprehensive examinations ideally involving both written and oral components. This requirement allows seniors to demonstrate at an appropriate level their mastery of content and the methods of the discipline.

Senior Fellowship Program

Each spring, the vice president for academic affairs/dean of faculty designates up to seven academically outstanding members of the junior class as senior fellows. Students in the junior year may become candidates by submitting a proposal for a senior year of independent study. Senior fellows are exempt from taking a normal course load in the conventional curriculum, and they need not complete concentration requirements; they may take such courses as are appropriate to their fellowship projects and their educational goals. A written thesis is required at the close of the fellowship year, along with a public lecture to the College community. Evaluation is made by the advisors and an examination committee.

Study Abroad Programs

Hamilton students may gain approval to study abroad in their junior year, though occasionally students are allowed to study abroad in the spring of the sophomore year or fall of the senior year.

The College sponsors or is affiliated with its own study abroad programs in China, France, and Spain. In addition, students may also select from more than 100 programs throughout the world.

Hamilton’s programs in the Adirondacks, New York City, Washington, D.C., and at the New England Center for Children in Boston provide students with opportunities to combine rigorous academic preparation with practical experience within the United States.

For further information, see off-campus study.

Cooperative and Affiliated Programs

Hamilton has established cooperative arrangements with several institutions to expand educational opportunities for students. Several instances are described below. Students enrolled in cooperative programs receive a Hamilton degree only upon demonstrating to the department in which they concentrate that they have fulfilled concentration requirements and have satisfied the goals of the College. If the concentration requirements have not been met by the end of the junior year, they may, with the approval of the department, be completed at the cooperative institution.

American Council of Teachers of Russian Undergraduate Program

Hamilton has been designated as a host institution for students from the Russian Federation and other nations of the former Soviet Union. Each academic year, one or more Russian students will have the opportunity to study at Hamilton. In the past the College has hosted students from Kazan, Voronezh, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Almaty, Everan and numerous other cities in the New Independent States (NIS). The program is funded by the United States Information Agency and the governments of the NIS.

Assurance of Admission: Master of Arts in Teaching

As a result of an agreement with Union Graduate College, well qualified Hamilton students can gain assurance of admission to Union Graduate College’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program. The M.A.T. degree will normally require two summers and one academic year in residence at Union College, and carries with it secondary school teaching certification. Students interested in pursuing this option should contact Chaise Ladousa, chair of the Education Studies Program Committee, preferably no later than the fall semester of their junior year.

Cooperative Engineering Program

Liberal arts-engineering (3-2) plans are in effect with Columbia University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Washington University in St. Louis, whereby the student spends three years at Hamilton and then two years at the cooperating engineering school. At the end of this period, the student earns an A.B. from Hamilton and a B.S. from the engineering school. Hamilton also offers access to a combined plan at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. This program is on a 2-1-1-1 schedule. The student completes two years at Hamilton, the junior year as a visiting student at Dartmouth and returns to Hamilton to complete the senior year and to earn the A.B. The student then returns to Dartmouth to finish the second year of engineering studies and to receive a degree in engineering. Admission to these programs in the traditional divisions of chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, and now many others such as biomedical, computer and environmental engineering, is based on obtaining a G.P.A. of 3.0, or a B average, and the positive recommendation of the Department of Physics. Various 4-2 plans lead to different degree options. For details, consult with the engineering advisor, Professor Gordon Jones, in the Department of Physics.

Cooperative Law Program

The Hamilton cooperative law program permits highly qualified students to enter the Columbia University School of Law after completion of their junior year. The program in Accelerated Interdisciplinary Legal Education permits these students to earn both the Hamilton baccalaureate degree and the Columbia juris doctor degree after three years of study at each institution. Interested students should consult Douglas Ambrose in the Department of History no later than the first semester of their junior year.

Direct Admission MBA Program

Under a direct admission agreement with the William E. Simon School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester, Hamilton will recommend students who are especially well prepared to proceed directly to the MBA program upon earning their undergraduate degree. Drawing on the College's recommendations, the Simon School will select candidates, preferably by the end of their Hamilton junior year, who have demonstrated above average maturity and strong academic preparation, regardless of undergraduate major. The Simon School will evaluate candidates through a priority interview with a Simon School graduate or a member of the admissions committee. The application fee will be waived. Hamilton students admitted to the Simon School by direct admission should complete business-related summer internships or work experience, or both, during their undergraduate years. The Simon School will provide counseling and support to identify pre-MBA internships and offers merit-based support. For more information about direct admission with the Simon School, see Ann Owen in the Economics Department.

Study at Neighboring Institutions

With appropriate approval (see “Transfer of Credit” under “Academic Regulations”), a Hamilton student may take coursework toward the baccalaureate degree at neighboring institutions during the fall and spring semesters. In recent years students have enrolled at Colgate University and Utica College. Usually one course is taken at a neighboring institution while the rest of the work is done at Hamilton.

Students with Disabilities

Students with learning disabilities may request special arrangements for academic activities. These students must provide to the Associate Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs and Accessibility (“Associate Dean”) with recent documentation from a qualified professional with expertise in the appropriate field. The documentation should include a specific diagnosis, information regarding onset, longevity and severity of symptoms, evidence of how the disability and/or related medications and treatments interfere with or limit any major life activity (for example, participation in the courses, programs and activities of the College), recommended accommodations, and an explanation regarding why the recommended accommodations are needed.

The Associate Dean will use the information provided and consult with faculty and qualified professionals, as needed, to help student develop a system of support — appropriate to his/her needs. Requests for accommodations should be made in advance of the start of each semester (by July 1st for fall enrollment and January 1st for spring enrollment).

To notify the College of a disability and request accommodations, contact the Associate Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs and Accessibility Services, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, 13323 (phone: 315-859-4021).

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