Graduation Requirements

Biology, Biology-Environmental Studies, Biology-Geology

Do not neglect to carefully review the Biology Student Handbook (in the Biology Major Folder on CLEo)

Your senior year is always a busy one with several requirements and dates to keep in mind:

  1. Application for degree candidacy
    1. For May graduation
      You must file your Degree Candidacy form with the Registrar’s Office no later than Friday October 11, 2013. You should receive the form in the mail. (For December graduation, you must file by the end of the preceding February).
    2. To apply for Honors candidacy in major field of study
      You need to submit an honor’s proposal, approved by all members of the Biology faculty and signed by your research advisor, to the chair of Biology by early October. To graduate with honors, you need a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 and a GPA in your major of at least 3.5 at the time of graduation.


  2. Comprehensive departmental exam
    1. GRE subject exam in Biology
      You must take and pass the Biology GRE. There are three test dates available for you to take the test at Whitman during the academic year: Fall (Sept or Oct) or Spring (April):
      • Sept. 28, 2013 (application deadline Aug. 23; late deadline Aug. 30) - scores online Oct. 28
      • Oct. 19, 2013 (application deadline Sept. 13; late deadlilne Sept. 20) -  scores online Nov. 18
      • Apr. 5, 2014 (application deadline Feb. 28; late deadline Mar. 7) -  scores online May 5
      It is strongly advised that you take the GRE in either Sept or Oct (do NOT wait for the April test); if you are required to retake the GRE, you'll need that April date for the successful retake before graduation or you will have to wait until the following year, all that while without a diploma.  PLAN AHEAD.  You can register by mail or online. For information, pamphlets are available at the career center, or you can look at the GRE homepage: To pass, you need at least:
      • 30 percentile for straight Biology and combined
      • 85 percentile for Biology honors
      • 80 percentile for Bio-EnvS, Bio-Geo honors
    2. Departmental oral exam: Senior year:
      • Half the students in the Fall (Oct-Nov); half in the Spring (approx Feb-Mar)
      • Fall (Oct-Nov) for all honors: must pass with distinction
  3. Senior Research Thesis
    1. Conduct research:
      • In summer between junior-senior year; or
      • During senior year (not encouraged)
    2. Enroll in Biology 489: Fall of senior year (if you are a December grad, consult with your advisor)
      • credit for research (under a Whitman Biology faculty, who is your thesis advisor)
    3. Enroll in Biology 490 (498 for honors): Spring of senior year
      • thesis writing (under Whitman Biology thesis advisor)
        • Thesis for honors is expected to be of "honors" quality: with a rigorous coverage of the literature and analysis of data, and an in-depth discussion
      • credit for research seminar - give a public oral presentation (seminar) of your research findings during the departmental Bio 490 (Bio 498) meeting time in Spring (or Bio 488 meeting time in Fall). The presentations are 15 minutes (but for honors candidates, 30 minutes)
    4. Enroll in Biology 499: Spring of the Senior year (Dec Grads must take in Spring of Junior year)
                     - this is credit for attending all seminar presentations of your peers (held on Friday afternoons from 1 - 1:50pm)
  4. Meet all minimum credit and course requirements

Graduation with Honors (Biology, Bio-EnvS, or Bio-Geo)

If you currently have an overall GPA of 3.1 and a major GPA of 3.3, you are encouraged to apply for honors in your major! All students applying for honors candidacy need to submit to the Biology Chair by Oct 11:

  • Research proposal(font 12 and double-spaced throughout). This proposal should have:
    • Cover page with the proposal title, your name, the date, and signatures of your research advisor and academic advisor
    • 2 written pages describing the research
    • 1-2 additional pages listing the references cited in the proposal.
    You need to initiate your proposal with your research advisor ahead of time, circulate it to all of the Biology faculty for comments and approval, make any appropriate changes, and submit the revised final proposal to the biology chair by the due date.
  • Honors candidacy form
    • This form is available at the Registrar’s Office or can be printed off the web at (
    • The form must be signed by your research advisor.
    • The requirements for graduation with honors differ subtly from those of straight Biology and combined majors. To graduate with honors in the major, you must meet all of the following at the time of graduation:
      1. Minimum cum GPA of 3.3 and a minimum major GPA of 3.5 (in both majors for combined majors);
      2. Minimum score of 85 percentile in the Biology GRE for Biology majors and 80 percentile for combined majors;
      3. Pass with distinction in your departmental oral exams, which will take place in Oct-Nov;
      4. Complete research thesis (Honors Thesis) that has been read and approved by four Whitman Biology faculty including your thesis advisor, and submitted to the library by the deadline in April (check with library).
      5. Give oral presentation of your thesis research to the Department of Biology (during departmental Biology 490 meeting time in Spring, or Biology 488 meeting time in Fall, of your senior year).