Common Questions

The following are commonly asked questions by students who will be attending Whitman College for the first time.


How can I activate my Whitman College E-mail and Network accounts?

As a new Whitman student, you will have a Whitman College email and Network account created for you - However, you must "activate" your account before you can use it. The procedure is simple, but you will need your 7-digit Whitman ID number (WID) which is included in the New Student Orientation packet. You need to connect to our Activate Account web page and follow the instructions there.

 Activate Whitman College email and Network Account


What is a typical course load for an incoming student? 

A typical first semester schedule usually is four classes (15-16 credits), but that often varies depending upon individual needs. Students are encouraged to create a balanced schedule, taking into consideration course workload, extracurricular activities and involvement, outside responsibilities and time management. Full-time students must register for at least 12 credits and need to average 15 1/2 credits per semester to graduate in four years.


What are distribution requirements? How do I fill them? 

Distribution Requirements are designed to ensure a breadth of exposure to the fields of knowledge that make up a liberal arts curriculum. The Distribution Requirements are listed in the catalog in the “General Studies Program” section. There are six distribution areas, and you will be required to complete a specified number of credits in each. We recommend that you select courses in two or three different distribution areas in your first year, thus to begin to satisfy these requirements.


What about credits that do not count towards distribution or major requirements---do they count for anything?

Yes, they count toward the overall credits needed for your degree.  Keep in mind that to graduate, you must complete no fewer than 124 credits. Roughly 1/3 of those are distribution credits, and another 1/3 are major requirement credits. That still leaves 1/3 (roughly 30 credits, depending on major requirements) that still need to be earned by taking other courses. 


I’m concerned about my writing ability.  Which classes could I take to improve my writing skills?

English 110, Language and Writing, is designed specifically to improve students’ writing skills, and many new students find it very helpful. Although English 110 is typically open only to first-year students, it tends to fill quickly. Other 100-level English courses (177, 178, 179, 181, and 182) and General Studies 145, 146 also include significant writing components. Many students enroll in English 210 to continue working on improving writing skills. If you think you might declare an English major, or if you are interested in learning to write English essays at a more advanced level, you might consider English 290 which is open to freshmen in their second semester. Linguistics 107, Syntax and Grammar, is not a writing course, but it does teach grammar and may be helpful to students working to develop their language abilities. Students for whom English is a second language may especially profit from this course.


I am planning to pursue a career in the health professions and/or might be a biology or BBMB major. Should I register for a biology course?

Generally, it is not necessary to take a biology class your first semester. If you plan to declare a biology major, talk to your adviser about enrolling in Chemistry 125 or 140 or Mathematics 125 in your first semester. Although Biology 111 and 112 are available for registration, the Biology Department recommends that Biology 111 be taken before Biology 112 (see the Biology section of the catalog.) Biology 111 has a prerequisite of a semester of chemistry, so you should plan to begin with chemistry and then perhaps add biology during your second semester or in the Fall semester of your sophomore year. For more information on the health profession guidelines, see the "Careers and Professions" section of the catalog or visit the Web site at: www.whitman.edu/academics/careers-professions-and-the-liberal-arts/health-professions


I would like to study abroad before I graduate. Are there classes I should take now to prepare me to go abroad?

It is beneficial to begin planning for off-campus studies (study abroad) as early as possible, and you should let your adviser know you are planning to do so. For now, please consider the following as you plan for your first year courses at Whitman:

  • Students should refer to the Off-Campus Studies Advising Sheet by Major section of the Off-Campus Studies homepage at the following link for detailed planning tips on which courses to take in the first and second-year depending on your major if you think you might study off-campus.  www.whitman.edu/offices-and-services/off-campus-studies/advising-by-major
  • Students considering a major in the fields of music, theater, science, environmental studies or 3-2 engineering should consult directly with a faculty adviser in that major during their first semester at Whitman for additional guidance on course planning prior to off-campus studies.
  • Most of Whitman's Partner Programs in French, German and Spanish-speaking countries require a minimum of two years of college-level language study, or the equivalent.
  • Whitman's Partner Programs in China, Japan, and Taiwan require one year of college-level Japanese or Chinese, or the equivalent.
  • Students who wish to participate in the Whitman Summer Studies in China program will need to complete a minimum of one year of college-level Mandarin Chinese prior to participation.


      For further information about our off-campus studies program options and fees, please see our Web site at www.whitman.edu/offices-and-services/off-campus-studies/ or call 509-527-4992.  Please note that if you wish to transfer credit from courses taken within the United States, you must contact the Registrar's Office (except for our four US-based Partner programs-Eugene O'Neil National Theater Institute; American University's Washington Semester; The Philadelphia Center program and SEA Semester).


I’ve studied a foreign language in high school and would like to continue studying it at Whitman. Can I register for a language class?

Yes. If you previously studied French, German, or Spanish in high school, college, or elsewhere, you must take a placement test before enrolling in a course in that same language at Whitman. The placement test can be found online at www.whitman.edu/placement_tests, and the results of that test will help determine the level of language course for which you should register. You may register for the beginning level of a foreign language class if you have not previously studied that language. There are no online placement tests for Chinese, Greek, Japanese, or Latin. Please contact Professor Donghui He (hed@whitman.edu) in Chinese or Professor Akira Takemoto (takemoto@whitman.edu) in Japanese for questions about the appropriate language level or about oral or written placement tests. For questions about Greek or Latin language placement, please contact Professor Elizabeth Vandiver (vandive@whitman.edu) in Classics. More information regarding the language placement policy can be found on the placement tests page.

The following link will take you to information that will help you enroll in Chinese, Japanese, Classics, and specific language exams for French, German, and Spanish. When prompted, you will need to log in as follows:

  • Password: whittie
  • ID#: enter your 7-digit Whitman ID# (WID), which was included in the orientation packet you received
  • Email: enter your Whitman email address (NOTE: If you have not activated your Whitman email account Click Here!)

Placement Tests


I studied calculus in high school and would like to continue studying it at Whitman. Should I register for Math 125 (Calculus I), Math 126 (Calculus II) or Math 225 (Calculus III)?

The math department knows that this is a concern for many new students. In the “Mathematics” section of the catalog, there is a very useful section titled “Choosing a Calculus Course” that will give you some guidelines for deciding which level is appropriate for you. A calculus placement test is available online to help you determine which class level is right for you. This test is for evaluation purposes only; its results will not be reflected on your academic record. There is additional information in the Registration Preparation Booklet regarding the calculus placement test. If you are still unsure about whether to take this test, please contact Professor Doug Hundley, Associate Professor of Mathematics, by e-mail: hundledr@whitman.edu.


I think I am qualified to take Chemistry 140. According to the catalog, I need to pass a qualifying exam to be admitted to that course. Can I register for the class prior to taking the exam?

Yes. If you have a solid background in chemistry and are interested in taking the advanced class, you may register for Chemistry 140. A placement test is available online to help you determine for which Chemistry course you should register. Students registering for Chemistry 125 can also take the placement test to determine if they should consider enrolling in the advanced class. 


If I am a transfer student, will I need to take General Studies 145-146, Encounters?

If you are a transfer student with 58 or more approved transfer credits, you will not need to complete General Studies 145, 146 Encounters


How do I take classes in Spring Semester in math, physics, foreign languages and other sequence courses?

Some classes appear to be sequences but they actually are one-semester classes. The way to find out is to check to see if one class is a prerequisite for the other. For foreign languages, take the placement test and then consult with the appropriate faculty.


Where can I get assistance?

If you need advice, the staff in the Academic Resource Center is available to provide assistance in getting answers to your questions. You may reach them at arc@whitman.edu or (509)527-5213.