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 ½ 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 “General Studies Program” section of the College Catalog. There are six distribution areas, and you will be required to complete a specified number of credits and/or classes in each. We recommend that you select courses in two or three different distribution areas in your first year, 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 one-third of those are distribution credits, and another one-third are major requirement credits. That still leaves one-third (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?

Composition 170 Language and Writing is designed specifically to improve students' writing skills, and many new students find it very helpful. Several 100-level English courses (177, 178, 179, 181, and 182) and General Studies 145, 146 also include significant writing components. Many students enroll in Composition 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 literary analysis essays at a more advanced level, you might consider English 290 which is open to freshmen in their second semester. 

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?

No. Biology classes are not recommended for students in their first semester.  Biology 111 has a prerequisite of a semester of chemistry, so you should begin with chemistry and then perhaps take biology during your second semester or in the Fall semester of your sophomore year. So, if you plan to declare a biology or BBMB major, you should enroll in Chemistry 125 or 140, and Mathematics 125 in your first semester.  There are two introductory Biology classes, 111 and 112.  Only Biology 111 is required for BBMB majors.  For Biology majors, either of these classes can be taken first, although the department recommends starting with Bio111.  For more information on the health profession guidelines, see the "Careers and Professions" section of the catalog or visit the website at and meet with Whitman's Health Professions advisor, Kimberly Mueller.

I would like to participate in an off-campus studies program (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:

  • Whitman students who study for a semester or academic year abroad generally do so in their junior year at Whitman.
  • Students should refer to the Advising by Major section of the Off-Campus Studies website 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.
  • 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.
  • Ideally students should have at least two graded courses in their major on their Whitman academic record prior to applying for semester or year-long study abroad/off-campus studies.
  • Study of another language during the first two years at Whitman will give students a wider range of study abroad options to choose from that are linguistically and culturally immersive.
  • 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.
  • All but one of 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 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, 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 and Japanese. Please contact Professor Donghui He ( in Chinese or Professor Akira Takemoto ( in Japanese for questions about the appropriate language level or about oral or written placement tests. More information regarding the language placement policy can be found in the "Academics", "Foreign Languages and Literatures," and "Spanish" sections of the catalog.

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, you will need to do so now. Activate your Whitman email account.)

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 Patrick Keef, Chair of Mathematics, by e-mail at

 I know that I will need to take a Chemistry course for my major and I am planning to go to Medical School. How do I know which introductory Chemistry course is right for me?

You will take a placement test  prior to registering for an introductory Chemistry course. The placement exam lets us decide if you can enroll in CHEM 125 without CHEM 111, which is a course in problem solving. A much higher than average score based on a strong background in Chemistry may place you into CHEM 140, our 1-semester Advanced General Chemistry course.  

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 or (509)527-5213.