Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Rules and Policies for Foundational Disciplines and Overlays

NOTE: Students who started taking classes at Northwestern in Spring 2023 or earlier should refer to Rules and Policies for Distribution Requirements. The information below pertains to students who started at Northwestern after Spring 2023.

Foundational discipline and overlay requirements can be filled in any of the following ways. Jump to various guidelines for these options:

Approved Northwestern courses

The foundational discipline and overlay areas are defined by learning objectives, not by department or program discipline area. For example one department may offer some courses aligned with various foundational areas.

Grades in foundational disciplines and overlay courses

Grade policies are under review. Updates may be posted here in 2023.

Courses taken at other colleges and universities

Courses taken at other colleges and universities cannot generally be used to fulfill foundational discipline and overlay requirements. This includes college-level courses you may have taken before you entered Northwestern as a first-year student. (See the guidelines for transfer credits for entering freshmen.)

However, there are two types of exceptions to this rule, and you can discuss these with your College Adviser.

Study abroad

Some Northwestern-run study abroad programs offer courses with Northwestern course numbers. See if such courses count toward foundational discipline and overlay requirements by reviewing the lists of Northwestern courses approved for credit. 

If you study abroad with College approval but are not taking Northwestern courses, you may be able to count a limited number of your study abroad courses toward your foundational discipline and overlay requirements. Students can receive a maximum of one unit of foundational discipline credit for each study abroad term, up to a maximum of two units. The two units must be in different foundational areas. Policy on overlay requirements is under development and will be posted in 2023.

Read about applying study abroad credits toward these requirements.

Transfer students

If you transferred to Northwestern from another college or university, some of your transferred courses may count toward foundational discipline and overlay requirements. Read rules and policies for transfer credit.

test-based credit

Advanced Placement (AP) & HL International Baccalaureate (IB)

A maximum of two of the 12 courses you count toward your foundational discipline requirements can be credits you earned either through College Board AP or higher-level IB testing. Each of these must be in a different foundational area. There are other ways AP and IB credits may be applied towards degree progress - your adviser will be able to help you think about how your test-based credits can shape your academic plan.

CAESAR does not automatically slot test credits in for foundational discipline areas. You can do this yourself through the main menu options on CAESAR. Review qualifying AP and IB scores for your entering class.

Other Exams

If you have taken an exam other than AP or IB (for example British A-Levels) you can request review for credit by submitting (1) the International Test Credit Evaluation Request form and (2) a copy of your score report to: wcas-forms@northwestern.edu.

Foundational discipline policy for credits based on exams other than AP or IB are under review. Updates may be posted here in 2023.

 

NOTE: Students who started taking classes at Northwestern in Spring 2023 or earlier should refer to Rules and Policies for Distribution Requirements. The information above pertains to students who started at Northwestern after Spring 2023.

Back to top