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Frequently Asked Questions

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What Are the "C"-Required Courses?

In order to graduate, students must earn at least a "C" grade in BIOL 110, 220W, 230W, and 240W as well as CHEM 110, CHEM 112, and MATH 140.

Are There Disallowed Courses for the Biology Major?

The following courses MAY NOT be used for credit (NOT EVEN AS ELECTIVES) towards a degree in Biology and will not be counted towards graduation:

  • BMB 001
  • CAS 126
  • BI SC 001, 002, 003, 004
  • MICRB - No course under 199
  • BIOL 011, 012
  • PHYS 001, 150, 151
  • CHEM 101, 103, 106, 108
  • LL ED 005, 010
  • ENGL 004, 005
  • More than 9 credits of SC 295, 395, 495
  • ESL 004
  • STAT 100
  • MATH --no course under 140**
  • Course Duplications

**Please note that in the following courses only a specified number of the credits count towards graduation: CHEM 106 (only 3 out of 5 credits count), and MATH 140A (only 4 out of 6 credits count). However, all credits earned at Penn State count in determining your grade point average (GPA).

Note also that ESACT 129 cannot be scheduled if you have already received credit for ESACT 117 or 220. Moreover, students may take only one course for General Education credit from: HD FS 129 (GS) or SOC 030 (GS); PHIL 001 (GH) or PHIL 004 (GH); LARCH 003 (GA) or LARCH 060 (GA); SOC 001 (GS) or R SOC 011 (GS).

What Are the SUPPORTING COURSES for the Biology Major?

The Supporting Courses, oftentimes also referred to as ELECTIVES, are the credits that you need to take to reach your credit total of at least 124. In a certain  way, electives are your "play credits" in that they present you with an opportunity to pursue interests outside your major.  You are permitted to take any class as an elective, EXCEPT for the DISALLOWED COURSES for the Biology major. Many students use their electives with an objective in mind. As such, some students develop a "kit" of tools by taking a foreign language, more mathematics, statistics, chemistry, or accounting, etc. You may also want to consider "hybridizing" biology with another discipline, such as business. (This particular combination could lead to a career in pharmaceutical sales). Electives can be used to fulfill the requirements for a second degree and/or to earn a minor degree. Moreover, course work towards certification to teach secondary school biology can be achieved through a judicious selection of electives.

What Can Count for the Practicum Requirement?

All students pursuing a B.S. degree in Biology must complete 3 credits under the practicum requirement.  The spirit of this requirement is to provide students the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to hands-on projects.  These credits or projects can be fulfilled via:

  • 400-level courses that have a lab component
  • Participation in the co-op program -- SC 295, 395, 495. (See
  • Serving as a peer leader in for BIOL 110, 220W, 230W, or 240W (Credit for BIOL 251 is awarded for this involvement.)
  • Serving as a Teaching Assistant for a biology course (credit offered as BIOL400)
  • Conducting independent research in a lab (BIOL 496)
  • Working as an EMT or teaching the EMT course
  • Participation in a "hands-on" scientific service project such as those in the Engineering Department's HESE projects. (For more info see

Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Grades

Up to twelve (12) credits of ELECTIVES ONLY may be earned on a SA/UN basis. Courses required for the major, including the General Education credits, are NOT permitted for satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading. You must request this designation through the Dean's Office (428 Thomas Bldg.) between the 11th and 21st calendar days of the semester you are enrolled in the course. SA/UN credits count towards graduation, but are not computed in your GPA.

Dropping a Course

During the first 10 days of either the Fall or Spring semester, students can drop courses without any recording on their transcripts. However, realize that you will be charged $6 for any transaction you carry out between the 8th and 10th day of a 15 week semester. Dropping a course after the tenth day but before the end of the 12th week of the semester constitutes a late drop and will be duly noted on your transcript. (A "WN" - withdrew no grade designation will be made on your transcript.)  Overall, you are allowed only sixteen (16) credits of late drops throughout your entire collegiate career, and NO course drops are permitted during the final three weeks of the semester. Although course drops are not desirable, realize that they serve as a "back door" to get you out of trouble if you are severely struggling.  The advantage of dropping a class is that it will NOT affect your grade-point average.  Before dropping a course, however, be sure to consult with your adviser.  Oftentimes, dropping a course is followed by detrimental consequences, and you want to assess all pluses and minuses before you go through with a course drop.

NOTE: Some courses (e.g., CHEM 111) do not begin and end following full semester dates. Please refer to the Registrar's site for late drop deadlines for these courses.

Transferring Courses

If you are currently a student at Penn State, and want to take a course at another institution, we STRONGLY encourage you to follow these guidelines PRIOR to registration at the host institution.

  1. Use the Admissions Office's Transfer Course tool ( to see if other Penn State students have already taken your desired course previously and to see if Penn State accept the course(s) from the host institution of your choice.
  2. If the course is accepted for General Credit (Gen) only, obtain a copy of the syllabus for the course that you are interested in taking, and take that syllabus to the appropriate department at Penn State which is responsible for teaching the subject matter. (Chem Department for Chem courses, Math Department for Math courses, etc.) In the rare instance when a syllabus cannot be secured, obtain as much information about the course(s) as you can.  At a minimum, such information consists of a course description and the name of the textbook, but whenever possible a copy of the syllabus (either hard copy or Web address) would be preferred and most helpful.
  3. Be sure to obtain the results of your course evaluation in writing. If it is on a Course Transfer form, submit it to Penn State's Admissions Office in 201 Shields Bldg. If it is in letter form, submit a copy of that letter to your adviser.
  4. Once you'll have successfully completed the course, submit an official and unopened copy of your transcript from the host institution to Penn State's Admissions Office (201 Shields Bldg.; The Pennsylvania State University; University Park, PA 16802).

* Note that you must earn a grade of C or better for a course to transfer.  Some institutions give out C- grades -- such credits are not accepted by Penn State.

Is There a Limit on ROTC Credits that can be Applied Toward the Major?

The Biology Department does not have a limit on the number of ROTC courses that may be applied to the major. Select ROTC credits may be petitioned to count toward meeting your General Education requirements, and all remaining credits are counted under the elective category. Contact an academic adviser to see how your credits can be applied.

Graduations Requirements

BEFORE BEGINNING your final semester, review your degree audit and also check with an academic adviser in the Biology Department to confirm that you will have:

a) accumulated the minimum number of 124 credits

b) fulfilled all coursework requirements necessary for graduation by the end of the semester including at least a "C" (2.00) cumulative grade point average for all courses taken at the University, and

3) have earned a grade of "C" or better in BIOL 110, 220W, 230W, and 240W, as well as in MATH 140, CHEM 110, and CHEM 112.

As indicated above, 124 credits are required to graduate with a B.S. in Biology. Be sure to add these credits carefully. Be sure you keep an up-to-date log on the number of ACCEPTABLE credits you have earned. Use the CHECK SHEETS for this purpose. Suggestion: Add the credits of each course taken, and do NOT count remedial courses (or partial remedial credits or courses that you repeated. Also, see the list of disallowed courses). If you have any questions about this, consult with your adviser.

Realize also that the last 60 credits required for the baccalaureate degree must be completed within a total elapsed time of five calendar years (whereby an extension of time shall be granted for intervening military services and on occasion, other extenuating circumstances if approved by the college dean).  Moreover, at least 36 of the last 60 credits required for the degree must be completed in courses offered by the University or in cooperative degree programs that have been approved by the University Faculty Senate.