1. First Year Course Selection Guide
  2. Your Degree Program
  3. *Your pathway to graduation
  4. More about the Major
  5. Electives
  6. First Year Seminar
  7. Breadth
  8. Putting it all together
  9. Required 1000-level courses(s) for BA Majors
  10. Combined Honours Programs
  11. Your Degree, Your Future

First Year Course Selection Guide

Please read this degree guide prior to registering.

Your Degree Program

The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is intended for students who want to develop transferable skills in communication, critical thinking, and analysis through training in at least one academic discipline or interdisciplinary field of study. It is offered as either a 15.0 credit program that is normally completed in three years of full-time study or as an Honours degree requiring 20.0 credits and normally four years of full-time study. Every BA student must eventually choose a major subject of study, called a Major, and some BA students may choose to do a Combined Honours degree in two subjects. For example, one student might major in Psychology while another could do a double major in Political Science and History – or in any other two subjects offered within the BA degree at Carleton.

*Your pathway to graduation

Please note that 15.0 credit and Honours degrees do not have to be completed within a three or four-year time frame. For a variety of reasons, many students choose to take an extra year or so to finish their undergraduate program. When deciding whether to take a reduced course load in first year or in subsequent years (for example, enrolling in 4.0 credits instead of a full 5.0 over the fall and winter terms), students are strongly encouraged to discuss their academic goals and commitments outside of class with an Advisor at the Academic Advising Centre. At Carleton, we recognize that every student’s situation is unique. Your Advisor will review relevant and important information that will help you decide what kind of course load is right for you, and will provide a referral to your Departmental Advisor so that you can discuss your course sequencing and program requirements in more detail.

More about the Major

Each Major has a set of requirements that must be met in order to graduate. Students in any Major have to take a certain number of credits in their Major, and these will include mandatory courses that are essential to understanding their specific discipline. If you have already selected a Major, be sure to see the chart below to determine which courses are required in your first year. If you have not yet chosen a Major, and are entering Carleton as a Major Not Declared student, you should register in courses in three areas of interest from which you think you could select a Major at the end of your first year.

Don’t worry if you haven’t chosen a Major yet or are unsure about the one you have chosen. Often, after attending classes, students find some courses more interesting than others and will either designate a Major during their first year or change their Major to a new one.  If you’re having trouble deciding what major to choose at any point during your first year, it would be a good idea to discuss this with an academic advisor.  Please visit the Academic Advising Centre’s website for more information.


Courses required for your Major represent approximately one third to one half of the 15 to 20 credits required for your BA degree.  The remaining courses are called “electives,” and you may choose them according to your interests. In choosing your electives, keep in mind that your degree will most likely require you to complete a Breadth requirement which ensures that you have taken courses in a broad range of subjects. The Breadth requirement is explained below. In addition, you may want to use some of your electives towards a Minor, which usually consists of 4.0 credits, or for a Concentration within your Major.

Because requirements for the Major, Minor and Concentration vary by department, please refer to the full description found in the Undergraduate Calendar in the “Programs” section.

First Year Seminar

BA students are strongly encouraged to include a First Year Seminar among their first-year course electives. First Year Seminar (FYSM) courses allow you to study a topic closely with a professor who specializes in the area and is committed to teaching first-year students.  Because FYSM courses are capped at 30, students get to know their classmates and professor well during the year, and they work together to develop a range of skills that will help them succeed in their other courses at university.

Watch students talk about their experience in a FYSM.

Please be aware that some FYSMs count as course requirements for the Major, but many do not. Remember too that the FYSM course you choose does not have to be in your Major and that, in accordance with university regulations, students are limited to 1.0 credit in First Year Seminars.


By the time you graduate, you must show at least one credit from three of the following four groupings of university courses: Culture and Communication; Humanities; Science, Engineering and Design; and Social Sciences. You may select your Breadth courses more appropriately by examining the Breadth section outlined in the Undergraduate Calendar. Note: not all BA degrees require Breadth. Please consult the undergraduate calendar to see if your program is exempt.

Putting it all together

You are now ready to make a list of the courses you will register in for your first year at Carleton:

  1. Your First Year Seminar can be chosen from the list on the First Year Seminar website. Please note that this website is the only place where you can find a complete list of seminar topics.
  2. Select the courses you need for your chosen Major (see below).
  3. If you plan to add a Minor to your degree, you should investigate the Minor requirements and consider taking the first-year course in your intended Minor during your first year.
  4. Choose elective courses to make up the 5.0 credits you may study this year. It is too early to begin the courses required for a concentration but it is a good idea to check the “Breadth” list in the Undergraduate Calendar and see how many areas of breadth you have covered. Remember, unless you are in an interdisciplinary Major, graduation requires one credit in three of the four possible Breadth areas. It is helpful to think about the Breadth requirement when you are registering for first year since first-year courses are open to all students.

*If you are planning on taking a reduced course load this year (i.e., fewer than 5.0 credits over the fall and winter terms), please ensure that you take the mandatory course(s) for your particular Major. You can fill the rest of your timetable with your preferred number of elective credits. Please see the Pathway to Graduation section for more information.

Required 1000-level courses(s) for BA Majors

The normal course load for a full-time student in the first-year of any B.A. program is 5.0 credits, but you may choose to take fewer credits than this. Please see the Pathway to Graduation section for more information. Recommended course selections for each program appear below.

For information on which courses can be included in the different breadth categories, please refer to the Undergraduate Calendar – Academic Regulations and Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts Degree.

Combined Honours Programs

Your Degree, Your Future

Explore Your Degree, Your Future to identify the skills you can develop through your program, to see future possibilities and career paths of recent graduates, and to find out how to improve your employability by getting involved and gaining experience.