First-Year Focus


As a field of study, political science tries to understand how politics works. Why do countries fight wars? Why can’t the Democrats and Republicans in Congress cooperate with each other? Why are some countries rich and others poor? What does it mean to act ethically in politics? Our field tries to answer these questions and many others. If you are interested in how politics works in America and around the world, then this is the field for you.

Political science helps you to develop skills in critical thinking, data analysis, and ethical reasoning and provides you with knowledge about current and past political events across the world. Majors in the department go on to a number of different careers. These include government service—at federal, state, and local levels—nonprofits, law, campaigns and polling, journalism, consulting, and business.


Any of our gateway courses are appropriate for freshmen. These are all at the 200-level and include:

  • Poli_Sci 201 – Introduction to Political Theory
  • Poli_Sci 220 – American Government and Politics
  • Poli_Sci 221 – Urban Politics
  • Poli_Sci 230 – Introduction to Law in the Political Arena
  • Poli_Sci 240 – Introduction to International Relations
  • Poli_Sci 250 – Introduction to Comparative Politics

You will probably want to start with one of these courses (and in fact three of them are required for the major). But you can quickly progress to 300-level courses and many 300-level courses do not have prerequisites.  Here [**link to list of first year courses] is a list of 300-level courses that are appropriate for first-year students.

Political science courses are only useful for potential majors, but also for those interested in a variety of fields. Several of our courses count towards the International Studies, Legal Studies, and Journalism majors and the Business Institutions minor. Those interested in Economics and Sociology will find interesting perspectives on their fields in political science. We also offer a variety of courses on regions around the world, which can add to your interests in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.

If you have decided to declare Political Science as your major or minor, it is a simple process—see How to Declare for instructions.


If you received a 5 on the AP American Government exam, you can place out of Poli_Sci 220 – American Government and Politics and replace it with an extra 300-level Political Science class. The same goes for the AP Comparative Government exam and Poli_Sci 250 – Introduction to Comparative Politics.

Using your AP credit does not reduce the total number of classes you need to complete the major—you still must take 12 total classes—but it does enable you to take an additional 300-level class instead to fulfill your major requirements.


Department advisors are available most days of the week to answer your questions about the major, minor, and course selection. You can find their office hours on the Advising page.

Lots of other information is available on the department website. In particular, you can find:

For further advising help, try the following sites:

We can’t wait to see you in classes and around the department!