WBM? Section IV: The Freshman year and beyond

image: head Most majors within the biological sciences have similar requirements for introductory biology, chemistry, and math. Students who work on fulfilling these requirements during their freshman and sophomore years need not feel they are locking themselves into a decision about a major; these basic college courses are good preparation for almost any science major.

When several courses (or course sequences) can be used to meet a requirement of a major, give careful consideration to your course selection. It is often a good strategy to take the most comprehensive and demanding course available. Taking the most rigorous course you are prepared for will maximize your options for an undergraduate major, career choices and postgraduate studies.

Course Sequence: What to Take When

The following provides a general overview of when the basic math and science courses are usually taken:

During the Freshman Year:

  • Most students fulfill their general chemistry and math requirements.
  • Some students take introductory biology.

During the Sophomore Year:

  • Some students - those who did not take it as freshman - take introductory biology.
  • Many students take organic chemistry (if required).
  • Some students take physics.

During the Junior Year:

  • Many students take physics.

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Introductory Biology: Freshman or Sophomore Year

Many students interested in studying biology anticipate taking introductory biology during their freshman year. Before you plan on doing so; however, read on!

Many advisors recommend that students wait to take introductory biology during their sophomore year, after they have taken chemistry. Reasons for this include:

  • The background in chemistry better prepares students for the molecular and cellular biology topics covered in the introductory biology courses.
  • While freshmen can take biology and chemistry, some freshmen find it difficult to take two lab courses at the same time. This is especially true during their first semester on campus, when they are adjusting to college and to professors' expectations of them in college courses.
  • Freshmen have fewer options for an introductory biology sequence: they may not take Biocore, and freshmen enrollment in Biology 151-152 is limited.

Other advisors recommend that students take introductory biology as freshmen, even if this means taking biology and chemistry concurrently. A rationale for this is to prepare you for taking courses in your major during your sophomore year, which will optimize your chances of graduating in four years.

Some advisors recommend that:

  • Students who think they are interested in biology - but aren't sure if they want to major in it - should take introductory biology their freshmen year.
  • Students who know they are interested in a major in the biological sciences should wait to take introductory biology their sophomore year.

Note for students with AP Biology Exam credit: Several alternatives are available to you when you take your first biology course and you should see your advisor before you make your choice. If your AP Biology exam score was a "3," it would be wise to start with the first course in one of the introductory biology sequences. Consult with your academic advisor about the appropriate sequence. Students who received a "4" or a "5" on the AP Biology exam may be able to follow an acceerated introductory biology path. Students with such scores should talk to an academic advisor about the possibility of bypassing Biology 151 or Zoology 101-102 and enrolling in Biology 152 or Botany 130. The Biocore sequence is also an excellent option for students with a strong background in biology http://www.biocore.wisc.edu/biocore; Janet Batzli, jcbatzli@wisc.edu.

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Introductory Biology

The Biological Sciences Advisor will be available at SOAR and throughout the year to answer your questions about introductory biology courses and to provide advice on which course or course sequence might be best for you.

You will choose from the following introductory biology courses and course sequences:

  • Biology 151-152, Introductory Biology is a two-semester course sequence, which can be started in the fall or spring semester. It is open to freshmen but has limited enrollment. Many advisors who recommend this sequence instead of Botany 130 and Zoology 101 say this two-semester sequence is more comprehensive than the combination of two one-semester courses. Students in Biology 152 have an opportunity to work on an independent research project in a faculty mentor's lab.
  • Zoology 101, Animal Biology is a one-semester course open to freshmen. Offered both fall and spring semesters, and during the summer session, it is a large introductory zoology course for beginning students with a wide range of backgrounds and interests. A 2-credit lab, Zoology 102, supplements the topics covered in the lecture course.
  • Botany 130, General Botany is a one-semester course open to freshmen. It is offered both fall and spring semesters; greater emphasis is placed on ecology and taxonomy in the fall. Many advisors consider this course to be an excellent introductory course for students who know they are interested in studying plants.
  • The Biology Core Curriculum (Biocore) is a four-semester course sequence that provides undergraduates with a broad, in-depth and integrated foundation for further work in any area of biological science. Most students start Biocore in the fall of their sophomore year after completing the prerequisites in general chemistry and math their freshman year. It is important to note that students must apply to the program in the spring semester prior to the semester they intend to begin Biocore. Freshmen planning to begin Biocore their sophomore year should apply by mid-March of their freshman year. Applications are accepted after the intial deadline until all available openings are filled. Biocore applications are available at the Biocore Office (345 Noland Hall, (608) 262-5979), or online at http://www.biocore.wisc.edu/biocore. You will be notified of your acceptance to Biocore by the start of registration in April. Find out more about the Biocore program and courses by visiting the Biocore web site or contacting Janet Batzli (jcbatzli@wisc.edu), Biocore undergraduate advisor.

Note:Usually more students want to take Biocore than the program can accommodate. Students must apply to the program early in the spring semester prior to the semester they intend to begin Biocore. Freshmen planning to begin Biocore their sophomore year must apply in January of their freshman year. Applications are available in the Biocore Office (345 Noland Hall, 262-5979). Completed applications must be submitted to the Biocore Admissions Committee by mid-March. The Admissions Committee notifies those admitted to Biocore by the start of registration in April.

Note: Biocore is not a major, but a four-semester introductory biology course sequence.

Note: Students can get more information on introductory biology courses at: http://www.wisc.edu/cbe/wibc/

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General Chemistry

For information on choosing the most appropriate general chemistry course, see the Chemistry section of the Undergraduate Catalog.

Note: Chemistry 108, a one-semester survey course, is nota good choice for most potential biology majors. Most majors require or recommend a full year (two semesters) of general chemistry.

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Most advisors encourage students to take math their freshman year. The Mathematics Department uses placement tests to determine which mathematics course you may take initially. For information on math placement and choosing a math course, see the math section in the Undergraduate Catalog.

Note: Math 221 is often recommended over Math 211. Some majors accept either course to fulfill the calculus requirements, but many accept only Math 221.

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For information on choosing the most appropriate physics course, see the Physics section in the Undergraduate Catalog.

Note: Calculus-based physics (i.e., Physics 201-202 or Physics 207-208) is required for some biology majors.

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