Incoming Students and Non-Majors

Prospective Physicists:
What to do your first semester

  • If you got 5’s on the AP Physics C exam, the department recommends you start out in Physics 197/198, but SPS absolutely does NOT. Go on straight to Physics 217 – intro quantum mechanics – your first semester. You’ll have to take advanced versions of 197/198 (411/421) later anyway.
  • 5’s on the AP exam generally will satisfy the admissions requirements at many medical schools.  Also, schools will allow you to substitute 2 semesters of upper-level physics courses (411/421 are the advanced versions of 197/198). Speak to your pre-med advisor about whether this is right for you!
  • If you didn’t get 5’s on the AP exam and are seriously considering a major in physics (or another science), take 197/198. It’s well-known that 117/118 and 197/198 have very similar curricula (i.e. no significant difference in difficulty), but students seem to like the content/style of 197/198 better.
  • If you did dual-enrollment at another college while in high school, Wash. U. generally won’t make you repeat anything- just enroll in coursework at as high of a level as you are ready for. Have an advisor help you figure out what you’ll need to do to “complete” a major; generally, advisors will be willing to help you make course substitutions (and on the off chance yours won’t, just switch advisors). Students in this situation may also consider pursuing a joint bachelor’s/master’s; if you take four years or less, you can keep your financial/merit aid the whole time.

Regularly Offered Intro Courses for Non-Majors

Perfect for the non-major who’s enthusiastic about physics or astronomy but doesn’t want to take a math-heavy course.

  • Physics 125: Solar System Astronomy
  • Physics 126: Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology
  • Physics 171: Physics and Society
  • You also might check out: Saturday Science public lectures

Washington University SPS