The Colby-Sawyer Academic Experience

The Colby-Sawyer academic experience blends the liberal arts and sciences with professional experience to prepare you for a career and graduate studies. Working closely with faculty and staff mentors, you emerge as an active learner and confident scholar, artist, writer, scientist, critical thinker and community leader.

At Colby-Sawyer you take an active role in designing your education from your very first semester, whether you've already chosen a major or are undeclared. By choosing a theme-based, interdisciplinary First-Year Symposium, the foundation of the college's Liberal Education Program, you explore a topic with a faculty member before heading in, or finding, your chosen academic direction. At the same time, you develop the writing, reading and thinking skills necessary for success in college and beyond.

Our Liberal Education Program allows you to discover and develop your talents across academic disciplines and to record your progress and accomplishments in electronic portfolios. You expand your academic horizons and serve your community by doing required work in these areas:

Academic Proficiencies

Proficiency in writing and quantitative literacy is vital for performing college-level work, and will remain so long after graduation.


The writing proficiency initiates you into the rigors and rewards of academic writing. Through assignments, which include the personal essay, the formulation of academic arguments and the research paper, the required writing courses you take build solid foundations in areas critical to written work at the college level and beyond.

Quantitative Literacy

The quantitative literacy proficiency is fulfilled by a variety of courses and teaches you the necessary skills to understand and use quantitative information in your personal and professional life. The ability to display quantitative information is also an effective communication skill. Skills acquired in the quantitative literacy proficiency courses are reinforced through our program to enhance quantitative literacy across the curriculum.

First-Year Symposium

Liberally educated individuals demonstrate strong thinking skills, empowered learning and intellectual curiosity. At Colby-Sawyer, you develop the ability to integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines through a liberal education curriculum that provides you with the model for successful college-level work and supports learning in your major area of study.

During your first semester you will choose a First-Year Symposium based on your interest in the theme. The First-Year Symposium introduces you to the demands and pleasures of rigorous intellectual endeavors and helps you develop good study habits, develops your abilities to work collaboratively in a community of learners, and helps you appreciate the interconnectedness of knowledge from disciplines across the breadth of human experience.

Exploration Areas

At Colby-Sawyer you broaden your knowledge in areas outside of your major by exploring subjects across the curriculum. Some courses may also fulfill requirements in your major. You may choose one course from each of the following areas:

Fine and Performing Arts

Study of the arts helps you understand how artists create works in a studio environment or on stage. Select from options in art, dance, music, theater, communication studies, and creative writing.


The humanities explore the nature and meaning of human existence. Select from options in English, humanities, philosophy, religion, and women's and gender studies.


Literature courses focus on a body of imaginative texts and challenge you to reflect on your own life through encounters with literary themes. Select from a variety of options in English.


Science offers you an introduction to the use of the scientific method to formulate and test hypotheses in a broad, interdisciplinary context. Select from laboratory course options in biology, environmental studies, chemistry and physics.

Social Sciences

The social sciences allow you to explore the relationship between personal and social worlds and help you develop responsibility for yourself and the broader society. Select from options in business administration, economics, education, psychology and sociology.


History courses help you understand the development of political, economic and social institutions, and the evolution of contemporary social issues. Select from options in American studies, art history and history.

Integrative Studies

The challenges of the 21st century underscore the need for connection and integration in student learning. The integrative studies course that you choose to take promotes your ability to forge connections and synthesize knowledge, skills, and experience gained from your liberal education, elective, and major courses. You’ll apply your learning to new challenges and diverse themes that you encounter in a course outside your major.

Internship Experience

Internships are field experiences collaboratively supervised by faculty, staff and work site professionals. Our internship program requires you to complete at least one internship in order to graduate and enhances your academic learning with experience related to your career interests in local, national and international settings.

Learning Portfolios

The college years go by faster than you would imagine, and the Learning Portfolio is an opportunity to exhibit your personal and professional growth, as well as to record how you have met Colby-Sawyer's learning outcomes. Learning portfolios include reflections on a range of experiences across your major, the Liberal Education Program and the college.

The Learning Portfolio also provides us with an assessment of our academic programs.

Capstone Experience

The Capstone experience is the culmination of your academic experience and is proof that you have undergone a rigorous, multi-disciplinary education and are ready for success in the workforce or graduate school.

Before graduating, you must complete a Capstone research project unique to your major and present the results to faculty, administration, staff and the community at the annual Susan Colby Colgate Scholars' Symposium.

Across the College

Colby-Sawyer's approach to education recognizes that engaged learning takes place in and outside the classroom and that it is a lifelong adventure. Facets of the educational process — the courses, the learning portfolio, advising and co-curricular activities — combine to achieve the learning outcomes which reflect the college's mission and values.


You are introduced to the college experience in the orientation program. In addition to social events and co-curricular programming, the orientation program introduces you to the higher education environment in general, and of Colby-Sawyer in particular.

Residential Life

Programming in the residence halls focuses on helping you become more independent by exploring various aspects of campus and community activities, and making connections with other students, as well as faculty and staff.

Leadership Development

Develop leadership skills through clubs and organizations, internships and other career development experiences, in the residence halls and classrooms, in athletics and recreation, and in other co-curricular activities.

Experiential Learning

Participate in study away, alternative spring breaks, internships, clubs, student government and community service to foster the application of learning and the development of social responsibility.

Career Planning

Take advantage of a variety of career exploration activities, including skill assessment, making career choices, resume building, job searching, interview skills, networking and professional etiquette. As a senior we help you prepare for the transition from our college community to the communities of work and/or advanced study.