Rochester’s Open Curriculum: Keep an Open Mind

By Costas Solomou, Director of Admissions Programs

Some people get a bit nervous when they hear that the University of Rochester has no general education requirements; they imagine students being left to select their courses randomly, with no direction. While students are entrusted with the independence and freedom to design their own paths, they have the guidance of world-renowned faculty and staff to mentor them along the way. The advantage of our unique open curriculum is that it allows students to focus on their academic interests from the start, rather than having to wait until they get their “general education” requirements out of the way. We believe students learn best when studying what they love.

A student interested in optics and physics can dive right in to research in the University’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, home to the world’s most powerful ultraviolet laser. A student pursuing a double major in religion and philosophy may not want to spend a single day in a lab—and won’t have to. These are just a couple of real examples of how Rochester students find success, and enjoy their learning, through their own distinct choices.

To be clear: Students are required to select a major, by the end of sophomore year. On average, there are 10-12 courses required to complete a major, depending on the concentration and program. Many students find that Rochester’s flexibility allows them room to declare two majors; currently, 45 percent of students are pursuing a double major. Students work closely with academic advisors throughout the entire process to ensure that they’re well prepared and confident in their decisions.

The Rochester Curriculum allows students to think critically and explore their interests in more depth than they will have in high school or would be able to at other colleges with more traditional structures. Undergraduate courses, even at the introductory level, are taught by faculty, 97 percent of whom hold the highest degrees in their fields. Our professors also engage in research and invite their students to participate as well; it’s a culture that has helped the University attract close to $500 million in research funding every year.

Rochester’s unique approach has proven successful on many levels. More than half of our students continue on to graduate school; Rochester consistently ranks among the top 10 U.S. institutions for the percentage of students who go on to obtain a graduate degree. Rochester students are accepted to law school and medical school at far greater rates than the national averages. For those who choose to enter the working world instead, 75 percent will do so in a field related to their major.

Rochester’s fundamental beliefs are rooted in academic freedom and intellectual curiosity. Just ask our students about their academic experiences, and I think you’ll be impressed.

About the author


URAdmissions features guest bloggers (both students and staff) who write about specialized programs, events, and opportunities at Rochester.

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