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Washington and Lee University

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What are FDRs?

What Are FDRs?

At Washington and Lee, FDR is not a famous former president. It's the acronym for Foundation and Distribution Requirements. Our general education requirements are substantial, conventional and relatively easy to understand.

There are four foundation requirements: writing, foreign language, mathematics & computer science, and physical education.
• Every student must take one course in English composition or demonstrate an equivalent competency by passing an Advanced Placement or English Department test.
• Every student must complete one course in mathematics or computer science.
• Every student must demonstrate skills in a foreign language equivalent to the fourth term of college-level work.
• And every student must pass a swimming test and complete four PE courses.

There are two distribution requirements. Under Arts & Humanities students must complete:
• One course (a course means at least 3 credits) in the humanities (HU),
• One course in the fine arts (HA),
• One course in literature (HL),
• And one more course in any of the above areas.

Under Sciences & Social Sciences, students must complete:
• Two courses in the sciences and mathematics, one of which must be a laboratory science course (SL),
• Two courses in the social sciences that come from two different areas of study.

Details about FDRs are found in the catalog and the University Registrar has prepared a very useful form for students and faculty advisers to use in tracking requirements: http://registrar.wlu.edu/forms/fdr08-09.pdf

While it is important for students to follow their progress in meeting requirements, it is a mistake to think about FDRs as simply a series of boxes to tick or hurdles to jump. The courses that make up our general education requirements, or FDRs, are the core of what we do at a liberal arts college. They foster the development of basic skills in foreign language, writing and quantitative analysis that open doors to the more advanced study of culture, literature, science and society. And FDRs guarantee exposure to a range of subjects across the curriculum. For many students, taking an FDR course can become the serendipitous discovery of a future major or minor that would otherwise have been missed. For others, these courses constitute a challenge that forces the scientist to write about literature or the humanist to conduct experiments in a laboratory. Those classroom experiences outside a student's chosen field of interest are not always comfortable, but they have the potential to be some of the most memorable and consequential classes that any student will take during their college career. They merit careful and caring choices.