Frequently Asked Questions

First-year students

1.  How do I enroll for a freshman seminar in History?

In the fall, you enroll during Freshman Orientation through the Freshman Seminar Program, not through the History department.  For the spring semester, you enroll at the end of the fall term through the Freshman Seminar Program’s website.

2.  As a first-year student, am I limited to freshman seminars and History lecture courses with 100-199 numbers?

No.  The numbering system for Yale History courses is confusing at first glance. Course numbers denote regions of the world rather than degrees of difficulty. Freshman seminars carry numbers beginning with 00.  United States History lecture courses carry numbers 100-199.  European History lecture courses carry numbers 200-299.  Lecture courses on the history of the other regions of the world carry numbers 300-399.  Courses that are global in nature, and cover many areas of the world, are 400-499. All lecture courses (numbers 100-499) are open to freshmen.  Courses carrying the suffix “J” are upper-level seminars and are not open to freshmen.

3.  Do I need to take my History lecture courses in a particular sequence?

No.  Each course is self-contained and stands on its own.  You are responsible only for the material that is presented in the course.

4.  How do I get into a History lecture course?   

For the overwhelming majority of lecture courses, you just show up when the class meets and then list the course on your registration form when you register.  There are a handful of very popular History lecture courses that are forced to limit enrollment for lack of space.  For such courses, just show up for the first class.  The professor will explain whether or not enrollment will be limited and how s/he will determine who is in and who is out.

5.  Do Directed Studies courses count towards the History major?

DRST 003a and DRST 003b (Historical and Political Thought) both count towards the History major and the European distribution requirement.  DRST 003a also counts towards the Pre-Industrial requirement.

6.  In high school I earned AP credits in History.  Does this allow me to “place out” of certain History courses?

The History Department does not allow students to use AP credits to “place out” of History courses.  All History majors need to take a minimum of 10 History courses and complete a 2-semester or 1-semester senior essay.

History majors

1.  How do I become a declared History major?

You declare the major on line using the Student Information System (SIS). 

2. What are the prerequisites for declaring the History major?

Students must complete two courses in History before declaring the major. If you have not completed two courses, you may declare the major only after consultation with and written permission of the DUS.

3. What are the requirements of the History major?

Please see the separate section “Requirements of the Major” available on the history department’s web site.

4How do I declare a Track within the History major?

All students are required to choose either the Global or Specialist track within the History major. This process is administered through the History Department, not through the registrar’s office. Once you have officially declared the History major, you should fill out the tracking form, available online at the History Department web site. Your track does not appear on your final Yale College transcript.

5. Can I change my Track or area of specialization?

Students may change their track or area of specialization as late as the end of course selection (shopping) period in the first semester of senior year. This can be done by filling out the same form on which the original Track was declared. The most recently completed form will determine the requirements by which graduation assessment will be made.

6.  How do I get a History adviser who will sign my schedule?

After you declare the major, the History Department will assign you a History faculty member as your adviser.  You will be notified by e-mail once an adviser has ben assigned. Students who choose the Specialist Track will be assigned an adviser in that area of specialization. This is the adviser who is authorized to sign your schedule.  The History DUS will not sign your schedule, except under extenuating circumstances. 

7.  How do I pre-register for departmental seminars?

Pre-registration for departmental seminars is done on-line.  All declared History majors will receive an e-mail each semester giving them instructions for pre-registration for departmental seminars being offered the following semester.  Remember that pre-registration is limited to declared History majors.  If you declare the major later than the pre-registration deadline, you may still be able to pre-register for courses by contacting Essie Barros (

8.  I missed all of the deadlines for seminar pre-registration.  Can I still get into a seminar?

Yes.  You may petition for admission through the regular shopping process.  Many departmental seminars still have openings at the beginning of the semester.  Be sure to show up at the first meeting. It is also a good idea to email the professor in advance of the first class meeting. Final admission will be at the discretion of the instructor.

9. Do I have to write a senior essay?

Yes. All students must write either a 2-semester (required for distinction in the major) or 1-semester senior essay. For details of the essay requirement, see the “Requirements of the Major” available on the history department’s web site.

10. Do Directed Studies courses count towards the History major?

DRST 003a and DRST 003b (Historical and Political Thought) both count towards the History major and the European distribution requirement.  DRST 003a also counts towards the Pre-Industrial requirement.

11.  Do History courses taken for Credit/D/Fail count towards the History major?

Up to two lecture courses taken for Credit/D/Fail may be counted towards the major and may be used to fulfill geographical or pre-industrial distribution requirements.  Please note that taking a course for Credit/D/Fail makes it more difficult to achieve Distinction in the major because a grade of “Credit” counts as a “non-A.”

12.  I am taking a course that covers more than one geographical distribution credit area.  How do I get distribution credit for it? 

See Essie Barros in HQ, room 212 and fill out a green Geographical Distribution Form.  Attach your syllabus and any research papers that you wrote.  As a general rule, if the course material is evenly divided between more than one geographical distribution areas, then the topic of your research paper tips the balance one way or the other.

13.  Can a single course be used to fulfill more than one requirement?

Yes.  A junior seminar on Medieval Europe, for example, can be used to fulfill the departmental seminar requirement, the European history requirement, and the pre-industrial requirement.

14.  I took a course in another department that had a lot of history in it.  Can I count it toward the History Major? 

In general, courses that count toward the History major are (a) courses that originate in the History Department and therefore carry HIST numbers, or (b) courses originating in another department that are double-titled and therefore carry a HIST number.  If a course that originates in another department does not carry a HIST number, it does not automatically count toward the History major.

Students may, however, petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies to count a course from another department toward the History major requirements. The relevant form is available from Essie Barros in HQ 212, as well as online.  Students will need to submit a full syllabus and all written work from the non-departmental course. Final determination will be at the discretion of the DUS.

For questions about courses taken abroad or at other American universities, please see the “Study Abroad FAQ.”

Studying abroad

1.  I am planning to study abroad during my junior year.  Is there anything I need to do to prepare ahead for completing the History major?

Studying abroad can be a wonderful experience for students in all majors, especially History. Students majoring in History who study abroad generally do not have a problem completing the relevant requirements during their semesters at Yale. However, students may want to plan ahead by enrolling in at least one departmental seminar during the sophomore year, or enrolling two departmental seminars during the same on-campus semester during the junior year. Students may also want to pay particular attention to geographic and pre-industrial distributional requirements rather than leave their completion until senior year. Finally, students who study abroad during the spring semester of junior year may want to plan ahead for the senior essay by speaking with possible faculty advisers during the fall semester of junior year.

2. Once I am abroad, how do I select courses that will count towards the History major?

In choosing history courses while you are abroad, please make sure that they are clearly marked as HISTORY courses, and not listed as civilization courses, politics courses, international relations courses, art history courses, etc.  Final determination of credit towards the History major will be made after you return.

3.  How do I receive credit towards the History major after I return to Yale?

You must fill out a pink Course Certification Form in the undergraduate History office, HQ 212, and turn in copies of your transcript, syllabus, and any papers or exams that you wrote. 

4.  How many History courses taken abroad can I count towards the History major?

Up to three courses for students who take a semester abroad, and up to six courses for students who take a full junior year abroad, provided that the courses are approved and credited by the History DUS.

5.  Do grades received in courses taken abroad count in the calculation of Distinction in the History major?

Yes.  The grades you earn abroad will not appear on your Yale transcript (only the course name and the credits earned), but the History Department keeps a copy of your transcript from your Study Abroad university and uses it in determining Distinction in the major.

6.  Because I was abroad during my junior year, I need to take a junior seminar in my senior year to fulfill the requirements.  How can I get in?

It is advisable to pre-register for a departmental seminar while you are abroad.  Declared History majors will be alerted by e-mail about the pre-registration deadlines and procedures.  Seniors who were abroad during their junior year and need another departmental seminar in order to graduate receive priority in admission.  Be sure to let the instructor know that you need the seminar in order to graduate as a History major.