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Picking a major is a crucial part of college, but most colleges don't always make it clear as to how the process works -- especially for specific majors.

The government major is my major and one of the most popular at Dartmouth (click here for more information!). Generally, during freshman year future government majors will take one of the introductory courses in the fall or winter. Introductory classes include Govt 3: The American Political System, Govt 4: Politics of the World, Govt 5: International Politics, and Govt 6: Political Ideas. Don't worry, government majors don't have to take these classes their freshman year. Though I took Govt 5 my freshman winter, I didn't take my second introductory class, Govt 3, until the fall of my junior year.

After taking either 1 or 2 introductory courses, students will generally move onto the major's prerequisite Govt 10: Quantitative Social Sciences -- which is a statistics class. However, students can also take Econ 10, Psych 10, Math 10, or Sociology 10 for credit as well. Many of the upper level classes require students to understand statistics, while other upper level classes and seminars require statistical analysis (more on this later).

Students often choose to concentrate in one of the major's four subfields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory and Public Law. Students fulfill these concentrations by taking specific upper level courses. Government courses are organized by number. The first number of the upper level course corresponds with the introductory course number. For example, Govt 50-59 all stem from ideas taught in Govt 5. In all, students must take six Government courses in addition to the introductory and prerequisite courses. I generally chose to take government classes in the 40s and 50s including Govt 40.15: Latin American Commodities, Govt 54: US Foreign Policy, and Govt 52: Russian Foreign Policy. However, I’ve also taken Govt 30.11: Policy Implementation, which does not require the Govt 3 intro course and is generally accessible to students outside the Government major as well. (Click here for a listing of classes on the Dartmouth Registrar's site).

In addition to six courses at any level, students are required to take two advanced seminars or pursue the Honors Program. Though they may sound difficult, advanced seminars require students to write a paper that pertains to the courses’ topic. For example, students taking Govt 83.20: Law and Political Institutions write a paper that pertains to US institutions and their functions. Some courses focus on particular argumentative strategies. Professor Lacy's Govt 83.20 requires students to reinforce their argument with statistical data and/or game theory. Other courses may take different approaches. Lastly, students with certain academic qualifications (see website) can enter the Honors Program, which allows students to work with an advisor to complete a thesis. Students take a thesis course in the fall and winter to research and learn information about writing their respective thesis. Students who pursue the Honor Program do not have to take the two advanced seminars but be aware: many students describe writing their thesis as one of the most stressful periods of their Dartmouth careers. I'm not saying don't do it--I would've have if the courses did not conflict with my rowing schedule--but do not think it's at all easy. Still, students generally find the process rewarding, and there are a whole bunch of awards for the best thesis in a particular concentration.

I hope this general overview provides a bit more light on the Government Major. As always, feel free to ask questions on the blog!