The New College Academic Program

Academics at New College are designed to promote depth in thinking, free exchange of ideas, and highly individualized interaction with faculty. Throughout the history of New College, four principles have defined the college's educational philosophy:

  • Each student is responsible in the last analysis for his or her own education.
  • The best education demands a joint search for learning by exciting teachers and able students.
  • Students’ progress should be based on demonstrated competence and real mastery rather than on the accumulation of credits and grades.
  • Students should have from the outset, opportunities to explore, in depth, areas of interest to them.

Getting started

At New Student Orientation you meet with a faculty member who serves as your academic advisor during orientation, helping you plan for your first academic contract. A contract lists your goals and educational activities (courses and tutorials) for a semester. It sets forth criteria the contract sponsor will use to evaluate you.  You undertake two contracts per year, one in fall semester and one in spring semester.

Success! Your first contract is "certified"

The professor for each educational activity listed in your contract prepares a narrative evaluation of your performance.  You and your contract sponsor review these evaluations and, based upon your overall performance in relation the criteria, your sponsor certifies that you have satisfactorily completed the contract.  You use your evaluations and discussions with your sponsor help with short- and long-term academic planning.

January Interim – Independent Study Project

During your first contract you consider ideas for the first of three, month-long independent study projects (ISP) you will undertake each January. 

Second year

At New College you pursue a mix of courses reflecting your interests, input from your contract sponsor, requirements that you have breadth in your education, possible career goals, and other factors.  As particular interests deepen, you begin to include tutorials and independent reading projects in your contracts.  Often these expand upon issues and topics you first explored in courses and laboratories.  You might do a contract off campus.  Your second ISP might take you off campus to do research, and it may well be related to the field(s) you are considering for your area of concentration.

Third year

In your third year, you declare your area of concentration (AOC).  Your contracts will focus more on advanced work through courses, labs, and tutorials.  Your ISP, on campus or off, will be related to your AOC.  If you decide to study off campus for a semester or for January Interterm, the activities you pursue will be influenced by the requirements of your AOC. 


Summers, New College is in recess. Faculty prepare new courses and pursue their own programs of research and scholarship. Often, NCF students are paid summer research assistants or participate in programs at national laboratories. 

Fourth year

Novocollegians call it “Thesis Year.”  Along with courses and tutorials, you’ll be doing your senior thesis, a substantial, original project in your AOC.  You may have a grant from the faculty to defray costs your research or creative project entails, and/or to present your research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. You use January Interterm to work on your thesis. 


Thesis completed, you sit for a baccalaureate exam, an oral examination based upon your thesis, AOC and your overall career at New College.  The exam is conducted by your thesis committee and is open to the College community.  After you’ve passed your “bacc,” and completed your final contract, the faculty votes your graduation.  Commencement occurs in late May. 

Help along the way

In addition to the faculty, there are many people and programs to help you fulfill your goals.  The professionally staffed Counseling and Wellness Center provides individual and group counseling and therapy; help in crisis situations; help with immediate academic, personal or interpersonal concerns; assistance with personal growth and self exploration; basic medical services, and referral to appropriate resources as needed, whether on or off campus. The Writing Resource Center can help you become a self-sufficient writer.  The Division of Student Affairs  provides many services, including housing and activities that can expand your education beyond classrooms, laboratories, and studios.  New College Student Alliance, the student government, represents you on faculty committees and at faculty meeting, and manages student fees to enrich campus life.  Career Services and Off-Campus Study provides professional career guidance, helping you explore the career world and link your studies to post-graduate educational and professional aspirations.  Career Services maintains a library of resources for both domestic and international study away from campus.



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