Requirements of the Major

The Religious Studies major requires twelve term courses, to include a core of five courses, a junior seminar (RLST 490), a two-term senior essay (see below) and four electives. Religious Studies majors develop specialized areas of expertise as they plan a coherent program in consultation with the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) and other members of the faculty.

Core requirement 
A core of five courses in Religious Studies is required of all majors and should be selected in consultation with the DUS. These courses should originate in the Religious Studies department and carry a RLST subject code. One of the core courses must be an introductory course, numbered 001–199; another must introduce breadth into the student’s core area of study; the remaining three courses must form a cohesive cohort of courses leading students to the area of expertise upon which they write their senior essay.

The four elective courses are designed to complement a student’s area of expertise. Collectively they should form the basis for advanced work in the major conducted during the senior year. These electives can be taken either within or beyond the Department of Religious Studies. They can comprise language study, topics and methods from other disciplines, or further advanced coursework within the department. Through these electives, students develop expertise in methods, regions, historical periods, or bodies of literature that inform their area of study and their work for the senior essay. Students pursuing a double major or an outside certificate may count up to two courses taken for the fulfillment of their other major or certificate toward the elective requirement in Religious Studies.

Senior Requirement

Students must write a senior essay under the supervision of a faculty adviser in the student’s area of concentration. In selecting a senior essay topic, students normally choose a subject on which they have completed coursework before commencing the senior year. The essay counts as two term courses toward the major and is taken in both terms of the senior year. The student should begin choosing a senior essay topic during the second term of the junior year, and early in the first term of the senior year must submit a Statement of Intention approved by a faculty adviser and the DUS. The senior essay courses, RLST 491 and 492, include research and writing assignments as well as colloquia in which seniors present and discuss their research. Students submit at least ten pages of the essay to the DUS by the last day of classes in the first term in order to receive a grade of “satisfactory” for that term.


Students majoring in Religious Studies who plan to do graduate work in the subject are strongly encouraged to study the languages that they will need for their graduate programs.

Courses in the Divinity School Some Divinity School courses may count toward the major, with permission of the DUS. Divinity School faculty are eligible to advise senior essays. Information about courses and faculty may be found in the Divinity School online bulletin.



Number of courses 
12 term courses (incl senior req)

Specific course required 
RLST 490

Distribution of courses
5 core courses to include: 1 intro course, 1 breadth course, 3 core RLST courses; 4 electives, as described and with DUS permission

Substitution permitted
Divinity School courses, with DUS permission

Senior requirement 
Senior essay (RLST 491492)