Students leafing through a binder on a bench in the quad

FAQ for History Majors

History, Political Science, and Philosophy

Are you a History major who has questions?

Here are answers to some questions commonly asked by history majors. See also the section on questions asked by non-majors, and never use web-page information to substitute for a good conversation with your advisor.  Your advisor will be happy to meet with you throughout the semester, not just during advising.

What if a class I want is full?

If the class has multiple sections, you can look for an open section of that class that fits into your schedule, and register for that section. If that doesn’t work, you can select a class from the list of alternates you and your advisor have discussed. In some cases the dean or department chair can sign an override--you can always ask. Please see your advisor before you register for any class.

Do not add a class that you and your advisor have not discussed.

What if I want to add a class?

If you and your advisor have discussed taking the class, and the advisor approves, you can add the class. Courses can only be added during the first week of classes. Do not add a class your advisor hasn’t approved.

What if I decide I don't want to take a class for which I've registered?

You should always consult with your advisor before dropping a class. There are several issues; for example, is the course a requirement for your degree that isn’t offered again soon or is it a prerequisite to a course you need? Dropping a class might delay your graduation. You should also be sure that dropping a course will not hurt your financial aid, scholarship eligibility, athletic eligibility, immigration status, or insurance coverage.

What are my chances of graduating in four years?

A full-time student can certainly graduate in four years. You must complete 120 credit hours, so on average, you need to complete 15 hours per semester. You should keep track of your own progress and make sure all your courses will count toward graduation. Work closely with your advisor on that as well as on timing of classes. We do not offer every class every semester, so be aware of course rotations. Finally, if you have changed your major, you may have taken courses that will not count toward your History degree, and that may result in additional semesters. Obviously, dropping or failing a class can delay your graduation.  History students also study another subject, so you and your advisor may need to talk to faculty in that department to make sure you’re on track to complete your minor or cognate.

How can I be sure I am taking my classes in the right order?

  • Freshmen must take AFCI 101 Critical Inquiry during their first semester.
  • Consider taking AFYS 101 The First-Year Seminar. This elective course helps new students succeed in college by helping them develop good study habits, improve note-taking skills, learn how to work with professors, gain strategies for improving test taking skills, and overcome test anxiety.
  • Take your English composition classes (AEGL 101 and 102) right away. These courses develop your writing skills and help you do well on papers and exams in other classes.  You need good writing skills to succeed in history and in life.
  • Take your math and language classes right away before you have time to forget what you learned in high school.
  • During your first year, you should take a World History course (HIST 101 or 102) and a United States History Survey course (HIST 201 or 202). These courses are prerequisite for more advanced courses in the department and are required for graduation.
  • Take the Historian’s Craft (HIST 300) in the spring of your sophomore year. This required course will prepare you to succeed in your more advanced coursework and fulfills one of your writing intensive course requirements.
  • If you want to continue your second language from high school, take those classes right away.  Or, you begin studying a new language. 
  • Take classes to complete your General Education requirements and to help you select a minor or cognate of study. Be sure to take at least one class every semester that really interests you.
  • Once you have completed 60 credits, submit your Writing Proficiency Portfolio.
  • Take the Senior Capstone (HIST 499) in the fall of your senior year.  This course will give you the opportunity to do original research in a topic of your own choosing.  It fulfills another writing intensive course requirement. Students often use their senior capstone papers to successfully apply for jobs or admission to graduate programs in many areas of study.

Do I have to take Writing Intensive courses?

All USC Aiken students who are meeting the requirements of the 2011-2012 or later Bulletin must take three courses designated as Writing Intensive, including one in their major. In addition to Historian’s Craft and the Senior Capstone, the history department offers a number of other Writing Intensive courses.

What math should I take?

First, entering freshmen should take the on-line math placement test. Watch prerequisites carefully. You have several choices of math, statistics or logic classes from which to choose, including the following:

  • Elementary Statistics (STAT 201). This is a helpful class for students interested in careers in history, public relations, political campaigns, non-profit work, and many other careers.  Some students find statistics useful in their own research.
  • Mathematics in Society (MATH 103) or Mathematics for Practical Purposes (MATH 104). These classes emphasize contemporary mathematical thinking and its use in everyday life.
  • Applied College Algebra (MATH 108). Designed to help you learn to think logically, this is the standard college algebra class. It is a prerequisite for more advanced math classes for students pursuing a minor or a cognate in fields involving mathematics.
  • Introduction to Formal Logic (PHIL 110). This class studies deductive reasoning and is an excellent choice for students pursuing a minor in philosophy.

These are just some of the choices. Work with your advisor to select the math courses that best meet your needs.

How do I choose a minor or cognate and what subjects are popular?

You should select a minor or cognate that interests you. History students often minor in education or business, but you can choose any subject that you enjoy.  Your advisor can help you select a minor that will complement your history major and advance your personal and professional goals You don't have to declare your minor to your advisor right away but start thinking about it and exploring your options early. Be sure to talk to professors in the discipline and find out about course rotations and any special requirements for the minor. If you have transferred from another school or department, your advisor can help you choose a minor or cognate that will put you on the quickest path to graduation.

I see that History majors take a capstone course. What is a capstone?

The capstone should bring together all that you have learned in the history classes you have taken. It helps you to evaluate, integrate, and demonstrate what you have learned. In a small seminar, your professor will guide you as you choose and carry out an original research project.  Make sure you choose a topic you find fascinating! Recent student topics have ranged from investigations of South Carolina parents’ historic role in the Brown v. Board Supreme Court case to an exploration of the role newspapers played in development of Scottish nationalism.  Depending on your topic, you will conduct your research in local archives or in online repositories. 

What is the exit interview?

All History majors complete an on-line exit interview before they graduate. We use this to help judge how effective your education here has been.