Frequently Asked Questions

These pages answer most of the "How to" questions that economics majors typically have. If you don't have a question but just want to check Important Dates, or Download Forms, read no further.

If you are not yet a major but are thinking about it, start by familiarizing yourself with the Majors in Economics and the four types of major programs we support.

FAQ Index
Recommended Courses for First-Years How to Declare a Major Tips and Caveats Double Majors, Special Majors, & Psych Stats
Intro Economics Courses w/ AP and Intro Sequence Table Calculus/Mathematics AP Credit & Sequence Table for Economics Majors Business Courses Policy
Important Dates How to Get Credit for Classes Taken Elsewhere Columbia/Barnard Course Equivalents
Honors and Awards in Economics PDF Option and the Major The Grade of D
The Senior Seminar The Senior Thesis Senior Thesis Style
Seminar and Thesis Registration Procedure AP Credit for Intro & Statistics Summer School and Transfer Credit
Study Abroad Major GPA "Linked" electives in the Political Economy track
Statistics and Econometrics for Political Economy track majors Independent Study Economics as a STEM major


Courses Recommended for First-Years

Each semester, the Economics Department offers two courses at the introductory level that are most appropriate for first-year students or for beginners in the department:  Econ BC1003 Introduction to Economic Reasoning, and Econ BC1007 Math Methods for Economics.  Introduction to Economic Reasoning focuses on the institutional foundations of the modern economy and salient policy issues, while Math Methods for Economics provides students with the formal training for more advanced courses.   The recommended sequence is Econ BC1003 followed by Econ BC1007.

Note:  Columbia offers Econ UN1105 Principles of Economics every semester.  We accept this course as a subtitute for our Econ BC1003.

How to Declare a Major

The first step is to decide what major you want to declare. Take a class or two, talk with faculty members, use the information on this web page. Most students declare their major in spring of their sophomore year, but if you follow the advice on this web page you will already have taken a good chunk of the major by that time. Therefore you should feel free to consult any faculty member for advice even before you formally declare.

When you know what you want to do, see the Department Chair during office hours. Bring with you:

  • Major Form (get it from the Registrar, Milbank 107)
  • Major Requirements Declaration form (get it from the department office, 208 LeFrak Center, Barnard Hall)
  • A tentative plan for how you intend to fulfill the major requirements (use the Major Requirements Declaration form). Keep in mind our Tips and Caveats.
  • A tentative preference for who you would like to have as your major advisor. This is someone who will sign your program each semester, not necessarily the same person who will eventually advise your senior thesis.

The Department Chair will discuss your plan with you, assign you an advisor, and sign your Major Form. When you return the Major Form to the Registrar, a process is triggered that makes your transcript and program accessible to your major advisor.

We keep a copy of the Major Form and the Major Requirements Declaration form in the department office, along with any other correspondence that may accumulate concerning your major. Your file is open to your inspection at any time. It is a good idea to check it occasionally to make sure that the information is correct and up to date. One reason to do so is that we calculate major GPA using only the courses listed on your most recently filed Major Requirements

Tips and Caveats

The sequential character of the economics major makes it imperative that students

1. start early,
2. plan carefully, and
3. make continuous progress.

Typical causes of unsatisfactory experience include:

Double majors/combined majors. A double major must be undertaken with considerable advance planning and care as otherwise it can be difficult to fulfill the additional requirements to which they give rise. For many students, it is more appropriate to choose one discipline as a major and the other as a minor.

Premed. No rule prevents you from being both premed and majoring in economics. Indeed, to combine them may be exactly the right choice for you, although whether this is so will depend on your individual career goals and intellectual interests. However, it is important to embark on a joint program with care, and in particular to plan ahead, as it can be difficult to schedule all of the required courses. It can also be difficult to manage two very difficult workloads, and you should therefore be sure that you wish to try this.

Late start. No rule prevents you from starting your economics major late, but it can become very difficult to complete the major requirements before the senior thesis, and performance tends to suffer. Careful planning is essential.

Transfer students face the same challenge as late starters, only more so. If you are transferring in with junior standing and do not have significant economics major credit, you may have to settle for a minor.

Study abroad. Keep in mind that, depending on where you go, you may not be able to take courses that count toward the major. The most success in this respect is with programs in the UK or Australia; lesser success with programs in Spain or France; least success with programs in Latin America. Careful planning is essential.

Excessive internship/job commitment. Being a full-time student is already a full-time job so you should use care in taking on additional responsibilities. Internships can be very rewarding and many of our students benefit immensely from them, but bear in mind that they can consume more of your time and energy than you may have originally thought.

Shopping. No rule prevents you from signing up for more courses than you intend to complete, planning to drop one or more at a later date. The practice does however dilute the energy you can devote to each of your courses, and so also what you get out of them.

Typical strategies for overcoming these negative consequences have their own perils:

Summer school. It can be dangerous to take core courses in summer school since you may not get the preparation you will need for upper level courses. Also, keep in mind that most institutions do not offer upper level courses in their summer programs.

Ignore prerequisites. You may pass the course but you will not learn as much or do as well. There is a pedagogical reason for the sequential character of the major; it's not just bureaucracy.

Course overload. You may be able to handle four or even five economics courses at the same time, in the minimal sense that you do not fail any of them, but you will not learn as much or do as well. There is a pedagogical reason for the sequential character of the major; it's not just bureaucracy.

Double Majors

Most students are best served by choosing a single major, perhaps in combination with a minor. Nevertheless, in exceptional cases students may elect one of the following options.

Double Major. A double major is simply two majors. This means that you fulfill all of the distinct requirements of both majors including, if the departments require it, two Senior Theses. This may not be easy to do, especially in economics (because of the need to take courses in a specific sequence in order to complete all of the requirements). Prospective employers and graduate schools are generally less likely to be impressed by a double major than by the quality of a student's work in the specific courses she has taken.

Double Major with Single Senior Thesis. This option may be more workable than the Double Major insofar as one thesis is presumably easier to write than two. However, it can be harder to write a thesis that integrates two disciplines than it is to write one within a single discipline. It also can be harder to write a thesis with two advisors, each of whom can be depended upon to apply criteria of evaluation from their own discipline. Nevertheless, this option may make sense for you, but please note our policy on registering:  Economics majors with a double major: comibined thesis, where the counterpart department offers only a 1-semester senior thesis (such as Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures), must register in the Economics Department with a co-adviser from the other department.  If the courterpart department offers a 2-semester senior thesis, students could choose to register in either department but should have advisers from both departments.  If you decide to pursue it, realistic expectations of the heavier workload involved, and advance planning concerning your thesis topic and choice of advisors is essential. A first step is to get the appropriate form from the Registrar and seek the advice and consent of the respective Department Chairs.

Psychology Major or Minor:  The Psychology major and minor requires Psych BC1101 Statistics.  If you are a Psych major or minor and also want to major in economics (econ track) you will find that Barnard does not allow you to double-count courses from both deparments. Since the economics department considers Psych BC1101 to be equivalent to our Econ BC2411 Statistics for Economics, however, we consider you to have satified this major requirement for our department.  But in order to maintain the same total number of courses for the economics track major, you simply must take an additional lower or upper-level economics elective.

Special Major. This option involves creating your own major from among the courses offered through the university as a whole. However, usually special majors synthesize two or more existing majors, and so involve taking the core of more than one major, which are often more courses than students expect. There can also be significant extra paperwork arising from the fact that special majors are ultimately overseen by the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing, and not by any individual department. If you think this option may nevertheless make sense for you, begin by writing a rationale for your proposed major and a list of proposed courses. Acquire the appropriate form from the Registrar and seek the advice of the appropriate Department Chairs.

Economics as a STEM major

The Economics major is now classified as STEM.  This applies to both tracks of the major, although if you are following the Poliltical Economy track, you should plan to take Statistics for Economics (Econ BC2411 or its equivalent).

Intro Economics courses and how they affect you

We offer 2 introductory courses:

Econ BC1003, entitled “Introduction to Economic Reasoning," introduces students to fundamental economic issues, concepts, and institutions in a non-technical way, and explore the economy in relation to the broader society. This will be ideal for non-majors and also as a first course for potential majors.

Econ BC1007, entitled “Mathematical Methods for Economics," focuses on preparation for intermediate courses, especially Intermediate Microeconomics, and is intended primarily for those students who are seriously considering majoring in Economics, in either our economics track or our political economy track.

Students who enter Barnard College with AP in economics or who are transferring in an introductory economics course from another college or university often have questions about which of the above courses they should take to be adequately prepared for our intermediate theory courses. To give you a clearer understanding we have constructed the following table.

Our policy for AP Credit is:  If a student has an AP score in Macro and/or Micro of 4 or 5, she will get 3 points of credit.  Students are not exempt from Econ BC1003 due to AP credit.  Furthermore,  if she majors in Economics, she still would have to take Intro to Economic Reasoning, Econ BC 1003.   

Also, AP Statistics with a score of 5 will receive 3 points Barnard College credit, but NOT major credit.

AP and Intro Credit Table

AP Credit AP Points 1st economics course to take at Barnard/Columbia Math prerequistes for Intermediate Micro Theory Econ BC3035 *
lf student has AP score in Macro and/or Micro of 4 or 5  3 points Econ BC1003 or Econ UN1105 Econ BC1007 or 1 sem Calculus
Otherwise none Econ BC1003 or Econ UN1105 Econ BC1007 or 1 sem Calculus
Intro Credit Transfer points 1st economics course to take at Barnard/Columbia Math prerequistes for Intermediate Micro Theory Econ BC3035 *
Intro Macro previously taken 3 Econ BC3033 Econ BC1007 or 1 sem Calculus or permission of the instructor
Intro Micro previously taken 3 Econ BC3033 or

Econ BC3035 (if math prerequisite satisfied)
Econ BC1007 or 1 sem Calculus or permission of the instructor

* There are no mathematics prerequisites for Intermediate Macro Theory, Econ BC3033.

Also, AP Statistics with a score of 5 will receive 3 points Barnard College credit, but NOT major credit.

Calculus/ Mathematics sequence table for Economics Track majors

AP Credit Points 1 st math course 2 nd math course (if needed)
none none Calculus I or Econ BC1007 (students may take both) Calculus III (optional for those who have taken Econ BC1007)
Calc AB or BC with score of 3 none Calculus I or Econ BC1007 (students may take both) Calculus III (optional for those who have taken Econ BC1007)
Calc AB with score of 4 or 5 3 Calculus III or Econ BC1007 (students may take both)  
Calc BC with score of 4 3 Calculus III or Econ BC1007 (students may take both)  
Calc BC with score of 5 4 Calculus III or Econ BC1007 (students may take both)  

Business Courses Policy

1. Courses in Business approved for degree credit

Students may receive degree credit for one approved course in accounting and finance for college credit.  Approved courses are:

IEOR E2261 Introduction to Accounting and Finance

BUSI UN3013 Financial Accounting

Or equivalent, to be approved by the chair of the Economics Dept.

Also, students may receive degree credit for up to two courses in business (BUSI UNxxxx) or from the Graduate School of Business (such as MRKT Bxxxx, FINC Bxxxx, etc.) in addition to a course in accounting and finance, subject to availability.

**None of these courses satisfies elective course requirements for the major in economics.**

Courses in Accounting and Finance, courses with BUSI designation, and courses taken in the Graduate School of Business (such as MRKT Bxxxx, FINC Bxxxx, etc.) are subject to the 18-point cap on “non-liberal arts” courses.

2. Guidelines for approval of transfer and summer school credits

Students may receive credit for only one introductory course in accounting, or accounting and finance, whether it is taken at this institution or transferred from another institution, subject to the 18-point cap on “non-liberal arts” school courses.

Students may receive transfer or summer school credit for business courses, other than courses in accounting and accounting and finance, subject to the 18-point cap on “non-liberal arts” courses and the 2-course overall cap on business school courses taken at this institution or transferred from another institution.

Courses in finance are exempt from the above restrictions on transfer or summer school credit for business school courses ONLY IF the subject matter of the course makes it an equivalent to ECON UN3025 Economics of Finance or ECON GU4280 Corporate Finance. Such courses are neither subject to the 18-point “non-liberal arts” cap nor to the 2-course business school course cap.

3. Course equivalence

Students may receive credit for only one of the following courses: ENGI E2261, BUSI UN3013, BUSI K4009, or other equivalent.

Students may receive credit for only one of the following: ECON UN3025, BUSI K4001. (BUSI K4001 does not satisfy elective course requirements for the economics major)

Students may receive credit for only one of the following: ECON GU4280, BUSI K4003. (BUSI K4003 does not satisfy elective course requirements for the economics major)

Important Dates



How to Get Credit for Classes Taken Elsewhere

Keep in mind the distinction between college credit (toward the 122 point requirement for graduation) and major credit (toward the specific course requirements for the major). College credit is awarded by the Registrar, subject to approval of the relevant department chair, using the Registrar's forms. Major credit is awarded by the department chair only, using the Major Requirements Declaration form.

In general, we believe that our curriculum offers the best education in economics available anywhere. That means that when you ask for credit for courses taken elsewhere we look at those courses to see if they resemble some dimension of our program. If yes, then credit. If no, then no credit. It's that simple.

Here are tips about the three most commonly requested forms of credit:

AP Credit
Summer School and Transfer Credit
Study Abroad

There are some restrictions on Business, Accounting, and Accounting and Finance courses.

In addition to the departmental quality cap, all approvals are also subject to quantity caps imposed by the college:

No more than 16 points of summer school credit count toward your degree.
No fewer than 6 courses in the major while in residence at Barnard.
No fewer than 3 courses in the minor while in residence at Barnard.

To avoid frustration, not to mention waste of time and money, you should plan ahead and get courses pre-approved.

Columbia/Barnard Course Equivalents

The Barnard Economics Department accepts all Columbia College Economics courses for credit toward the Economics major requirements. You cannot, however, take both the Barnard and Columbia versions of equivalent courses for credit.

The following courses are equivalent: you will receive credit for only one course in each category. For example, you may not take both ECON BC3029 and ECON W4321 for credit since these two courses cover the same material. This list is not exhaustive. Consult the Economics Department Chair about any other pair of courses whose subject matter appears to overlap.

Barnard Course Title Columbia Equivalent Title
ECON BC1003 Introduction to Economic Reasoning ECON UN1105 Principles of Economics
ECON BC3013 Economic History of the U.S. ECON GU4311 Economic History of the U.S.
ECON BC3018 Econometrics ECON UN3412 Introduction to Econometrics
ECON BC3019 Labor Economics ECON GU4400 Labor Economics
ECON BC3029 Development Economics ECON GU4321 Economic Development
ECON BC3033 Intermediate Macro Theory ECON UN3213 Intermediate Macroeconomics
ECON BC3035 Intermediate Micro Theory ECON UN3211 Intermediate Microeconomics
ECON BC2411 Statistics for Economics PSYC BC1101
STAT UN1101*
STAT UN1201**
BUSI G6014
Introduction to Statistics
Introduction to Statistics B
Managerial Statistics
ECON UN3025 Financial Economics BUSI K4001*** Introduction to Finance
ECON BC3039 Natural Resource and Environmental Economics ECON GU4625 Economics of the Environment
ECON BC3047 International Trade ECON GU4500 International Trade

* formerly STAT W1111
** formerly STAT W1211
*** Neither BUSI K4001 nor BUSI K4003 satisfy the elective course requirements for the economics major.

Awards in Economics

Alena Wels Hirschorn Prize is awarded in two parts.

The 1st is to the junior student judged by the economic faculty to have written the best essay on the subject of domestic or international economics. The paper need not have been written during the junior year or at Barnard.

The 2nd is to the best senior thesis as determined by the economics faculty

Katharine Provost Memorial Prize is awarded for superior work by an undergraduate major in economics.

Beth Niemi Memorial Prize is awarded to an outstanding senior majoring in Economics.

Sylvia Kopald Selekman Prize is awarded to the first-year student doing the best work in introductory economics.

Economics majors are also eligible for other College-wide prizes and scholarships. Consult the Honors section of the Barnard College Catalogue for more details. The Department is responsible for nominating its majors for these prizes and scholarships. If you have any questions, ask your major advisor or the department chair

Department Honors in Economics

Nomination for College departmental honors requires a Major GPA of at least 3.50 or Distinction in the Senior Requirement. Because the department may nominate no more than 20% of graduating seniors for honors, a higher major GPA (>3.65) is typically required in practice.

Distinction in the Senior Requirement is awarded to majors who earn an A or A+ on the thesis or an A or A+ on both the senior seminar and an upper-level elective.

Can I take courses used for the major P/D/F?

As College policy, courses taken as P/D/F may not count toward the major, althoug if you have already received a "P" on a required course for the major, it may be removed to reveal the letter grade, but only just before graduation .

What happens if I receive a D in a course used for the major?

The following quote is from the Barnard Catalogue and is College policy.

"Courses in which the student receives the grade of D may not be counted toward the major requirement or the minor option. Required courses graded D that must be retaken for a higher grade to satisfy requirements for the major or minor will not receive degree credit when repeated. Both enrollments and grades appear on the transcript."

This applies to all required courses for the major, including Calculus or the new Math Methods course if you need them for for your major.

If you receive a D in an elective course used for the major, you may retake the course (with no credit as stated above) or you may substitute another elective that meets the requirement for the major. --Make sure you update your Major Requirements Declaration form with your major adviser.

What is a Senior Seminar?

The Department offers a range of senior seminars, representing the diversity of subject matter and methodological approach in modern economics. Topics are announced during spring Planning Period for the coming academic year, and students are encouraged to express their preferences (using our Senior Requirement Preference Form) in a timely manner since enrollment is limited to 15.

Seminars meet once a week for two hours. The emphasis is on student presentation and discussion of classic and current articles in economics. The required work will be a major research paper of 20-25 pages, written with revisions over the semester. Your grade will be based on the quality of the research paper and your participation in seminar discussions.

Senior Thesis

Options for fulfilling the Senior Requirement

What is a Senior Thesis?

Almost all students who have written theses are glad that they did. Why so? There are as many reasons as there are students but some patterns have emerged over the years. Almost all thesis writers gain a sense of intellectual mastery, both of a particular subject area and of a set of methodological tools. More important, almost all students gain increased comfort with the research process, which often involves moving ahead in the dark, trusting that the pieces will eventually fall into place and make sense. Most important, students quite typically learn as much about themselves and their capabilities as they do about economics, about their strengths as well as their weaknesses, about how to make maximal use of the former while compensating adequately for the latter. Thesis students learn how to work independently, how to organize a sizeable project, and how to bring it to successful completion.

The starting point for a successful Senior Thesis is choosing an interesting and answerable research question. Your adviser's help in formulating a good question is essential, so you should try to identify potential advisers early on and obtain their permission, as early as Program Planning Period at the end of your Junior year. (See You and Your Thesis Advisor.)

The relative importance of different aspects of the Senior Thesis varies with the question examined. In general, however, the process involves the following steps:

Acquaint yourself with the relevant theoretical and applied literature (see Research Resources);

Criticize and synthesize a representative sample of that literature;

Collect and analyze relevant data that help to answer your question;

Develop theoretical or econometric models that help to answer your question;

Prepare and deliver an oral presentation of your work;

Present the results of your research in a clear, well-organized paper that includes a bibliography and accurate citation of sources (see Senior Thesis Style).


The Nitty Gritty

To write a thesis you sign up for ECON BC3061 and then ECON B3062, Senior Thesis, two full courses carrying 8 points of credit altogether. Most students do BC3061 in the fall and BC3062 in the spring, but it is also possible to proceed off sequence.  Economics majors with a double major: comibined thesis, where the counterpart department offers only a 1-semester senior thesis, must register in the Economics Department with a co-adviser from the other department.  

ECON BC3061 requires an oral presentation of your work and a first semester paper. The paper is typically the first chapter of your thesis, but it may also be a detailed description of your research plan, or some other written work acceptable to your adviser. Deadline for submission of the paper is the last day of classes.

ECON BC3062 requires an oral presentation of your work and submission of the final thesis (two copies), including citations and bibliography, conforming to approved Senior Thesis Style. Deadline for submission of the thesis is two weeks before the last day of classes.

Failure to meet these deadlines in a timely manner has consequences similar to those in other courses. Keep in mind however that, since the thesis comes at the end of your education here, failure to complete it on time will prevent timely graduation. We don't want that to happen any more than you do, so we urge you to plan your time accordingly.

Your essay adviser is also responsible for submitting your course grade.

Grades of A and A+, which carry the honor of Distinction, must be confirmed by a second faculty reader selected by your adviser. The grade of Incomplete must also be so confirmed.


You and Your Thesis Adviser

Typically, the adviser is not an expert in the specific area of your research. It's better to think of the adviser as an expert in the research process. Think of your advisor as the academic equivalent of an athletic coach. He or she cannot run the race for you but can help you run the race just as fast as you are able, which is most likely faster than you think yourself capable.

Your adviser will meet with you throughout the year on a weekly basis at times arranged for your mutual convenience. If you find yourself stuck, making no progress, don't hide but rather let your adviser know. Here are some concrete things your adviser can help you with:

- selecting a well-defined question for your research project;
- formulating a conceptual framework;
- explaining technical problems you encounter in your reading;
- suggesting bibliographical sources and strategies;
- commenting on your drafts as part of the process of revision.

Regular meeting with your adviser is not optional. It is a required integral part of the course. Only through regular conferences with your adviser will you know if your Senior Thesis is meeting department expectations. Your adviser is your most useful resource in finishing a Senior Thesis.

Senior Thesis Style

The Department follows the style guidelines described in Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Third Edition (New York: Modern Language Assocation of American, 1988). Some issues to keep in mind:

Footnotes and endnotes should be avoided, except where you must make a long digression from the main line of your argument.

Tables should be given sequential numbers for easy reference. Each table should have a title that describes the substance of the data contained in it. Cite sources of the table at the bottom of each table.

Figures (including graphs) should be given sequential numbers for easy reference. Each Figure should have a caption that describes it in detail for the reader's convenience. Choose the appropriate type of graph for the data you have. For example, use pie charts to represent proportions, and line graphs to show time trends.

Bibliographical style. Here are some examples of correct usage:

Dobb, Maurice. 1973. Theories of value and distribution since Adam Smith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Solow, Robert M. 1988. "Growth theory and after." American Economic Review 78.3 (June): 307-318.

Kohn, Meir and Sho-chieh Tsiang, ed. 1988. Finance constraints, expectations, and macroeconomics. Oxford: Clarendon.

Hicks, John. 1988. "Toward a more general theory." In Kohn and Tsiang, ed. 1988, 6-14.

In-line citation style. Here are some examples of correct usage:

As John Hicks has pointed out (1988, 6)....

"Why did Keynes think he could get by, considering no more than the flow account of the industrial sector, and no more that the stock account of the financial?" (Hicks 1988, 7)

Research Resources

1. Libraries

Columbia University has a very large and diverse holding of books and periodical. These holdings can be found in several associated libraries around the campus, including but not limited to:

International Affairs
Watson (Business School), best overall economics collection
East Asian

2. Electronic Data Service


Plagiarism is the use of other people's work without proper acknowledgment. No plagiarism is acceptable.

The main reason we are so intolerant of plagiarism is that it undermines the basis of scholarship. Partly this is a matter of giving credit where it is due to other authors, but it is also about giving credit where it is due to you as author. The point of good citation practice is to direct the reader's attention to where you have advanced the argument. That's where the reader wants to focus, and it is where you want her to focus as well. Good citation habits help you to keep clear in your own mind about where you are advancing the argument.

Blatant plagiarism involves the copying or extensive use of a source without citing or acknowledging it.

A more subtle form of plagiarism is footnoted paraphrase. In this case the student cites the source, but fails to indicate that a paragraph or passage is a quotation or extended paraphrase of the source. If you are quoting, you must indicate so by using quotation marks. If you are paraphrasing, you must indicate so either by specific wording in the text (for example, "Smith describes this process in the following terms...") or by appropriate citation ("This paragraph paraphrases Smith pp. 167-9").

Help from other people, both source and extent of help, must be acknowledged in an acknowledgments section at the beginning of your paper. If you are in any doubt about whether the extent of help compromises your claim to authorship, consult your adviser or instructor at an early stage. In general your adviser or instructor should be aware of any help you are receiving from other faculty members, fellow-students, friends, parents, or outside experts.

If you intend to combine your Senior Thesis or Senior Seminar work with work on a paper for another course, you must inform both instructors. If you plan to base your Senior Thesis or Senior Seminar paper on a paper you have written for another course, you must also inform your instructor.

Tips for Senior Thesis Writers

Go for Depth, Not Breadth

You don't need a sprawling topic in order to produce 60-80 pages! Entire books have been written that were originally conceived only as single chapters in a larger project. Think of your thesis as a single chapter in your larger intellectual (and life) agenda.

Digging is Honest Labor

Depth requires engagement with primary materials, and there is really no way of getting primary materials except to do it yourself. A lot of the material you gather won't turn out to be useful, but you can have no idea until you have dug it out. Digging is not a waste of time even if a lot of what you discover has already been discovered by others.

A Problem Worthy of Attack Proves its Worth by Hitting Back

Materials do not speak for themselves. Your must have questions and hypotheses to organize your inquiry. The material will then fight back, forcing you to change your question, refocus your inquiry, abandon one theory and pick up another. This is how people actually do science, though often it is hard to see the rough process underneath the slick final product.

Writing is Thinking

Write first for yourself (and your adviser), little memos, drafts, reactions to what you are reading, letters (unsent!) to the authors you are reading, mini book reports. It's all work product, and it's all good, even though it is not part of the final product. Your first job is to figure out what you think.

Knowledge is for Sharing

Sharing with others is different from figuring out what you think yourself. Your reader is not naturally interested, so it is up to you to make her interested. Sometimes it is helpful to have a particular ideal reader in mind. Better yet, think of two different readers, one friendly and one skeptical, both of whom you need to convince.

Research is a Life Skill

All of the above directives are just as useful for living as they are for writing a thesis. Someday you are going to want to buy a house. When you do, you had better begin by educating yourself, and not just passively accepting what the broker tells you. Once you know what you want to do, you are going to have to persuade your spouse, your parents, your banker. The same goes for other life decisions, like getting married,or choosing a career.

Work More, Fret Less

Writing a thesis is an emotional as well as an intellectual challenge. Frustration, anxiety, and stress are part of it, but so are excitement, engagement and concentrated focus.  Learning to deal with these is part of what you will get out of the process. People are different, but the most successful are those who find a way to channel their emotions into their work, to use their emotional energy to help them work rather than letting it get in their way. Commit, engage, and let yourself get swept up in the process, and you'll be okay. Better than okay, you'll wind up producing something better that you ever imagined possible.

Economics senior seminar and thesis registration procedure:

Updated senior requirement preference forms for the next academic year are usually available by the week after Spring Break in March.  Rising seniors must submit the completed form to Robert O'Connor in the department office either in person or via email starting on that date.  Seminar and thesis sectioning will then begin, although we will continue to accept applications and changes in preferences right up to the 1st day of classes in September. Earlier applications will take precedence over later applications, so obviously we encourage you to submit your applications as soon as you can.  [Students wishing to write a two-semester senior thesis and who want to graduate a semester early must start in the fall semester of their junior year, to finish in the spring semester when they will have senior standing. They should discuss this possibility with their advisers at the earliest opportunity. ]

In the meanwhile, students should pre-register for the seminar or thesis section they wish to enter.   Students can then change sections during the fall program filing period in September if they cannot get into their 1st-choice seminar or thesis section. !!!  Major advisers must pay particular attention to advisees registering in seminars or thesis sections during the September program filing period to ensure they follow the sectioning lists which will have been posted on the dept office door and emailed to faculty and rising seniors during the summer, probably in August.

Download Forms

AP Credit


Intro courses Econ BC1003, BC1007 with AP/intro sequence table

AP and Calculus/ Mathematics sequence table for Economics Track majors

Also, AP Statistics with a score of 5 will receive 3 points Barnard College credit, but NOT major credit.

Summer School and Transfer Credit

Summer school and transfer courses from other institutions are routinely approved for Barnard credit if :

the school is reputable. Distance learning is not reputable.

the course is equivalent to one offered at Barnard or Columbia.

the session is 5 weeks or longer.

the course is not a lower-level course in a subject you have already taken at a higher level.

the course does not duplicate a course already taken.

If your courses meet these criteria, you can leave your pre-approval form, along with supporting documentation, in the Department Office to be signed by the Chair and returned to you. There are some restrictions if the courses are business, accounting, or accounting and finance.

If your courses do not meet this criteria, you will need to see the Department Chair in person. Be prepared to explain why your case merits exceptional treatment.

Study Abroad

Study Leave arrangements are coordinated using the forms available from the Dean of Studies Office. Department Chair approval is required iin order to receive credit for any economics course.

Keep in mind that, depending on where you go, you may not be able to take courses that count toward the major. The most success in this respect has been with programs in the UK or Australia; lesser success with programs in Spain or France; least success with programs in Latin America.

Keep in mind that the decision to study abroad during your junior year may interfere with your ability to construct a thematic focus. Consider taking only one semester away, possibly in your sophomore rather than junior year.

Major GPA

Your Major GPA is the point-weighted average of your grades in all courses listed on your Major Requirements Declaration Form, including Barnard, Columbia, and transfer credit courses.

For Example, consider the following partial transcript for a hypothetical student:

Course Title points Grade
Econ BC3033 Intermediate Macro Theory 4 B+
Econ BC3035 Intermediate Micro theory 4 B
Econ BC2411 Statistics for Economics 4 C+
Econ BC3047 International Trade 3 A
Econ BC3019 Labor Economics 3 A

Then, using the formula (points x grade) + (points x grade) + .... = X . Then divide X by the total number of points and you get the major GPA.

In our case above, it's (4 x 3.3) + (4 x 3) + (4 x 2.3) + (3 x 4) + (3 x 4) = 58.40. Then divide 58.40 by the 18 total points and you get a major GPA of 3.24, or slightly below a B+ average in the major.

Statistics and Econometrics for Political Economy track majors

Political Economy track majors can use Econ BC2411 Statistics for Economics (or Stat UN1101, Stat UN1201, or Psyc BC1101)  as either a) an open interdisciplinary elective or b) an open economics elective.  They can also count Econ BC3018 Econometrics (or the equivalent Columbia course) as an upper-level economics elective.  However, if they want to count both courses for the major, Econ BC2411 must be used as an open interdisciplinary elective. [NOTE: Starting for the class of 2021 and later, Econ BC2411 is a required course, replacing one of the open interdisciplinary electives. Other introductory statistic courses such as Stat UN1101, Stat UN1201, or Psyc BC1101 are acceptable alternative to Econ BC2411 ]

Econ BC3099 Independent Study

In order for Independent Study to be accepted as an upper or lower-level elective that satisfies an economics major requirement, it must be

  • Petitioned and approved prior to ghe beginning of the semester
  • At least 3 credits and be equivalent in amount and difficulty of work to a course of similar number of credits
  • Approved by the instructor (or faculty sponsor), the major adviser, and the department chair --a minimum of 3 department members

Independent studies of 1 or 2 points require only the approval of the deparment chair and a faculty sponsor.  As examples, these may be used for an academic paper written in conjunction with an internship, or for assistance in a faculty research project.  

The Registrar will assign an Econ BC3099 section and call number unique to the faculty sponsor.  You can download the approval form here.