General education

The general education portion of your degree will be structured to a significant extent by the Areas of Knowledge, which consist of three broad areas of study: Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA), Individuals and Societies (I&S), and Natural World (NW).

In addition, you must also complete coursework in these areas: English Composition, Additional Writing, Quantitative & Symbolic Reasoning, and Diversity. Some colleges also require a foreign language.

What is General Education?

General Education requirements represent the foundation of a UW education and will support the advanced learning students will do the rest of their life. The objective is to introduce students to many new ideas, rather than training them in one specific subject, so that they are in a position to create linkages across a wide expanse of different topics and disciplines. Areas of Knowledge are meant to allow students to embrace the exploration of new ideas and work diligently to make connections, especially where none seem to exist.

Basic Skills

English Composition (C)

English Composition courses emphasize how to organize and express your ideas effectively. In composition courses, you will refine your skills by rewriting your papers after receiving feedback on them. 

Learn more about your options for fulfilling your English Composition requirement.

Writing (W)

This is in addition to the 5-credit English composition requirement, you will need to complete additional Writing credits. Writing courses can be found across disciplines and must require 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, in the form of a longer paper plus a revision or two or more short papers.

Learn more about your options for fulfilling your Writing Requirement.

Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning (QSR)

Courses that satisfy this requirement focus on mathematics and statistics, or on formal and symbolic argument. These methods will enhance your ability to assess the relationship between ideas and judge information more critically.

Learn more about your options for fulfilling your QSR requirement.

Foreign Language

Some schools and colleges require foreign language instruction beyond what is needed to be admitted to the University. If you are a native speaker of a language other than English, or if you had three years of a single foreign language in high school, you already meet this requirement. Otherwise, you must complete the third college quarter of a foreign language with a grade of at least 2.0, take a placement test that places you into the fourth college quarter of that language, or pass a language proficiency test.

Learn more about how you can meet the Foreign Language requirement.

Diversity (DIV)

Courses that meet the Diversity requirement focus on the sociocultural, political, and/or economic diversity of the human experience at local, regional, or global levels. This requirement is intended to help you develop an understanding of the complexities of living in increasingly diverse and interconnected societies. 

Learn more about your options for fulfilling your Diversity requirement.

Areas of Knowledge (AoK)

The number of credits of AoK required by each college of the UW varies and some courses may count towards more than one AoK.

Visual, Literary & Performing Arts (VLPA)

VLPA courses focus on questions of meaning and value in human life, as well as the effective expression of human experience. The term "art" is used here in a very broad sense and suggests practices and crafts of all kinds rather than simply Western studio traditions.

Learn more about counting first-year foreign language as a VLPA.

Individuals & Societies (I&S) 

I&S courses focus on the experimental study of human behavior both individually and socially. This includes the history, development, and dynamics of human behavior, as well as social and cultural institutions.

Natural World (NW)

NW courses focus on the experimental study of the physical world.


Find classes based on General Education Requirements

Use the General Education Requirements tool on MyPlan to find classes that meet the I&S, DIV, NW, etc requirement. 

Requirements By College and School

Each UW school and college interprets the General Education requirements somewhat differently. See the requirements for General Education page to learn more.