Becoming an IS major

Students must apply and be accepted into the IS Program in order to become an IS major. 


  • The application will ask you to choose one of our four concentrations; to list your primary thematic and/or geographic interests, and the languages you speak and/or intend to study; and to write two short essays, one about an urgent global issue and one about why you want to be an IS major.  This document lists the questions on the application form, to help you prepare your responses. 


  • BC students who wish to become IS majors should submit an application on February 1 of their freshman year. Those who are not immediately accepted my be placed on a small wait list, in the event that spaces open up in the summer before sophomore year. 

  • Transfer students who are rising sophomores should contact the IS Program as soon as you are accepted to BC, and complete the same application as the BC students. On average each year we accept two or three transfer students into our program out of 105 total new majors.

  • Late applications may be accepted at the discretion of the director and associate director, when space allows. Please submit your late application using the regular form, but let us know (via that you've filed a late application. Please note that it is rare for new majors to be accepted after the first week of their sophomore year.

[Click to download slides from the October 2023 info session]

Preparing to apply 

The most important thing is for you to get to know the IS Program -- its academic opportunities and requirements as well as some of the students and faculty in the program. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • Take a thorough tour of our web site, especially the Major requirements page
  • Join us for one of our information sessions held for freshmen in October, December, and January. (Notices are sent to all freshmen in October.) At these sessions we typically review some version of this slide presentation, which has information that is also reflected on our web site.
  • Watch a recording of the January 2023 info session, which featured the ISP director and associate director and several of our peer advisors.
  • Sign up for our weekly newsletter for up-to-date information each year. (We'll also email the entire freshmen class in early October with information.)
  • Reach out to one of our Peer Advisors to talk about your interests and what the IS Program offers.
  • Interested students can also review the IS Major Course Plan to get a sense of the academic curriculum they would need to fit into their time at BC.

What can I do to increase my chances of being accepted into the major?

The responses you give on your IS major application are the most important factor we use to admit students into the major, but your grades and the courses taken your first semester play a role as well. To prepare for your application, we encourage students to read about the IS major requirements and talk with current IS majors -- you might consider starting with our Peer Advisors, or with members of the International Studies Student Association. Be sure you understand the major’s requirements for coursework and language proficiency.

We encourage freshmen to enroll in a first-semester class or two that takes up international issues and/or is taught by an IS faculty member. Your application will ask you to list a faculty member who can give you a reference, so we encourage you to get to know a faculty member, rather than simply list the professor who gave you the best grade of the semester. There are no specific courses you need to have taken to apply for the IS major, but there are some introductory courses you will need to complete it that also count for the University Core requirements, and others that will give you a good foundation for our program. Some examples of courses we recommend for first-year students:

  • A full year of language study 
  • A comparative politics course in the political science department (this will count toward your IS major);
  • Principles of Economics (this will count toward your IS major);
  • An interdisciplinary "Complex Problems" or "Enduring Questions" course in the BC Core that has a strong international dimension; some Fall 2020 examples include "Geographies of Imperialism"; "Planet in Peril"; "Violence and Representation in the African Diaspora"; "Beyond Price: Markets, Cultures, Values"; "Making the Modern World"; "Environmental Migrations."
  • Other courses that inspire you!

Remember that the IS major is just one part of your university experience; we understand that your first semester may not put primary focus on IS-related courses, but taking some of the above will help you determine if you are interested in these topics and if you're ready to flourish in the rigorous academic program we offer. 

Becoming an IS minor

The IS minor is open to all BC undergraduates who submit an acceptable course of study, ideally by October of their Junior year, before the last day of drop/add.

Our minors must earn 18 credits from six courses (including two foundations courses and four electives in one of four concentrations); they must demonstrate intermediate proficiency in one modern foreign language (even if their home school at BC doesn’t require it); and they usually study abroad. Please note that the Carroll School of Management no longer offers its own International Studies minor for its students, but CSOM freshmen are welcome to apply to the IS Program minor in the Morrrissey College.