First-Year Students
First-Year Curriculum

Northwestern works on the quarter system, standard degree progress assuming enrollment in fall, winter, and spring quarters; each quarter, you will likely take four classes/credits. Additionally, you will take a zero-credit first-year experience seminar (PRDV 101) in fall and winter quarters. While course plans will vary from student to student based on major, interests, and other factors, there is a standard set of sequences that McCormick students begin in the first year.

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The standard math sequence for McCormick students consists of Math 220-1, 220-2, 228-1, and 228-2. If you have already completed portions of the math requirement through AP/IB or other coursework, you will provide information to your first-year adviser through Dossier to determine your appropriate starting point in the sequence.

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If you are required to take chemistry, you should begin this coursework in your first year. While some majors do not require chemistry specifically, the inorganic chemistry sequence can be used in the basic science requirement that all students must complete. It is recommended that you take at least one chemistry course. Majors that do not require chemistry can take a variety of courses such as biology, physics, and earth science to fulfill the basic science requirement.

  • Majors requiring inorganic chemistry: Civil, Manufacturing and Design, Mechanical, Materials Science
  • Majors requiring inorganic and organic chemistry: Biomedical, Chemical, Environmental
  • Majors that do not specifically require chemistry: Applied Math, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical, Industrial

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Engineering First®

McCormick’s innovative core curriculum for first-year students, Engineering First®, provides the fundamentals of a successful engineering education and lets you experience real engineering early in your undergraduate career.

Engineering First® consists of six specific courses:

  • 4 in Engineering Analysis (GEN_ENG 205-1, 2, 3): 3 in your first year, 1 in your sophomore year
  • 2 in Design Thinking and Communication (DTC): taken during your first year

Engineering Analysis

Three of the courses will be the first three quarters of the Engineering Analysis (GEN_ENG 205-1, 2, 3) sequence. The specific areas covered by the full Engineering Analysis sequence are:

  • Linear Algebra
  • Engineering Mechanics
  • Physics
  • Differential Equations
  • MATLAB Programming

Design Thinking & Communication

This two-quarter sequence is dedicated to learning the design process and will focus on clear and effective writing and the concepts of design thinking and human-centered design. Offered in the fall, winter, and spring quarters, this course immediately puts you to work on real design problems submitted by individuals, non-profits, entrepreneurs, and industry members. In DTC, all students design for real people and communicate with real audiences. You may take on a DTC project outside of your major, enabling you to explore different fields.

Faculty members from both McCormick and Northwestern's Writing Program will guide you through the design process.

To register for a quarter, you will need 0.5 credits of DSGN and 0.5 credits of ENGLISH separately. Either fall or winter quarter, you will need to take DTC I (DSGN 106-1 & ENGLISH 106-1); in spring quarter, you will take DTC II (DSGN 106-2 & ENGLISH 106-2).

Certain students, including dual degree students and students taking language courses their first year, may find it beneficial to take DTC their sophomore year.

Learn more about the DTC curriculum

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First-Year Engineering Experience

In the fall and winter quarters of your first year, you will enroll in a zero credit seminar, “PRDV 101 McCormick First-Year Experience” (FYE). This course will help your transition to college; give you a place to discuss academic, social, or other issues with peers; and provide information on the resources available at Northwestern. Enrollment is required, and attendance is tracked. Seminar content is assessed and tailored to student needs on a yearly basis.

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Suggested Course Sequence

First Year


  • Engineering Analysis 1 – GEN_ENG 205-1 (1 credit)
  • Elective or Design Thinking & Communication 1* – DSGN 106-1 (.5 credit) and ENGLISH 106-1 (.5 credit)
  • Math – Calculus (1 credit)
  • Science or Elective (1-1.34 credits)
  • McCormick First-Year Engineering Experience – PRDV 101-1 (0 credit)


  • Engineering Analysis 2 – GEN_ENG 205-2 (1 credit)
  • Elective or Design Thinking & Communication 1* – DSGN 106-1 (.5 credit) and ENGLISH 106-1 (.5 credit)
  • Math – Calculus (1 credits)
  • Science or Elective (1-1.34 credits)
  • McCormick First-Year Engineering Experience – PRDV 101-2 (0 credit)


  • Engineering Analysis 3 – GEN_ENG 205-3 (1 credit)
  • Design Thinking & Communication 2 – DSGN 106-2 (.5 credit) and ENGLISH 106-2 (.5 credit)*
  • Math – Calculus (1 credits)
  • Science or Elective (1-1.34 credits)

* Undergraduates will take Design Thinking and Communication 1 (DSGN 106-1 and ENGLISH 106-1) in the fall OR winter.

Second Year


  • Engineering Analysis 4 – GEN_ENG 205-4 (1 credit)**

** EA4 is required for all students except for computer science and industrial engineering majors.

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