University Core Explained

"The BYU Baccalaureate: The Ideal of Integration"

Many people, when they think of university education, think primarily of the major—a bachelor's degree in, for example, economics or art history or chemistry or engineering. But a baccalaureate is much more than a major and much more than job-based training in a particular field. Although your diploma states your major, something greater has been earned and conferred—a university baccalaureate.

There are three formal components to the baccalaureate at Brigham Young University: religious education, general education, and education in a major. Of these, the first two constitute the university core. In accordance with The Aims of a BYU Education—which invites each student and every member of the university community to wholeness—each of the three components complements the others. They are not partitioned off from one another; none claims preeminence; together they comprise a whole, a harmony.

The idea of the complementary nature of GE, religious education, and education in the major is emphasized in the new mosaics options for GE. The mosaics give students the opportunity of choosing a group of GE requirements built around a theme that complements a student's major course of study. See Mosaics for more information.

Skills and depth are developed over time as the student progresses in both the core and the major; breadth, unfolding partly from historical perspective, ought to characterize the major as well as the core. The relationship between core and major will vary in any given year according to the competing demands upon the student's attention. However, students should strive to develop their programs in such a way that a lively interrelationship between the university core and the major, in which each nourishes and informs the other, is pursued over their entire undergraduate experience.

The major and the core blend into each other. It is here that open electives play their particular role. Without prolonging time at the university, each student enjoys the latitude—and, for some, ample latitude—to design an individual educational experience. Electives enrich; choices that students make about electives define what is unique about their education. Having found a core science course engaging, for example, a student might take cognate courses to explore the subject more deeply.

Having completed the 14-hour religion requirement, students are not barred from taking further religion courses. Majoring in a technical field, students might enlarge their experience of the liberal arts beyond what the core requires. A humanities major might choose to complete an applied minor in computing skills or to construct an unofficial "mini-minor" of courses that open up a particular opportunity for employment or further education at a professional school.

Students are encouraged to acquire skills in both foreign language and mathematics, even though only one of these is required by the core. Additional curricular and extracurricular opportunities in the Honors Program are open to all students at whatever level they might wish to be involved.

Why a University Core?

All students at BYU should be taught the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Any education is inadequate which does not emphasize that His is the only name given under heaven whereby mankind can be saved....

Because the gospel encourages the pursuit of all truth, students at BYU should receive a broad university education. The arts, letters, and sciences provide the core of such an education, which will help students think clearly, communicate effectively, understand important ideas in their own cultural tradition as well as that of others, and establish clear standards of intellectual integrity. (BYU Mission Statement)

Most graduates, five years after completing their degrees, are not employed directly in the areas of their majors, and studies show that those who do best in the long term are those whose breadth of education, rather than specialized training, has given them versatility. A university provides marketable skills; it bestows credentials necessary to some future goal; its graduates, statistically, make more money. But students who enroll at the university seeking only these things—or worse, students who graduate having sought only these things—cheat themselves of the best the university has to offer.

Students benefit most who desire to savor and to ponder, to recognize (in whatever eventual major) the hidden likenesses among the subjects they study, to aim at integration and wholeness. Students benefit most who take the university with them: changed by their experience, they have developed educated habits of mind; they have deepened their faith; they have learned to integrate the sacred and the secular; and they have learned that the craving for knowledge is not fully capable of satisfaction within a lifetime. Students benefit most who become lifelong learners, engaged in service to their fellow human beings.

That it integrates sacred and secular education is the hallmark of a BYU baccalaureate. All disciplines at BYU are "bathed in the light and color of the restored gospel" (Aims, "Spiritually Strengthening"). Religion courses—both Doctrinal Foundation and electives—are not intended as only a devotional supplement to the educational enterprise of the university. At once rigorous and inspiring, they engage the mind and the heart in an ever deeper understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ through close and meticulous study of the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets.

General education joins with religious education to make university education different from specialized vocational training. It builds a foundation for intellectual development; it increases our understanding of civilization—of humankind's most valuable knowledge and achievements in the arts, letters, and sciences. General education teaches us the importance of critical thinking, an awareness of the past, aesthetic sensibility, and moral judgment. These, together with the training provided in verbal and quantitative skills and in manipulating symbolic systems, help prepare us for a lifetime of learning, effective communication, responsible action, forming and judging arguments, and appreciating and creating the good and the beautiful.

Administration of the University Core

The university core is administered collaboratively by the deans of Undergraduate Education and Religious Education under the direction of the academic vice president. Religious Education is responsible for the Doctrinal Foundation and Religion Electives components and the courses that meet these requirements; Undergraduate Education is responsible for the general education components. The success of the core depends upon dedicated faculty from throughout the university. The Faculty General Education Council, chaired by the associate dean of Undergraduate Education—General Education, reviews and approves all courses meeting general education requirements within the university core.

Who Must Complete University Core Requirements?

All students who receive undergraduate degrees from BYU are required to complete the new core requirements as outlined below. Exceptions to this policy are explained in the Graduation Requirements Policy.

Description of the University Core

The new university core comprises five categories titled Doctrinal Foundation; The Individual and Society; Skills; Arts, Letters, and Sciences; and Core Enrichment: Electives.

Consult the University Core/General Education Courses section of the current class schedule for an up-to-date list of approved courses. The current class schedule is available online at

Doctrinal Foundation and Religion Electives

Religious Education offers courses in ancient and modern scripture, Church history and doctrine, and related subjects. Together these help students toward a deeper understanding of "the doctrines, the covenants, the ordinances, the standard works, and the history of the restored gospel" (Aims, "Intellectually Enlarging").

Because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints maintains that regular gospel study is a necessary part of the university experience, religion courses are provided so that students may progress in their religious understanding and convictions simultaneously with their educational progress in secular fields. As such, religion courses are not meant to be a mere devotional supplement but an integral part of the university curriculum that conforms to university standards and expectations. Therefore, while students are enrolled at BYU, they are required to take religion courses from BYU.


The heart of the university core's religion component is the doctrinal foundation based upon careful, informed, and reflective study of sacred scripture and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

While enrolled at BYU, all students must complete the Four Cornerstones requirement of the university core as outlined in the chart below. Note that religion course requirements are different for transfer students. Since the religion requirement is determined by the number of transfer hours, if is important for each student to refer to their official personal progress report or consult with a university advisement center to determine their official status and their corresponding religion requirement for graduation.

Students who are not LDS are strongly encouraged to enroll in Rel C 100, Introduction to Mormonism, during their first semester in residence. This course is designed to be informational, to introduce students to the culture, scriptures, and distinctive doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to prepare them for subsequent religion classes. Rel C 100 may be used to fill either the New Testament or Doctrine and Covenants Doctrinal Foundation requirement.

Religion Electives

In addition to fulfilling the Four Cornerstones requirement, all students are required to take a specified number of BYU religion course hours as outlined in the chart below. Fulfilling these hours can be accomplished by taking BYU Cornerstone courses and/or BYU religion elective courses intended to enrich the Cornerstone courses with rigorous study from a variety of religious topics dealing with ancient scripture and Church history and doctrine. Religion courses taken from LDS institutes of religion (including stake institutes) or Church Educational System schools (BYU–Idaho or BYU–Hawaii) will not fulfill the required number of BYU residency religion hours to be taken by each student. Only religion hours taken at the Provo campus will fulfill this requirement.

In addition, religion courses taken at the BYU Salt Lake Center and through the BYU Independent Study program are considered part of the BYU campus and will fulfill the required number of religion courses required of each student.

Because regular gospel study should be a continuous part of a student's university experience, it would be ideal to take one religion class each semester of enrollment. To encourage this, no more than 4 hours of religion credit per semester (spring/summer counts as one semester) may be counted toward the required religion hours to be taken at BYU.

No religion course numbered in the 500s and 600s may be applied toward undergraduate religion credit. Religion credit from non-LDS universities will not be counted toward fulfilling any part of the religion requirement.

Total Hours
to BYU
Total BYU Religion
Hours to Take While
Enrolled ​at BYU
Cornerstone Courses Required for BYU Graduation*
0–14.9 14 Rel C 200: The Eternal Family 
Rel C 225: Foundations of the Restoration 
Rel A 250: Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel 
Rel A 275: Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon 

or approved substitutions***

15–29.9 12
30–44.9 10
45–59.9 8
60–74.9 6**
75–89.9 4**
90 or more 2**

* All students graduating from BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii and LDS Institute must complete
ALL cornerstone requirements. Credit for these courses may be transferred from BYU-Idaho,
BYU-Hawaii, and LDS Institutes as per current policy. 

**More religion credit may be needed if cornerstone requirements have not been completed. 
***Approved substitutions: For Rel C 200, Rel C 333: Teachings of the Living Prophets; for
    Rel A 250,
Rel A 211: New Testament; for Rel A 275, Rel A 121 or 122: Book of Mormon.

Individual and Society

The Individual and Society requirements inspire students to continue learning and serving throughout their lives. Students will actively participate in solving family, professional, religious, and social problems after leaving BYU. Under the Individual and Society category is the area of Citizenship which includes American Heritage and Global and Cultural Awareness.

American Heritage gives students an introduction to the political and economic foundations of the American democratic system and helps students appreciate the unique contribution of America to modern civilization. The Global and Cultural Awareness requirement ensures that students develop an "informed awareness of the peoples, cultures, languages, and nations of the world." Students understand important ideas in their own cultural tradition as well as others and are prepared to "go forth to serve."


In our modern, complex society, the ability to communicate effectively is deemed a crucial skill. Under the Skills category are grouped the following requirements:

  • under the heading Effective Communication is First-Year Writing, followed by Advanced Written and Oral Communication;
  • Quantitative Reasoning; and
  • Languages of Learning.

All these requirements convey information and understanding.

First-Year Writing teaches methods of library research, text or rhetorical analysis, and writing skills in different genres and styles. These essential skills will be used and expanded in all succeeding years of university work. Once students have identified an area for major study, the Advanced Written and Oral Communication requirement introduces them to the discourse and documentation style of their chosen discipline, preparing them to write and present in their professional fields.

To function in a technological society, a basic knowledge of mathematics as a means of communication and problem solving is essential. Quantitative Reasoning requires all students to certify at a basic level of numeracy, either with an appropriately high score on the mathematics section of the ACT or SAT exams or by completion of a BYU course. Then, under the Languages of Learning requirement, students gain advanced symbolic language skills in mathematics, statistics, or a foreign language that broadly applies to a variety of disciplines. Students thus achieve an exposure to cultures and to the ways in which practitioners of the language structure their knowledge.

Arts, Letters, and Sciences

The university's Mission Statement asserts that the "arts, letters, and sciences provide the core of [a broad university] education." These requirements build upon work in other categories of the core by developing "historical perspective" and "a lively appreciation of the artistic, literary, and intellectual achievements of human cultures" and by extending the student's understanding of "basic concepts of the . . . sciences," including "a recognition of the power and limitations of the scientific method" (Aims, "Intellectually Enlarging"). This category comprises a Civilization sequence, separate requirements in Arts and in Letters, and requirements in the Biological, Physical, and Social Sciences. The Civilization requirement provides a historical framework and a consideration of important works and themes. Through the Arts and Letters requirements, students deepen their appreciation of artistic and literary works and grow in their capacity to analyze, interpret, and draw justifiable implications from their reading and from their experience with the visual and performing arts.

The area of Scientific Principles and Reasoning contains three requirements: Biological Science, Physical Science, and Social Science. These requirements help develop an understanding of scientific reasoning and the scientific method and expose students to the excitement of discovery in these separate fields. Students will be able to evaluate scientific data to make rational decisions on science-related issues that will affect their lives and community.

Core Enrichment: Electives

This element of the core is in two parts: Religion Electives, which are discussed above in conjunction with the Doctrinal Foundation; and Open Electives, which vary according to the number of credit hours required by the major and other factors. As mentioned, one of the changes in the new general education program implemented fall 2004 was a reduction in hours, aimed at freeing up space for further open electives. Thoughtful choice of electives allows students to design a unique and enriched educational experience. Some suggestions on how these electives might be used are given above under the heading "The BYU Baccalaureate: The Ideal of Integration."

Selection and Timing of GE Classes

Each GE requirement is completed by taking one course or a combination of courses, chosen from the approved list in the table found in the current class schedule. Single-course options are most often designed for students whose major is not closely related to the requirement. On the other hand, combination-of-course options are often designed for majors related to the requirement, and may include courses a student might take to satisfy a major or minor requirement. Students should carefully consider which option best meets their educational needs, keeping in mind the aim of pursuing a lively interrelationship between the core and the major over the whole undergraduate experience.

Not all courses listed in the class schedule are appropriate for all students. For instance, some have prerequisites, some are upper-division courses, and some are designed primarily for certain majors. These courses are labeled in the university core table as either "has prerequisite" or "not for all students." Students should avoid registering for courses for which they are not academically prepared and should consult with the class instructor or advisor if they are unsure.

To gain approval to meet a GE requirement, a course is subjected to a rigorous evaluation by the Faculty GE Council. Such approval is not granted lightly, and students should ensure that the courses they select are, in fact, approved for GE credit. Courses not certified to satisfy the appropriate GE requirement will not count. This information is updated each semester/term and published in the current class schedule. It is the responsibility of the student to verify that planned courses are certified to satisfy GE requirements.

Occasionally it is possible to complete more than one GE requirement with a single course. See the University Core for details; look especially at the Civilization 2 requirements for courses that double-count for Arts, Letters, or Global and Cultural Awareness. Many foreign languages double-count for Global and Cultural Awareness, a few for letters; see Languages of Learning under Skills. Students are encouraged to use such "double-counting" sparingly—the more GE courses a student takes, the greater the breadth and value of the overall educational experience. The individual college advisement center is a valuable resource concerning questions of course selection, timing, and planning.

For First-Year Students. Although the time to complete GE requirements varies according to the major, all new students are expected to complete the First-Year Writing requirement and take at least one course towards completing the American Heritage requirement during their first year. Students are also expected to take one religion course each semester, and complete their schedule by adding other general education and major-related courses. Those individuals beginning summer term are expected to enroll in a 3-credit hour mentored course.

To facilitate success in these courses, the University provides first-year students with a peer mentor. Mentored courses include First-Year Writing, American Heritage, and a number of other general education and major-related courses. These courses are available through the University registration system under the mentored course selection button on MyMAP. They can also be previewed on the First-Year Mentoring website under Mentored Course Enrollments.

In addition, students who need to fill the Quantitative Reasoning requirement (ACT math subscore below 22) should do so in their first year. It is also recommended that all new students begin work in the mathematics or foreign language options under Languages of Learning.

Students planning to satisfy the Scientific Principles and Reasoning: Biological Science or Physical Science requirements with the two-course options (PDBio 120 + MMBio 240; chemistry, geology, and physics combination options) should also complete these during their first two years, making some progress on them in their first year. Civilization courses are designed as sophomore-level courses, although some programs include them during the freshman year. Visit college advisement centers or department offices for advice on when to complete the other GE requirements.

The University Core and the Honors Program

The Honors Program, which is open to all interested students, offers an array of enriched courses that simultaneously satisfy university core and honors graduation requirements. These courses take two forms: those offered through the Honors Program proper (designated Honrs), which explore disciplinary topics in creative and innovative ways; and honors sections of departmental courses (designated by /H or a title that begins with the abbreviation Honors). See the Honors Program section of this catalog for a fuller description. Additional information may be obtained from the Honors Advisement Center, 102A MSRB, (801) 422-5497, or by consulting the Honors Program Course Guide at

The University Core and First-Year Mentoring

New freshmen are expected to complete the First-Year Writing requirement and take at least one course towards the American Heritage requirement during their first year. To facilitate enrollment in these courses as well as success in them, the University provides each undergraduate student in their first year at BYU the opportunity to have a peer mentor. Mentored courses include First-Year Writing, American Heritage, and a number of other general education and major-related courses, including some Honors courses.

These courses are available through the University registration system under the mentored course selection button on MyMAP. Mentored courses can also be previewed on the First-Year Mentoring website under Mentored Course Enrollments. Early registration for fall semester mentored courses may be completed through the First-Year Mentoring website.

A brief description of the First-Year Mentoring program and how students are expected to engage with their peer mentor appears in the Undergraduate Education section of this catalog. Detailed information may also be obtained from the First-Year Mentoring website, by contacting First-Year Mentoring, 2014 JKHB, (801) 422-8176 or 1-877-890-5451, or by emailing

Ways to Complete GE Requirements Other Than by Course Work

In addition to completing approved courses, students may satisfy individual GE requirements within the university core by (1) transferring acceptable credit from other academic institutions, (2) receiving credit from selected Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) examinations, (3) passing exemption or challenge examinations offered for some classes at the university, or (4) fulfilling a GE through a major.

1. Transfer Credit. The application of transfer credit to GE requirements is handled by the Transfer Evaluation Office, A-41 ASB, (801) 422-8522. Transfer Guides have been arranged with several junior and community colleges to facilitate the transfer process for students including those who have completed certain associate degrees. See Transfer Evaluation website for a list of Transfer Guides. The Transfer Evaluation Office can be contacted for up-to-date information regarding the status of agreements with other institutions not listed on their website.

2. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Credit. The results of some Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams may be used to meet certain GE requirements and to obtain general university credit. AP or IB credit posted to a transfer institution will be evaluated upon BYU's standards and not those of the transfer institution. The Admission Services Office can be contacted for details regarding credit hours and exemption from GE requirements for both AP and IB exams.

Note: College Level Examination Program (CLEP). BYU stopped giving credit for general exams in 2000. At this time BYU does not give credit for subject exams either. CLEP credit posted to another institution's transcript is reevaluated based on BYU's standards.

3. Exemption and Challenge Examinations. Some requirements can be accomplished by successfully completing an examination. Two types of examinations are available: the exemption exam and the challenge exam. The primary difference between an exemption exam and a challenge exam is that an exemption exam is used exclusively to fulfill a general education requirement. No academic credit or letter grade is posted to the transcript. The challenge exam, however, is not restricted to GE courses, and academic credit and a letter grade may be posted to the transcript if the student so choose. A student may take an exemption or challenge exam for a single course only once during each semester or term. Students do not have to be enrolled in a course to take an exemption or challenge exam. However, some of the exams are given early enough each semester/term so that students who are enrolled and pass the exam may withdraw from the course. Students not enrolled in a course have an opportunity to take the challenge or exemption exams offered at the Testing Center. See the chart under Policies and University Core, "Intro to the Undergraduate Degree" for the current semester for more information or contact the department in question.

4. GE-Major Overlap. A GE requirement can be fulfilled because of the nature of a major's discipline. For example, an English major would automatically fulfill the Letters requirement because of the nature of the discipline. See the University Core for a list of majors that complete certain GE requirements and the link to the GE-Major Overlap page.

How Do You Get Help with Specific Questions Concerning General Education?

The essential information concerning general education is found in this catalog or online at the University Core section of the current Class Schedule under "Introduction to the Undergraduate Degree" ( Additional late-breaking information, plus advice about general education requirements can be obtained from the college advisement centers. The college advisement centers, together with the University Advisement Center, 2500 WSC, provide assistance with registration, graduation requirements, policies and procedures, fields of study, changes of major, and many other aspects of academic life. Students can access a progress report through MyMAP; this report will generate a personalized report that includes a list of GE requirements students have completed. (Log on to MyBYU; select "School" then "MyMAP"; then the tab, "Plan MyMAP"; click on the Progress Report link on the right-hand side of the page. Students can also type "Plan" in the Quick URL box in the MyBYU home page which will take them to the MyMAP page.)

The University Core

The current University Core details are found at