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First Year Focus

Why Major In Communication Studies at Northwestern?

Communication Studies provides theory, tools, and techniques for analyzing, managing, and improving communication in many aspects of professional and personal interaction. 

Courses in communication studies challenge your mind, broaden your views, and develop in you an increased awareness of and skill in communication practices. Our goal is to prepare students to take their places as responsible leaders, engaged citizens, thoughtful problem solvers, and productive contributors in their communities and chosen fields of work.

What Do Communication Studies Majors Do After College?

After graduation, students work in a variety of fields, including:

Digital media
Public relations
Management consulting
Political consulting
Public affairs
Non-profit management
…and many others

How Can I Find Out If Communication Studies Is Right For Me?

If you are not currently a major, take a look at the Undergraduate Catalog and CAESAR to get a taste of the variety of classes the department offers.  Once you are familiar with the class offerings, make an appointment to speak to an Academic Advisor in Communication Studies by calling 847-491-7214. 

What Classes are Recommended for First-Year Students?

During Fall Quarter, first-year students are required to take a writing-intensive seminar (COMM ST 294).  Along with that course, students often take one or two of the core courses in the major each quarter.

Students who are thinking about transferring into Communication Studies can also start by taking any one of the core courses.

Core Courses

Gen Cmn 102 Public Speaking
Comm St 205 Theories of Persuasion

One of: 

Comm St 227 Communication and Technology

Comm St 246 Intro to Health Communication

Comm St 270 Theories of Mediated Communication

And One of:

Comm St 215 Principles of Rhetorical Criticism

Comm St 225 Communication and Culture

Comm St 275 Persuasive Images: Rhetoric of Popular Culture

While first-year students are working toward fulfilling their major requirements, they often also choose at least two classes each quarter to satisfy distribution requirements, including foreign language courses to satisfy the two-year proficiency requirement.  Students may take courses in their potential Field of Concentration (see below), and other courses in the major if they choose.  It is not recommend that first-year students take classes in the department that are at or above the 300-level.

Distribution Requirements

Distribution requirements are satisfied by the liberal arts classes that all students in the School of Communication must complete to receive a bachelor’s degree.  Communication Studies majors take 3 courses in each of the three distribution areas: Math/Science/Technology; Individual and Social Behavior; and Humanities and Fine Arts. They also complete an additional 9 distribution classes from any area.

Field of Concentration

Students in Communication Studies must complete a concentration of six courses in a subject outside the School of Communication (typically in WCAS). The concentration must consist of at least 6 courses, with at least 3 at the 300-level. A non-SoC second major, minor, or adjunct major will also satisfy this requirement. Courses taken for the concentration may be double counted as distribution courses if they fall within approved subject areas.

You may choose to explore different subjects outside of SoC during your first year to help you decide on your Field of Concentration. If you have already identified your concentration, you can continue to take 100 and 200 level courses in that subject.

AP and IB Credit

AP credits cannot be applied to the Communication Studies major, but they may apply to distribution requirements  (see SoC Table). If your credit is not yet posted, have your scores sent from the College Board to the Registrar’s Office for processing.

Once your AP/IB credit is posted to your transcript, it can be applied to your distribution requirements as follows:

  • One AP/IB credit in each of the three areas: Math/Science/Technology; Individual and Social Behavior; and Humanities and Fine Arts
  • An additional six AP/IB credits may apply as additional distribution classes
  • A final credit may count as an elective
  • The maximum total number of AP or IB credit that may apply is 10

Whom Do I Contact If I Have Questions?

Contact one of the Academic Advisors in Communication Studies: Harold E. Gulley ( or Sarah Syversen (  SoC students can make an appointment via Non-SoC students can make an appointment by calling 847-491-7214.