Like all Mount Holyoke undergraduates, Frances Perkins students must complete 128 credits (32 classes), 64 spanning a minimum of four semesters in residence, and earn a minimum 2.00 average to qualify for the bachelor of arts. At least one course must be taken from each of the College’s divisions: humanities, social sciences, and sciences and mathematics. At least 68 credits must be completed in courses outside the student’s major field of study. Students also must also complete one language or literature course in a language other than English and complete a first-year seminar and requirements in multicultural perspectives and physical education. Qualifying students may transfer up to 64 credits from other institutions.
It is not unusual for Frances Perkins Scholars to approach required courses with hesitation—nor is it unusual for the same students to become vocal proponents of distribution requirements after taking such courses.
All Frances Perkins Scholars concentrate in one area of special interest, declaring a major in one of the departments, an interdisciplinary field, or a Special major of her own design. Academic advisors and advisors from the major department help each student plan a course of study to meet their goals.
To earn a Mount Holyoke degree, students must become truly literate—able to communicate clearly, honestly, and gracefully, orally and in writing; able to read to understand basic meaning, to judge the merits of an argument, and to appreciate complexities of thought and shades of feeling. Most Mount Holyoke students elect to take writing-intensive courses, drawn by the limited enrollment, careful reading of assigned texts, and frequent papers.
Equally important, the Mount Holyoke graduate should be able to recognize and isolate various forms of quantitative argument, to reason effectively with numerical information, and to use modern computation skills with ease. It is perhaps in the mathematics or science classroom that the value of single-sex education is best demonstrated. Mount Holyoke emphasizes quantitative understanding backed by over a dozen tenured women in the "hard" sciences and by a guarantee that women are expected to contribute in class.
A normal schedule is four courses per semester, but some students take as few as two. Courses meet one to four times a week. Self-scheduled examinations, summer research projects (sometimes for credit), and the increased importance given to independent study also help Frances Perkins Scholars juggle school and the rest of their lives.
Frances Perkins Scholars also regularly participate in the Five College course interchange program with Amherst, Smith, and Hampshire Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.