Biology Undergraduate FAQ


You can find the answers to most of your questions about the Biology undergraduate programs by looking through the information on the program web pages.  But, here are a few questions that come up regularly. Don't see your question?  Feel free to contact the Biology Undergraduate Coordinator ([email protected]) in the Biology Department Office or Professor Jessamyn Manson, Director of Undergraduate Programs.

I have Advanced Placement (AP) credit for BIOL 2100 and BIOL 2200.   Should I take these courses at UVA anyway?

Generally, if you've received AP credit for BIOL 2100 and 2200 and you plan to major in Biology, you shouldn't "repeat" those introductory courses.  Your advanced placement credits allow you to take any 3000-level courses that will contribute to your major. (The upper-level courses will also satisfy the pre-med biology requirement.)

If you do not plan on majoring in Biology and you are a pre-health student, you may need to have actual college credits for Introductory Biology + Lab to satisfy pre-med requirements. You can get more pre-health information and advice from the University Career Services Pre-professional Advisor. 

I'd like to declare a Biology major.  What should I do?

The requirements and instructions for declaring a Biology major are on the How to Declare a Biology Major page of the Biology Undergraduate Programs website. All students are required to declare the BA major before applying for the BS major.

How do I change from a BA to BS or vice versa?    

To switch from one Biology major program to the other, you need to complete a new Major Declaration form with your advisor. Be sure to check the box that notes that this declaration replaces the previous one. After the meeting with your advisor, submit the signed Major Declaration to the Biology Undergraduate Coordinator ([email protected]) in the Biology Department Office, GIL 290A. 

I received a low or failing grade in a Biology course. Should I retake the course?

If you've received an F in a Biology B.A. Major core course (BIOL 3000, BIOL 3010, or BIOL 3020), you must retake the course and receive a passing grade (D- or better). Note: Students with more than one failing grade in major core courses are subject to removal from the biology major.

If you've received a D- or higher in any Biology major course, you’ve passed the course and received credit for taking it. Because of the high enrollment in the Biology B.A. or B.S. major core courses, you may not retake BIOL 3000, 3010, 3020, 3030, 3040 or 3050, once you’ve passed them (i.e. received a grade of D- or better). We also advise that you not retake any Biology major elective course that you’ve already passed, even if the instructor would permit you to enroll again. The repeated course will not affect your College GPA, and the grade will not.replace the grade you initially received. If you don’t want to apply a poor grade in an elective course toward your Biology major GPA, you should take an additional Biology course beyond the minimally required 22 credit hours; only your "best" 22 credit hours will be calculated into your Biology major GPA.

The official College of Arts & Sciences policy on retaking courses is: "Two essentially identical courses, whether under the same course number or not, may not both be counted for degree credit. If a course is passed and repeated, only the first grade received is entered in the computation of grade point average. However, only the repeated course counts toward the 120 credits required for graduation. Both the original and repeated course, and their grades, appear on the student's transcript. If a course is failed and repeated, both courses and grades appear on the transcript, the repeated course with a passing grade counts toward the 120 credits, and both courses are computed in the grade point average." (See: Arts and Sciences policy on repeated courses.)

I'd like to take a course at a local college/university while I'm at home this summer. Is it possible to transfer these credits and count this course toward my Biology Major?

Once you've matriculated at UVA, you may only complete certain Biology major requirements through transfer credit from another university. These are typically "requisite" courses, such as Introductory Biology, General or Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Math.  To receive transfer credit for these courses, review the College regulations on transfer credits and follow the instructions for submitting the necessary paperwork. As long as these courses are listed in the list of Transfer Credit Equivalencies as providing credit for the designated UVA course (e.g. CHEM1410, etc), no specific approval by the Biology Department is required.  If such a UVA equivalency is not listed, you’ll need to consult the relevant department to get approval for transfer as the UVA course. NOTE: You must have any transfer credit approved before you take the course.

You may also petition to have upper-level transfer credits count toward your Biology major. Unique courses that broaden the undergraduate experience (e.g. field courses, marine biology, study abroad) beyond what is currently offered by the Biology Department are good candidates for Biology major transfer credit approval. Be aware that courses taken at community colleges are 1000-level or 2000-level and therefore may not be used toward upper-level Biology major credit requirements. Also, once matriculated at UVA, you may not satisfy any of the Biology major core course requirements through transfer credit (BA: BIOL 3000, 3010, 3020; BS: BIOL 3000, 3010, 3020, 3030, 3040, 3050). NOTE: You must have your transfer credit approved before you take the course.

  1. The course must be primarily biological in content, and it must have a minimum prerequisite on Introductory Biology.
  2. The course must be a full-semester course from a four-year accredited academic institution.
  3. Unless the course is a “direct credit” study abroad program course, it is subject to the 6 credit maximum for courses taken outside of the Biology Department at UVA.
  4. Internships may not be counted as credits toward the Biology major.
  5. Non-UVA field courses may not be counted toward the laboratory requirement for the major.
  6. Grades from transfer courses will not count in the calculation of your Biology major GPA
  7. Please submit any requests for Biology major transfer credit approval to Professor Jessamyn Manson, Director of Undergraduate Programs. Final approval for transfer credit will be made by the Undergraduate Committee and/or relevant faculty within the Biology Department.

Can I be exempted from a specific restriction or Biology major requirement?

If you would like to be exempted from any degree program restrictions or requirements, you may petition the Director of Undergraduate Programs. You should include in your petition: (1) background information (major, academic year…) and a summary statement of why you’re submitting the petition, and (2) any detailed information necessary for the Director of Undergraduate Programs and the Undergraduate Committee to evaluate your request. If appropriate, describe the courses planned to complete the major requirements. If you’re petitioning for a course to be applied to your major credits, please include the course syllabus. Also attach a copy of your transcript to the petition. Finally, your petition must include a letter (or e-mail) of endorsement from your Biology major advisor. Submit your petition to the Biology Undergraduate Coordinator ([email protected]) in the Biology Department Office (Gilmer 290A).

I’d like to do research as part of my Biology major.  What’s involved and how do I get started?

Great! Look at the information provided on the Undergraduate Research web page, then talk with your Biology major advisor for help finding the right lab.

Is Biology the best major for getting into medical school?

There is no “Pre-med” degree program at UVA, but even if there were, it’s not clear that such a credential would be attractive to medical school admissions committees. You should choose your major, based on what you love and what you do well in. This is true, whether or not you plan on applying to medical school.

Where can I find information about Pre-dental, Pre-med, Pre-veterinary requirements?