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College PE Requirements

Learn more about which schools require physical education classes as graduation requirements.

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We all have memories of physical education in high school. The athletes among us might remember nothing but good things about mandatory swimming, basketball and climbing up ropes. The rest of us might dread the thought of ever doing a push-up again. Still, PE courses are around in college too, and some schools even make them requirements.

Where Are Physical Education Classes Required?

Leave it to the liberal arts schools to force you to run around a track. The Claremont Colleges in California are a prime example of mandatory college PE. Students at Pomona College, for example, are required to pass one physical education course in their first year. Wellesley College in Massachusetts requires eight PE credits to graduate. Check your prospective college’s website or call a counselor to find out if a college you’re interested in has a PE requirement.

Most schools also offer academic credit for physical education classes, typically as elective credit.

What Kinds of Physical Education Classes Are There?

Don’t get discouraged if your favorite school has a PE requirement that you don’t like. Schools have so many types of PE that you’re bound to find something that interests you. There are team sports, like Basketball and Soccer, and individual sports, like swimming and running.

Many colleges also offer non-traditional sports, like yoga and martial arts classes, that count toward PE requirements; and some schools, like Dartmouth College, even offer Equestrian and Sailing classes (though these classes will often require an additional fee from students) that satisfy physical education requirements.

Other PE Options

Varsity Athletes can often get exempted from PE requirements or simply fulfill the PE requirement by using their varsity sport as credit. The University of Notre Dame exempts all ROTC and other military students from physical education classes.

Keep in mind that even if there are no physical education requirements at your school, you are still allowed and usually encouraged to take a physical education class. Having one course every semester, every year, or even simply one time in your college experience - that helps you stay physically active, requires little to no homework, and promotes a healthy lifestyle can be an excellent change of pace in the academic world. You might even enjoy it so much that you participate again.

Most schools also offer academic credit for physical education classes, typically as elective credit. Make sure that you know the rules for academic credit and PE, as some schools will exempt athletes from requirements but not give them credit, and other schools may not allow you to repeat the same course more than once.

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