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Department of Biological Science

at Florida State University

FAQ's for Prospective Students

  • Interesting Facts about our Department
    # of majors, class sizes, who teaches, opportunities for scholarships, and other cool stuff.
  • Attending FSU?
    University & department admissions information, degree requirements, financial information, housing ,etc.
  • College Credit?
    (AP credit, SAT / ACT, transfer credit, and on-campus credit examinations).

Interesting Facts about our Department


How many Florida State University students major in biology?

The biological science major is the biggest major under the College of Arts and Sciences, incoming freshman. Approximately 2000 undergraduates at FSU have declared biological science as their major.


Do professors or graduate teaching assistants teach the biology courses offered by the department?

Faculty (Professors) teach all lectures courses offered by our department; typically the most senior research faculty teach the introductory level courses.

Laboratory courses and help sessions are taught either by professors or graduate student teaching assistants. All of our teaching assistants are supervised as well as required to complete an intensive training course, taught by one of our professors, prior to teaching.

The Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Scholar Award has been awarded annually for 43 years - seven times to biology faculty Many of the faculty and graduate students have won university teaching awards.


What is the typical class size for courses taught by the Florida State University's Department of Biological Science?

Classes offered by our department vary in size depending upon if the class is a required course (i.e., taken by all of our majors) or a biology elective course, and if the class is a lecture or laboratory course. So classes can range from 5 students in the senior tutorials to 1000 in the non-majors General Biology lecture.

For more information on class sizes, enrollment, tuition, etc., visit the Office of Instituitonal Research.


What are class sizes for first and second year biology majors?

Biological Science I and II, can go up to 250 students per lecture, they average 150 students with honors sections limited to less than 25. However, many of the required lecture courses offer a weekly help session. Help sessions are designed to review and expound on the weekly lectures and course assignments in a more intimate setting. Help sessions typically consist of 50 students or less.

Laboratory course enrollment size is constrained by availability of equipment and the number of learning stations in each laboratory. Laboratory courses, whether required or elective, typically consist of 24 students.


What are class sizes for upper-level biology majors?

Required courses may range from 25 to ~200 students, depending upon semester. Elective biology lecture courses are considerably smaller than required lecture courses. For example, our senior tutorial classes (BSC 4931r) are limited to 5 students. On average however, elective biology lecture courses typically consist of 20 to 100 students. Upper-level laboratories can range from 8 - 24 students.


I've heard the "Ruby Diamond Auditorium" biology class is one of the biggest on campus with some of the best faculty...

You may have heard of a biology course at Florida State University with an enrollment of up to 1,500 students per semester - BSC 1005. However, this course is taken by non-majors only, to partially fulfill the University's Natural Sciences Liberal Studies requirement. Therefore, biological science majors would not take this course.

Attending FSU?


What are the admissions requirements for high school students?

The FSU General Bulletin outlines the following minimum requirements for admission to the freshman class.

Most Florida students who are accepted to the University present:

  • At least a B+ average in all academic subjects (grades 9-12)
  • ACT test scores of at least 24 (composite)
  • SAT test scores of at least 1,100 (verbal plus math)

Non-Florida applicants will ordinarily be held to higher standards. When applicants do not meet these qualifications, a variety of additional factors are considered.


How do I apply to the Florida State University?

Any applicant who desires admission as a beginning freshman student after graduating from high school and before attending an accredited postsecondary institution must provide the office of admissions with the following:

  • Application for Admission;
  • Nonrefundable $30 application fee;
  • High School Transcripts (sent directly from the high school to the Office of Admissions); and
  • SAT/ACT Test Scores.

Please contact the Florida State University Office of Admissions, A2500 University Center Building, at 850-644-6200 for detailed admissions information. Prospective students may request a hard-copy of the admissions application, or complete and submit the admissions application online.


Can my family and I take a tour of the Florida State University and the Department of Biological Science to help me make a decision as to where I attend college?

Prospective students and their families are welcome to visit our campus and department at any time, but are encouraged to schedule in advance. If you are interested in visiting us, we ask that you contact the Visitor Information Center, Suite B1200 University Center, at 850-644-3246. The Visitor Information Center will coordinate your family's tour of the Florida State University and arrange for tours of the campus and meetings with our department or any other campus offices including admissions, financial aid, food services and housing.

How will I figure out what classes to take?

Your first semester schedule will be made with your advisor at Orientation, and then you will make individual appointments every semester following up until graduation.

Actual registration is the responsibility of the student - so it's important to discuss alternatives as well as long term goals when you see the advisor.


I need to work - how many hours should I take?

Full-time student status at Florida State University is maintained by taking a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester. However, some students desire to take more or less credits per semester depending upon personal academic capabilities, financial status, and time constraints associated with working or participating in extracurricular activities. Your schedule can and will be personally tailored to your capabilities and desires during orientation. In subsequent semesters, you can also use academic advising to help you manage your hours and still progress towards the degree.


What does the first freshman semester look like?

In your first semester you should be in an English course, a Math course, at least 1 Science course and a liberal studies course. If you are accelerated in math, we would suggest taking Chemistry (CHM 1045/L) first or at the same time as Biology for Majors (BSC 2010/L).

Sample Schedule:

  • ENC 1101 or ENC 2135 - 3
  • Math Course - 3
  • BSC 2010/L or CHM 1045/L - 3/1
  • Liberal Studies not satisfied by AP credit - 3
  • BSC 3938 - 1 Careers in Biological Science (a seminar on biology career options)
  • Total: 14 credits

Transfer student transcripts will be evaluated during orientation with any required courses being outlined at that time.


How much does it cost to attend Florida State University?

The following offices can be contacted to obtain the most recent cost estimates for attending the Florida State University:


Where can I find information on financial aid, student loans, grants, and work study programs?

Please contact the Florida State University Financial Aid Office, A4474 University Center Building, at 850-644-0539 for detailed financial aid information. Prospective students can download a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or complete and submit the FAFSA application online.


What special resources are available to biology majors at FSU?

Laboratories and classrooms for biological science majors are located in five buildings on the Tallahassee campus and at the FSU Marine Laboratory, (45 miles south of Tallahassee). Other special facilities include:

Through selected topics classes and laboratory experiences (DIS with faculty) students have access to radioisotope instrumentation laboratories, x-ray laboratory, machine and electronics shops, animal quarters, ultracentrifuges, cold laboratories, analyzer laboratories, sterile laboratories, shielded electrophysiological laboratories, field vehicles, special instrumentation for photobiology, isotope laboratory, photographic laboratories, spectrophotometric instrumentation, as well as the facilities of the Computing Center and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. Significant research collections of microorganisms and birds are maintained. Herbarium facilities contain about 175,000 specimens.


Can I major in Marine Biology or Medicine?

No - the bachelor's degree is general, but you can get a Certificate in Marine Biology. If you would like to inquire about the Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences major click here.


What do you mean by academic tracks?

Academic tracks are defined as groupings of common, departmentally-offered elective courses within a traditional or contemporary discipline of biology. Currently, there are 7 academic tracks with courses and faculty who specialize in:


If I choose the Zoology track, does that mean I shouldn't take classes in another track?

Academic tracks are not majors, nor are they required. They are intended to serve only as an informal guide or recommendation for elective courses offered within a particular discipline of biology. Selecting an academic track does not prevent a biological science major from taking elective courses in another academic track. Because each academic track contains numerous courses, students should not expect to take all the courses recommended in an academic track. Biological science majors may also choose not to select an academic track, in which case elective courses are selected from several disciplines of biology.


How much math will I need as a biology major?

Math sequence:

  • MAC 1105 (3) College Algebra
  • MAC 1140 (3) Pre-Calculus
  • MAC 1114 (2) Trigonometry
  • MAC 2311 (4) Calculus I
  • Choose one:
    • MAC 2312 (4) Calculus II
    • STA 2171 (4) Bio Statistics
    • COP 3014 (3) Comp. Programming I

How does FSU determine my initial college course placements?

FSU no longer uses ACT/SAT scores to place students.

Math: ALEKS placement test that needs to be taken PRIOR to orientation. Unless student uses their math AP/IB/AICE/Dual Enrollment credit.

English: Unless the student has AP/IB/AICE/Dual Enrollment for English Language, the student will start in the first English ENC 1101

Students may apply up to 30 hours of appropriate credit to the Liberal Studies requirement (36 hours in 5 topic areas are required). An additional 30 hours of credit may be applied toward the 120 hours needed for the baccalaureate degree (up to 60 hours in all). These additional hours may or may not apply to the hours required to earn specific degrees.


What courses can I receive college credit for?

You can receive credit for any CLEP or AP subject test where you meet minimum scores. Math, English, chemistry, and foreign language are fairly common. On-campus examinations vary by department - math and foreign language (Spanish & French) are the most common but you can receive credit in chemistry, music theory, and other languages by contacting the departments directly.


I think I need to talk to someone in the registrars office...or maybe admissions...well, I'm not sure who to contact or how I'd find their number anyway!

You might want to check out the directory search option on FSU's main web page. You can search by a name or department if you know them - or link to our telephone directory and other help numbers.

Do you have College Credit?


Should I take dual enrollment or college credit classes in high school if I want to major in biology in college?

It can help - but it doesn't guarantee you'll graduate any earlier! College courses in high school can provide many benefits. Good students should be able to develop the appropriate skills and knowledge to ensure sound performance during college. Advance college credit can also minimize the number of courses required to obtain a degree.

Appropriate Advanced Placement by Subject Test (AP) can save time and money expended to obtain your degree. The money and time you save might be used for courses and experiences you might not otherwise choose - such as classes in other departments or Directed Individual Study / Research (DIS/DIR) with a faculty member. As a Research I University, FSU has fantastic opportunities for students who want to take advantage of top ranked departments and faculty.


Am I at a disadvantage if I don't have college credit of some kind?

College credit isn't required, but it can save you hours that you might use for something else of interest. Regardless, our department recommends the following high school courses to provide a strong foundation for pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Science:

  • Algebra, Trigonometry, Geometry, and Calculus;
  • General Chemistry;
  • Physics; and
  • Biology.

Of these areas, mathematics tends to be the most critical.


How do I know which math I should take?

You should be taking the ALEKS test prior to orientation. They will send you this link when you get the email signing up for your orientation date.


At orientation I was told that I was placed in MAC 1105 because of my scores. Can't I get out of it?

You can retake the ALEKS test or if you have AP/IB/AICE or Dual Enrollment credit above MAC 1105.


What grade(s) do I need to earn on my Advanced Placement (AP) exam(s) to get college credit for courses that count towards the biological science major at Florida State University?

Students usually take AP Subject Examinations at the end of their junior or senior year in high school. The scoring scale from lowest to highest is 1 to 5. No college credit is awarded for an AP exam score of 1 or 2. The following AP test scores are required for college credit for courses that count towards the biological science major:

AP Subject AP Score FSU Course Equivalent
Biology 4 BSC 2010 & BSC 2010L
Biology 5 BSC 2010, BSC 2010L, & BSC2011
Chemistry 4 CHM 1045 & CHM 1045L
Chemistry 5 CHM 1045, CHM 1045L, & CHM 1046
Calculus AB 4 or 5 MAC 2311
Calculus BC 4 MAC 2311
Calculus BC 5 MAC 2311 & MAC 2312
Physics 3 PHY 2053C
Physics 4 or 5 PHY 2053C & PHY 2054C

Students may request that AP scores be sent to FSU by contacting Evaluation Services, 106 Johnston Building, 850-644-3017. For questions, contact Linda Bodiford in Admissions at 644-1275.


What score(s) do I need to earn on my International Baccalaureate (IB) exam(s) to get college credit for courses hat count towards the biological science major at Florida State University?

Students usually earn credit in terms of hours based upon their scores. The scoring scale for credit hours is 4 to 7. No lab credit is awarded at any score. The following IB test scores earn college credit for courses that count towards the biological science major:

IB Subject IB Score FSU Course Equivalent (hours earned)
Biology 4 BSC 2010(3)
Biology 5-7 BSC 2010(3) & BSC 2011(3)
Chemistry 4 CHM 1045(3)
Chemistry 5-7 CHM 1045(3) & CHM 1046(3)
Mathematics 4 MAC 1140(3)
Mathematics 5-7 MAC 1140(2) & MAC 2311(4)
Mathematics-Advanced 4 MAC 2311(3)
Mathematics-Advanced 5-7 MAC 2311(2) & MAC 2312(4)
Mathematics-Methods* 4 MAC 2233(3)
Mathematics-Methods* 5-7 MAC 1140(3) & MAC 2233(3)
Physics* 5-7 PHY 2048C(5) & PHY 3936r(1)

*Some classes do not meet biology major requirements. For questions, contact Linda Bodiford in Admissions at 644-1275.