Curriculum Overview


Click on subject headings above for descriptions of our many courses.

Arts: Performing and Visual Arts

St. Andrew's-Sewanee has long enjoyed a strong reputation for its arts programs. All Upper School students must complete an arts course for graduation. Classes are demanding in scope and expectation. Students are able to pursue instrumental, vocal, and dance studies through private lessons using instructional resources available on our campus. Students also may audition for the orchestra and other ensembles as well as theatrical and dance productions at the university.


Writing and critical reading are essential elements of the English curriculum. Students are expected to demonstrate their ability to write a coherent essay through the Junior Essay experience. In their junior and senior years, students choose from 10 courses that emphasize college-level analysis and writing. Students who are not native English speakers take regular English classes along with any necessary ESL courses.

History & Humanities

Students are required to complete the following three history courses or their equivalents before graduation: World History I (Western civilizations), World History II (Asian and African civilizations), and U.S. History. Classes make extensive use of original documents and regular analytical writing assignments including document-based essays. World History II students learn how to draw a map of the world and participate in simulation-based learning. U.S. History students complete a major research paper in the second semester. One-semester electives available to juniors and seniors involve a significant number of analytical papers and other writing assignments and use original documents, anthologies and film in exploring the course topics.


Two years of study in the same language (Chinese, Latin, or Spanish) at the upper school level are required for graduation. The modern language classes, Chinese and Spanish, are conversation based and generally conducted in that language beginning with the first year classes. The Classical language Latin may include an oral component but emphasis is on language acquisition through reading. Students may continue study in the same language through advanced levels, either at SAS or at the University of the South. ESL courses are available for non-native speakers who require additional course work. ESL courses are in lieu of another foreign language but are taken concurrently with other subjects. Students who test out of ESL must fulfill the two-year foreign language requirement with a language other than English.


All students must successfully complete Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry to meet graduation requirements. The majority of students will complete four or five years of mathematics prior to graduation. Courses beyond Algebra II include Algebra III: Data & Function, Advanced Algebra & Trigonometry, Statistics, Math Analysis, Trigonometry, and Calculus. Students with a passion for mathematics are encouraged to participate in American Math Competitions and Math League Contests.


Prior to graduating, seniors explore religion as a phenomenon common to humanity and develop tools for the study of any religious tradition. They learn language and method for theological thinking with particular emphasis on the religions birthed of the Abrahamic tradition. Through seminars, essay writing, and research projects, students reflect on the theoretical material presented. At the conclusion of the course, each student articulates a personal creedal statement in light of a full year’s experience examining the phenomenon of religion.


All students must successfully complete Conceptual Physics, Biology, and Chemistry to meet graduation requirements. All science courses are laboratory based and emphasize observational and laboratory skills over rote memorization. Students are required to take Conceptual Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. Elective courses include Physics, Advanced Chemistry, Advanced Biology, and one semester electives in Environmental Studies and Geology. 


Students are required to take Health and Fitness and Life Issues before twelfth grade. The class meets twice a week for 90 minutes. The first half of the class takes place in the classroom, where students discuss various health topics. The second half of the class the students are active in the gym, weight room, track or many wonderful campus trails. The goal of the class is to instill in the students lifelong healthy habits of exercise, diet and decision making.


Elective courses vary from year-to-year depending on student interest and faculty interest and expertise. Elective courses are listed under the departments in which they are taught.

Advanced Courses

In addition to the courses listed above, qualified students may take college courses for free and for credit at the nearby University of the South. In recent years, students have used this opportunity to take courses in Anthropology, Art History, Chemistry, Computer Science, Digital Art, Economics, French, German, History, Japanese, Latin, Math, Music, Physics, Political Science, Russian, Sculpture, Spanish, Theatre and Women's Studies.