Choosing your Thinking Matters Courses

A foundational principle of Thinking Matters courses is that there are multiple perspectives on any question, and we encourage you to take a similar approach in listing your course preferences.


There are at least six Thinking Matters courses offered each quarter, and you will be required to take one to fulfill your freshman requirement. On your Approaching Stanford Forms, we ask you to rank six courses per quarter, including Structured Liberal Education (SLE), ITALIC, or Education as Self-Fashioning (ESF), all of which also satisfy the Thinking Matters requirement. We will reserve one space for you in one of your top choices. More than 95% of students receive their first or second choices.


The Thinking Matters curriculum is flexible. Courses serve both as a means to satisfy the one-course Thinking Matters requirement and as a way to explore your interests through electives. The Thinking Matters catalog and Explore Courses provide descriptions for all courses, and you should use it both to guide your ranking of six course preferences per quarter that you will enter on your Approaching Stanford Forms and to identify possible electives you might also take during your first year.

General Guidelines for Choosing Courses

  1. You will need to rank six courses for every quarter. View available courses in the Thinking Matters catalog or in Explore Courses. Read through all of the course descriptions. Pay attention to the major questions asked by each course, the kinds of topics and materials that will be covered, and the kind of work you will be asked to do. 

  2. Challenge yourself! In narrowing your choices, ask yourself: “Am I drawn to studying what is already familiar or what is unknown to me?” “How will I be examining my assumptions about living my life and understanding the world?” “Why is this topic important to me?” 

  3. Don’t worry. You will have the opportunity to request to change the Thinking Matters course in which you have a reserved space to accommodate your schedule or your changing interests.