Decide on a Major

Just about every student must formally declare a major, typically by the end of sophomore year or the start of junior year. Don't rush into it — many students go through four years in one major, take one class in another major, and then regret they didn't switch majors earlier. On the other hand, waiting too long to decide might make it difficult to fit in all the classes in four years. Here's a helpful guideline: Declare a major when you're comfortable saying, "I could do something like this when I graduate."

How do I pick a major?

If you really have no clue what you might want to do, that's normal. Your academic advisor can help you get started by exploring your interests and choosing some classes that could lead to a major. Without such a plan, it's more likely that you'll need additional time to graduate when you finally do decide.

In most cases, a major won't just present itself; you'll find one through a process of self-exploration. You can try some introductory classes in different subject areas, for example — ideally while fulfilling core requirements at the same time. Or you can evaluate careers you might want to explore and see what classes would be needed for such jobs.

Is it right for me?

Finding the right major is a lot like falling in love — it's not the easiest thing in the world to describe, but you know for sure when you've found it. Maybe you won't see fireworks or feel your heart racing, but you should feel a spark, a sense of excitement, about at least one subject area.

A field of study may be right for you if you look forward to attending class, or if you find yourself doing additional research into the subject on your own time. An eagerness to learn more about a field of study indicates you're hot on the trail of a major.

Can I switch my major?

There are times when a field of study doesn't fit right. If you're bored by it, don't do well in the classes, or are not interested in the idea of advanced study in the field, it may be best to find something else. College is about exploring options, taking in all that you can, and deciding what is right for you.

One of the big factors to consider when changing majors is how you'll complete your studies in your new field. While it's true that you shouldn't be miserable in your chosen field of study, there comes a point — sometime after the beginning of junior year and obviously before the end of senior year — when it's less practical to switch.

Some classes needed for a major are offered only once a year. If you switch into the new program during the "off" semester, you could lose vital time and have additional tuition to pay.

Switching majors is a big decision that's best made in consultation with your academic advisor. The two of you will look at whether the change will set you back in graduation, see what new requirements you need to fulfill, and determine how many credits you'll lose.