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Declaring Your Major

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Declaring a major is a milestone in a student's academic career. Whether you have always known what you wanted to study, or if you explored the many options since arriving on campus, it is an exciting (and rather simple) process to declare your major.

Want to learn about declaring over video? Watch our program from February 2024: Declaring Your Major: When, Why, and How (17:23).

When do I declare?

You can declare anytime during your first or second year, but you need to declare during sophomore spring if you haven't already. Departments do not usually allow you to declare during the summer. It can take a few weeks to go through all the steps, and the people you need to talk to may not be available during finals week, so don't leave it to the last minute.

Transfer students are encouraged to declare a major as soon as they are ready. Transfers coming in with junior status (around 90 units transferred in) have until the end of their junior year to declare. Transfers coming in with sophomore status (around 45 units transferred in) are encouraged to declare by the end of their sophomore year or during the first quarter of their junior year.

Don't be afraid of declaring

Sometimes a good way to evaluate the major is to try it out: integrate yourself into the department, declare the major, and see if it’s the right fit. You can certainly change majors if you later realize a different field is a better fit for you.

If you are considering a particular major, go visit the department. You can often learn a lot in person, or from browsing corkboards.

How do I declare?

The process of declaring a major varies by department.

In general, once you’ve decided a major is right for you, you will fill out a Program Sheet that charts the courses you will take to complete the major, have the program sheet approved by your faculty Major Advisor in a meeting, and then finalize the declaration in Axess.

However, all departments are different—some will have you write a reflective essay; some also require that you meet with a peer advisor; some assign you a faculty Major Advisor while others have you find your own. But just about every department will have a Declaring the Major section on their website, somewhere. Find that page and it will walk you through the process for that department.

In case you are required to find your own faculty Major Advisor, you may choose someone you already know: an instructor in a class you have taken, a professor with whom you have done research, or a Resident Fellow (if they serve as faculty in the major department). Or you can choose someone you don’t know but would like to: someone who does research in an area you are also interested in, someone who has had life experiences you share or would like to share (e.g. started a company, did non‐profit work, served in government).

Your Academic Advisor can help with general questions at the beginning of this process, but it’s very likely that the best person to contact with questions is the Student Services Officer for the department. If a department has peer advisors, they are also excellent places to start.

Be aware: selecting a major in Axess is often the smallest and least important step in this process!

Declaring Majors, Minors, and Notations

What if I want to change my major?

You can change your major at any time before graduation, assuming you can fulfill the requirements. Keep in mind that in some cases, changing your major late in your undergraduate career can delay your progress towards graduation.  Check with your intended department before you change your major, and come talk to your Academic Advisor as well!

See also

Return to the Advising Student Handbook