Choosing a Major Resources

Advisors in academic departments may assume they will be working only with students who have already settled on a specific major in their respective department. You will also meet with some students, however who have not reached that point in their development or planning. Students may contact you and be in a variety of situations: they may be interested in the general subject area but not know which major is the best fit, have a major in mind but lack academic credentials for admission, or be truly undecided and unsure of how to start the process for choosing a major.

Benefits to Choosing a Major Early

  • Advising by the academic department specific to the student’s major.
  • Access to major-restricted courses.
  • Finding out about major-related opportunities within the department.
  • Graduate in a timely manner.

Timeline to Graduation

Note: if you are considering majors in natural sciences, technology, pre-health or fine and performing arts, it is important to begin appropriate course work your first year, often first quarter, to graduate within four years. You should declare these majors early! Remember you are allowed to change majors.

Advising steps students should complete at certain amount of quarters or Credits Completed
Quarters or Credits Completed Steps to Take
1st Quarter
  • GUR courses
  • "Choosing a Major" appointment
  • Talk to faculty in areas of interest
  • See Resources list
60 Credits Completed Seek advising about choice a major. Meet with a department or academic advisor to determine major declaration requirements.
75+ Credits Completed (Transfer + Running Start students)
  • First quarter at Western: Identify and connect with academic department to understand major declaration requirements.
  • Second quarter: Apply to major, if possible.
  • If not declared during the second quarter, students with 105 or more credits must provide a detailed plan for major declaration prior to registration.
90 Credits Completed Apply to a major (if not done already)
105 Credits Completed Western Academic Policy
If not declared, students are required to provide a detailed plan for major declaration prior to registration.
180 Credits Completed Completed:
  • 180 Credits
  • 60 Upper Division Credits
  • General University Requirements (GURs)
  • Approved Major
  • 3 Writing Proficiency Points

The following are suggested as a way to work with students who come to advisors for help choosing or declaring a major:

  • Ask them questions to find out more about their strengths, interests and career ideas. Discuss the student’s career goals to find out how a major(s) might help them meet those goals.
  • Direct students to choosing a major resources available on the Academic Advising Center and Career Services Center websites.
  • Help students understand all of their options by checking out Western’s Programs of Study and review the department websites for additional information. Students are encouraged to contact the department to initiate the major declaration process.
  • Assess the student’s status by reviewing their academic history, asking if they have a major in mind. If so, check for congruence of coursework and/or look for trends in course selection and grades. Refer students to other possible programs of study if valuable.
  • Outline next steps for the student to help them understand what they need to do to keep moving in the right direction.