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Northwestern University

Changing Majors and Minors

As fields and faculty evolve, a department or program may consider changing the requirements for its major and/or minor. All changes to requirements must be submitted to the Dean’s Office for approval. (See details of proposal submission, below.)

Changes to the structure of a major or minor (types of courses required; how many of each are needed) are presented to the Curricular Review Committee for their consideration. 

Small changes, such as adding one course to the list of those counting toward a category or concentration within a major, may instead receive administrative approval from the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs and may not require a full proposal.

Proposals for changing requirements

Department chairs or program directors should submit proposals after they have gone through appropriate departmental or program review.

Email proposals to Mary Finn, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs, at If you are considering changes to your thesis program, the route to departmental honors, please contact Mary Finn about how to submit a separate proposal.

Proposals will typically include:

1. A presentation of your learning goals for students in your major and/or minor. 

What do you want students to know and what do you want them to be able to do when they graduate with a major/minor in your field? Presenting learning goals may work best as part of the introduction to your proposal or in an appendix. Review helpful suggestions for developing learning goals.

2. Some background explaining why the department or program is proposing changes.

The changes might stem from a rethinking of your goals for your students. They might reflect nationwide or local changes in the nature of your field of study and/or changes in your faculty and course offerings. Some changes may address confusion, complications, or deficiencies stemming from the current set of requirements. Be sure to explain how the proposed changes will help to meet your goals for students completing your major and/or minor.

3. A detailed list of all changes you are proposing.

4. A detailed presentation of current and proposed new requirements in a way that facilitates comparison.

A table presenting the two sets of requirements side by side will often be helpful. Three examples of such tables are available to help you as you prepare your proposal.

5. An assessment plan.

The Associate Dean will work with the department or program on an appropriate assessment plan. The plan should provide information on how you will know if your students are meeting the goals presented in item 1. See our suggestions for developing a major or minor assessment plan; this page also provides links to other useful resources.

A note on implementation

Approved changes to requirements for majors and minors go into effect at the start of the next academic year, when the next Undergraduate Catalog is published. College guidelines stipulate that students can follow any set of requirements in effect while they are undergraduates at Northwestern.  For example, if a student entered Northwestern in Fall 2013 and the requirements for her major changed in Fall 2015, she can choose to follow the requirements in the 2013-14 Undergraduate Catalog, the revised requirements in the 2015-16 Undergraduate Catalog, or those in a subsequent Catalog, regardless of when she declares the major. (A student completing two majors, or a major and a minor, may choose to follow different Undergraduate Catalogs for each.) Students indicate which Catalog(s) they're following on their Graduation Petitions.

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