Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Major and Minor Questions

One of the College's degree requirements is completion of a major. Find answers to common questions related to majors and minors.

How do I choose a major?

Choosing a major is an individualized process. Elsewhere on this website, you'll find lots of information about majors, minors, and certificates, including requirements worksheets and some of our best advice for how to choose. The short version: explore! Our interactive list of all majors and minors can be a good place to start. 

Your major does not determine the rest of your life, but it will determine anywhere from a third to half of your courses at Northwestern. Your major should be interesting to you; it should ask questions and investigate problems that you find intriguing, and it should use methods to explore those problems that speak to your strengths as a student. You have lots of options, and you have the chance to really own your academic plan! Your first-year adviser can be a great sounding board as you consider your options, and every department has a special webpage and adviser for first-year students that you can consult for detailed information about getting started.

How do I declare my major and minor?

Weinberg students must officially declare a major before the end of sophomore year. Luckily, declaring a major is easy:

  • Go to the department or program office, get a Declaration of Major form, meet with a major adviser, and get the form signed.
  • Drop the form off at the Weinberg Office of Undergraduate Studies and Advising (1922 Sheridan Road). You will be asked to set up a meeting with your College Adviser.

To declare a minor, fill out a Declaration of Minor form and drop it off at the Weinberg Office of Undergraduate Studies. Since minors are optional, there are no fixed deadlines for declaring them. However, certain departments and programs might have guidelines or a timetable for fulfilling certain minor requirements. Declaring a minor can get you on department or program mailing lists, it lets you develop a relationship with a minor adviser, and it may give you priority for registering for some courses. So, declaring earlier rather than later is generally wise.

Should I double-major?

Some students have to complete two majors because one of their majors is an adjunct major. All adjunct majors require the completion of a second major too. This second major must be a "stand-alone" major; that is, every student must have at least one major that is not an adjunct major.

There are a number of student myths about second majors; often students believe that everyone has two majors, or that they are not getting the most out of their education if they do not do a second major, or that they won't be able to get a job if they don't have two majors. These myths are not true. For some students, especially those with a wide range of academic or extracurricular interests, it often makes more sense to complete a major and a minor, or a major and a variety of electives targeted to your varied interests.

If you are considering adding a second major, be sure to discuss your ideas with both your College Adviser and your major adviser(s).

What is an ad-hoc major?

Weinberg College requires you to complete a major, a demonstration of competence in a coherent field of study. Most students complete this requirement in one of three ways:

  • With a major in a traditional departmental, taking a set of courses designed to impart essential information, language, methods, and values.
  • With a major in an interdisciplinary program which meets educational and scholarly needs not adequately addressed within the departmental structure. Majors in interdisciplinary programs such as Cognitive Science, Environmental Sciences, and Latina and Latino Studies draw on courses from a range of departments and programs.
  • With a combination of a primary major and a second major or a minor, certificate, or concentration.

A few students' curricular interests will not be met by these methods of specialization. Furthermore, there is a certain challenge and excitement to mapping your own course in a field which you define for yourself with the guidance of members of the faculty. 

If you are a Weinberg student whose curricular interests are not served by the University's wide variety of majors and minors, you may consider an individualized course of study called an ad hoc major. Using already existing majors as formal models, you and the professors who agree to advise you can carve out a new major by putting together existing courses and special projects in new combinations which reflect your interests and talents.

The only limits are those of the curriculum itself and of the faculty. For example, a major in business and ethics might not be feasible because of a shortage of courses and professors with the appropriate expertise, whereas a major in computational chemistry might exploit some extraordinary strengths in the curriculum and the faculty. In this way students can take personal advantage of the best Northwestern has to offer.

What is an adjunct major?

Some of the majors offered by Weinberg College are adjunct majors. If you complete an adjunct major, then you must complete another major too. This second major must be a "stand-alone" major; that is, every student must have at least one major that is not an adjunct major.

The adjunct majors offered by Weinberg College are:

Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS) is also a special admission major.

Students entering Northwestern prior to Fall 2016 could also pursue an adjunct major in Legal Studies. This adjunct major was replaced by a stand-alone major not requiring the completion of another major too.

If you do an adjunct major, be sure to discuss the choice of your second major with a Weinberg or major adviser. Some adjunct majors mesh particularly well with other majors (MMSS and Economics, for instance). Some adjunct majors also have more liberal double-counting rules.

How many majors and minors can I complete?

A student’s total number of majors plus minors may not typically exceed three. (This is called the "Rule of Three.") Exceptions require permission from the Weinberg College Advising Office and cannot be granted during the first year. A sophomore, junior, or senior considering exceeding this limit should meet with his or her College Adviser to discuss options and procedures. 

Back to top