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Choosing and Declaring a Major

Declaring a major

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

Changing your major is also easy; on the Declaration of Major form, you can drop a previously declared major when you declare a new one.

Choosing a major

But how do you choose a major? In spite of how things may appear, the majority of students arrive at Northwestern uncertain about their major. You have a wide range of majors to choose from, a wide variety of approaches to the intellectual issues most compelling to you. There is no single formula by which all students select their major, and you have many resources to help you with the decision: your First-Year Seminar Instructor, your College Adviser, and  the Advisers and Directors of Undergraduate Studies in departments or programs that interest you are all there to help, so feel free to contact them at any point in your deliberations. Also, check out department and program websites, including their First-Year Focus webpages.

While choosing a major may feel like the most important decision you've ever made, you should keep a few points in mind as you decide.

Consider your coursework

Your major determines many of the courses you will take during your time at Northwestern; they should be courses that pique your interests, that speak to your talents and intellectual curiosity.

Choosing a major is part of the process of intellectual and personal exploration that lies at the heart of a liberal arts education. It is how you make your education your own. Ideally, as you try to decide, you should use your distribution courses and electives to try out fields that you find interesting, taking both introductory and upper-level courses to see how the subject is taught at Northwestern. Think about whether you like the type of work these courses ask you to do, the kinds of materials you have to study, the kinds of questions you have to answer, and the kinds of methods you use to answer them. Balancing these ideals with practical matters, such as your ability to complete the required coursework in your remaining time at Northwestern, can help guide you.

Think about minors

Would you like to take several courses in a specific department or program, but not enough to complete a major? Completing a minor may be an option—and it's the only option in some programs. Or, you can just take the courses that interest you most. Remember, you only need to have one major, and completing a minor is optional.

Majors and future career paths

Keep in mind that while some career paths require specific coursework, any major that allows you time to complete those courses may be just fine. For instance, you don't have to be a Biological Sciences major to prepare for a career in medicine or an Economics major to go into business, but you should be aware of other course requirements for such paths. And, contrary to popular belief, law schools do not give preference to any major. Our professional development pages have more information about preparing academically for careers in medicine, business, and law. 

Staff at Northwestern Career Advancement can also help you think about how to connect a major to a career, and vice versa.

Something else to remember: Your major does not have to determine what you do for the rest of your life. While your major may set limits, it will also open many doors. The critical thinking, analysis, and communication skills you gain in any major can prepare you for a wide variety of careers. In fact, surveys of those who have already completed college and successfully pursued careers suggest that it can be difficult to match a list of people's careers to their college majors.

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