All undergraduate students must complete a major, an area of concentration which you study in depth. All majors require at least 50 credits in one department or a closely related group of departments. Your major will make up one-third to one-half of your bachelor's degree. Some examples of majors are Biology, Psychology, Drama, and Chemical Engineering. The UW has more than 120 majors to choose from.
Many students are undecided about their majors when they enter college — and many who think they have decided will change their minds more than once before they graduate. Although parents and friends will keep asking you what you're majoring in, you shouldn't feel pressured to make a quick decision. There is a lot to choose from at a university of this size, and there are many factors you need to think about as you are considering potential majors. On the average, people change majors three times and careers seven times. Take time to explore your interests and your options.
To help you with the process of choosing a major, you're encouraged to spend some time exploring the Choosing a Major tab on this website.
When should I declare a major?
You are expected to declare a major by the time you have accumulated 105 credits, which is about one quarter into your junior year. If you are not able to declare your intended major by that time, you must make another choice or seek a premajor extension from an adviser. Premajor extensions are usually granted if you have a reasonable chance of being accepted into your intended major.
For the first few quarters of your college career it's perfectly all right not to know what your major will be, but you should be taking steps to find out. As early as your freshman year, one or two of your courses each quarter should be a subject you're considering as a major, or a requirement of your intended major.
Although everyone has to complete general education requirements (English composition, Areas of Knowledge, etc.), it is not a good idea to concentrate exclusively on general education requirements first and postpone thinking about a major. Many majors require more than 50 credits and some have extensive prerequisites. If you put off your decision too long, you may have to attend more than four years to complete your degree.
Many students start taking classes toward their major in their freshman year. Some reasons you should start your major as soon as possible:
- Some UW majors take four years to complete from the time you begin the prerequisite courses. For example, engineering majors take four years from the time you start calculus; biological majors take at least three years from the time you start general chemistry; foreign language majors take four years if you start at the beginning of a new language. There are many other examples.
- Many UW majors have admission requirements. In addition, some of these admit students only once a year. Look over the admission requirements of the majors you are considering.
- Not all majors are available at the UW. For example, the UW has no majors in physical education, athletic training, or nutrition, so if you are interested in pursuing a major in those or related fields the UW will not be able to serve you well as an undergraduate. If you know you want to earn your undergraduate degree from the UW, familiarize yourself with our list of majors.
- Most students run through several potential majors before they find the subject they enjoy most. Give yourself time to do this by starting to investigate potential majors in your freshman year.
If I know what I want to major in, can I get a four-year plan of what courses to take?
Sometimes, but it's harder than you might think to put such a plan together; some programs (e.g., ROTC, Veterans Affairs) require such plans, and in these cases advisers will do their best to accommodate you. However, for most majors there is no way you can plan now exactly what you will take every quarter; although most UW majors require certain courses for admission, other courses are taken from a broad range of options, and others are totally open electives. Some majors include a lot of flexibility and up to a third of your degree might be electives, anything you want to take. Some majors are much more structured.
Some departments have course plans available on their websites. For example, the engineering programs provide a handout with an ideal 4-year course plan, and the junior and senior years of the nursing program are set in stone.
All of this doesn't mean you shouldn't write up your own course plan and work with advisers to make sure it works. Just keep in mind that whatever plan you come up with will probably change a bit quarter to quarter as different courses become available, as you develop interests, as you go on National Student Exchange, as you add a minor, etc. It's a great idea to read through the online information about the majors you are considering and make lists of the courses you'll need to take. The descriptions of those courses in the online Course Descriptions will help you figure out any prerequisites and determine in what order the courses should be taken. We recommend that you try roughing out a four-year plan, and modify it frequently. You can print out blank Four-Year Planning Sheets (PDF: 16K) to help. When you visit advisers for any reason, bring your current plan with you for suggestions.
If you do not have a PDF viewer already installed on your computer, we suggest you use Adobe Reader. You can download it from Adobe's website.