When and how you can declare your major at the UW varies in several ways. Some majors accept students year-round, some only once a quarter, and some once a year. Some can be declared upon entry as a freshman, some require UW credits be taken first, and some require junior standing. Some require prerequisite courses, and even interviews, while others can be entered with no background in the area whatsoever. Some majors have the resources to be available to any student with interest, while others are heavily impacted and therefore highly competitive.
So how do you make your way through this tangled web of requirements? If you know what you want to major in, it's actually pretty simple.
1. Find out the Admission Requirements, if Any
The Undergraduate Majors page lists the admission and graduation requirements for every major the UW offers. In looking at that, it might help to know that all majors fall into one of three types, in terms of admission requirements.
- Open majors can be declared at any time by any student in good standing (not on academic probation).
- Minimum Requirements majors can be declared as soon as the prerequisites are completed. For example, before you can declare the Mathematics B.A. major, standard option, you must have completed MATH 124, 125, and 126, all with grades of at least 2.0.
- Competitive majors require specific prerequisite courses and usually a minimum GPA, but meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. In each application cycle a limited number of places are available, and the competitiveness of the major depends on how many students apply. These majors have application forms and application deadlines; some of them require standardized tests, recommendations, and/or interviews. Some competitive majors admit students only once per year.
2. If There are Admission Requirements, Complete Them
This is sometimes easier said than done. For open majors, you can skip right onto #3. For others, you may spend several quarters to more than a year at this step. This is the time to continue to explore your interests, work with advisers, and do everything you can to make yourself into the best possible candidate for the major or majors you are considering.
3. Apply to Your Major
Here's where the when comes in. Some majors, like Anthropology, allow you to declare any time of year. Some majors, like Psychology, accept applications only once per quarter, and not in the summer. And some, like Construction Management, accept only one time per year.
Whenever the time comes to apply to your intended major, be ready, get the application early, and take your time filling it out. If there is a personal statement, take it to a writing center, have a friend read it, let it sit for a while and read it again; a good personal statement can really make your application stand out in a competitive application process.
4. If You are Accepted, Fill Out Any Necessary Paperwork
Depending on the competitiveness of your major, you may know as you turn in your application that you "got in," or you may have to wait for several weeks to find out. Even open and minimum requirements majors often ask you to fill out an application, and they often require that you meet with a department adviser to talk about your plans and fill out the paperwork.
The thing that actually declares your major is the "Change of Major" form. Sometimes this is done behind the scenes, sometimes there will be a big group orientation, and sometimes your new adviser will fill it out one-on-one with you. You may also be sent to retrieve your advising file; if you are a premajor you may have an advising file in UAA Advising. The Change of Major form gets sent on to Graduation and Academic Records where your major code is changed in the system.