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How to Discover your Major

Look at the list of undergraduate majors.  Use the Advising Directory to review requirements of different majors and to find contact information for advisors in major departments.

Print out the list of UM degrees offered and cross off the ones you know you're not interested in. If you can narrow it from over 50 down to 5 or 10, you've accomplished something. Follow the links for information about the remaining majors, including admission and graduation requirements, to further investigate.  

Take a few introductory courses.

Follow the links from the list of UM degrees offered at take a look at the majors available at UM and follow the link to the department and review the requirements of the major as well as the courses offered.  Select introductory courses that interest you while considering the general education requirements.  If you decide not to major in the subject, you can still count the course toward general education requirements.

Talk with department or college advisors.

Department and college advisors are some of the best resources on campus because their knowledge of their department spans the continuum from minute details about degree requirements, faculty, and courses (e.g., "That course is only offered every other year, and you never want to take it at the same time as this class.") to broad intellectual issues of theory and philosophy (e.g., "Professor X's research all springs from her theory of X, Y, Z"). They can help you form a picture of what faculty in that major like and want and what students in that major like and want.

Talk with faculty in the major.

Perhaps you're thinking of majoring in an area you're taking a class in this quarter. Go to office hours and talk to your instructor about his or her interests and background in the discipline. Remember: this person has dedicated his or her life to this subject, to its advancement and its dissemination. That's pretty powerful. If anyone could give you the bird's eye view of that major, a faculty member can. If you're not in a class with someone, ask the department adviser who to talk with.  Faculty are busy, but they will be pleased that you're interested in something they're interested in.

Talk with students already declared in the major.

To get the ultimate insider's view, talk with other students (like we had to tell you that!). Find out what drew them to the major, what they hope to do in the future, what the good opportunities are.

Talk with a career counselor.

Although majors and careers are certainly not the same thing, the same skills that make career counselors good at helping people find their career passion might be directed to help you find your academic passion. Go the Career Services to see what they can do for you.  Take a look at Career Services "What you can do with a major in..." series to find out what you kinds of careers you can have with various areas of study.

Talk with family and friends.

People who have known you for many years and who know you well may have some insights that you yourself might not be aware of!

Get a job or an internship.

There's sometimes no way to know if you like something until you do it. Work with the department advisor, Career Services or Internship Services to get some leads on jobs and internships.

Take a Career Assessment offered at the Career Services.

 Career Services offers the career assessment tools which may also shed light onto your academic interests. You may learn something new about yourself, may confirm what you already knew about yourself, or perhaps see things from a different perspective. In any case, it is fun to hear the interpretations.

Do undergraduate research.

The UM brings in millions of dollars in research funding each year. There a huge amount of research going on at all times. And many of those research projects rely on undergraduate research assistants to get the work done. Take advantage of one of the great resources the UM has to offer, and try your hand at research. For many students, doing the actual research of a discipline can be just the spark needed to light a passion. To find opportunities, connect with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities or visit with the department advisor in your area of interest.

Go to an academic conference.

All academic disciplines have conferences at least once a year. They cost money, and usually aren't local, but if you have the opportunity to attend one, you should. If nothing else, it's a very interesting academic/cultural phenomenon. You'll see cutting edge research in the area, you'll see lots of other students (many of them graduate students), and hopefully you'll see something of the inside of that discipline. Talk to department advisors to find out more about conferences.

Assess your academic strengths.

Many majors at the UUM have competitive admission. Do you do well in coursework required by majors that interest you? Your chances for success at the UM are greatly enhanced if you choose a subject you enjoy and do well in. This is one reason (there are others) you shouldn't postpone taking math and science courses if you are considering science majors. You need to discover early on whether you enjoy these subjects and do well in them in college.

Please note:  Much of the information in this website is adapted from University of Washington Undergraduate Advising Center at the Gateway Center (http://www.washington.edu/uaa/gateway/advising/majors/intro3.php).

Undergraduate Advising Center
Lommasson Center 269
(406) 243-2835
Monday - Friday
8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Ask-an-Advisor