If you haven’t declared your major yet, or if you’re thinking about switching, now is a great time to start exploring your options! Dal has over 200 majors to choose from, and with so many options, picking one can be intimidating. Once you’re in one, you may feel pressure to stick with it, but switching happens more often than you think.
Luckily, there are some steps you can follow and resources and supports you can access to help you make your decision! I talked to Lindsay, one of the student success advisors at the Bissett Student Success Centre to learn everything I could about choosing majors.
Consider your options: major vs double, major vs minor?
Before you declare anything, it’s important to know the different options you have when it comes to majors, double-majors, minors, certificates, etc. Most students declare a major within their chosen faculty, but some may choose to declare two majors that reflect two areas of interest. Many Arts and Social Sciences and Science degrees can be combined to give you more skills and knowledge in different areas. You may also choose to complete one or more minors, which is usually 18–36 credit hours in a subject outside of your major. Minors are optional (in fact, they won’t even appear on your official transcript!) but could allow you to explore different interests.
The best time to declare your major is at the end of first year or the beginning of second year. While it’s OK to declare your major later in your degree, and totally OK to switch majors once you have declared, declaring early will give you many advantages. You’ll have a better sense of direction in your degree, be able to complete a degree audit, and you’ll have increased access to faculty advisors. Also, courses can fill up more quickly or can be restricted to certain majors in some popular programs (e.g. biology, psychology, neuroscience). Having your major declared before course registration for second year may help you get into the required courses you need for your major.
Think about your future
While it may seem far off if you’re in first or even second year, try to think about your career goals when declaring a major. Many graduate programs may require a specific degree, courses or course loads, co-op experience, or honours. Some majors may also line up better with certain careers. You can use online job search tools to do your research, which leads me to my next point…
Do your research
In Lindsay’s experience, one of the biggest mistakes that she sees is students not doing enough research and picking a major based on what friends are doing or at random. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you declare! Taking a look at the department websites is a great way to learn about different majors, required courses, class sizes, research, honours, career paths, and more.
[Related article: 5 reasons to meet with your advisor]
You can always switch
There are tons of reasons why students decide to switch majors. Interests can change and many people come into university with their mind set on a major, only to take a class they’ve never been exposed to and change their mind completely. You may find that your major isn’t flexible enough, doesn’t line up with your career goals, or you just aren’t as interested in the course material as you thought you would be. All of these things are totally OK!
One of the biggest myths about switching your major is that you’ll fall behind and have to add more time to your degree. This is usually not the case! Unless you’re switching faculties (Science to Commerce for example), many credits will count towards your new major because you can use the courses you’ve already taken to fill elective spaces. Even if you do have to add another semester or year, the amount of time you add to your degree will pay off when you’re on a career path that you genuinely enjoy.
Where to get advice
Dal has a ton of supports and resources available to help you pick a major, declare your major, switch your major or even just check in to make sure you’re on track.
- The Program & Major Expo in the McInnes Room (SUB) on Thursday, February 28, 2019 is a great opportunity to meet faculty, advisors and students from different departments and ask questions about different majors. If you’re ready to declare your major, you can do that at the Expo too!
Looking for a drive from our Truro Campus to the event? Reach out to Gillian Hatch at the Student Success Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can make an appointment with an advisor in the Bissett Student Success Centre in Halifax, the Student Success Centre in Truro or in your faculty. If you’re unsure, here’s where to go for advising.
- Start thinking about your future career goals! In Halifax, you can register for the Career on Track program and work with a student success advisor to discover your strengths, identify your career goals, learn, practice, and apply your skills.
Ariel declared her major before she got here, but knows what to do if she decides to switch!