In the second year, students are asked to identify their major course of study.

A Time of Readjustment

This is often a period during which students readjust their initial intentions for study. Only 25 percent of students (both at Dartmouth and nationwide) end up majoring in the subject they intended to upon matriculation.

Moreover, because of Dartmouth's flexibility in the definition of majors (majors, modified majors, special majors, double majors, minors), students often face the challenge not only of deciding what they want to major in, but how to mix-and-match courses of study to their own particular intellectual and post-graduate goals. This is also complicated by Dartmouth's unique “D-Plan” and its wide array of off-campus study options.

At the same time, these decisions, though not irreversible, will nevertheless focus and constrain a student's subsequent academic plans in a way that contrasts starkly with the freedom to explore from the wide array of courses in the first year. Therefore, this is sometimes a time of indecision and anxiety for students, because course selection and major selection often feels as if it has larger implications for personal identity and professional goals.

In this period some students may continue to consult with their advisor or other faculty from their first year, though a student has no single officially assigned advisor. This is by design, since, as experience indicates, any single “assigned” advisor is unlikely to provide the full perspective that the student requires at the stage.

This does not mean that a student doesn't need advice, but more that advice is going to come from a series of different sources; a student should be encouraged to develop specific advising relationships with faculty and staff that suits his or her individual needs and interests. This can be a robust system, but it requires students to take the responsibility and initiative for their own academic direction. Usually students will talk with faculty in departments they are considering majoring in, and departments have guidelines about how individual students request advising at this stage.

All faculty understand one of their core roles is advising students, and generally take great pleasure in shepherding students into their own field.

Other resources, as in the first year, includes the Undergraduate Deans Office, Departmental Administrators, Center for Professional Development, Academic Skills, Graduate Assistants, Community Directors, DOSCs (Deans Office Student Consultants) and older students.

From a purely informational perspective, most of the particulars needed to plan a major are available online (in the ORC and departmental websites). That said, the challenge at this stage is not usually “what courses do I take to fulfill this or that requirement?” but rather, “What do I want to major in, and how does that relate to who I am and what direction I want my life to take?”