Getting Started

The following suggestions may help you begin the process of thinking about your major.

Identify What You Want

If you're not sure where to start, begin by thinking about yourself and what you want by answering the following questions:

  • What courses have you most enjoyed? Why? (e.g., Professor, subject matter, etc.)
  • What type of work do you enjoy? (e.g. papers vs. problem sets, abstract vs. empirical, etc.)
  • What courses have you performed the best in academically?
  • What qualities are you looking for? Think about class size, ease of getting to know professors, the variety of courses and off-campus programs available to you.
  • Why are you considering particular majors? Do your motivations come from your interests, abilities, and values, or from other factors (e.g., family/peer pressures or internal pressure to pursue "practical" or "prestigious" majors)?
  • Consider the balance you want to find among what you enjoy, what you consider your strengths, and what you believe useful in making a decision about what to major in.
  • What values and principles guide your life? Will those values match the requirements and outcomes of a potential major or career?
  • Do your interests, abilities, values, and motivations conflict with each other or are they in agreement? Sometimes students are interested in a major but find they do not have the abilities to handle the academic demands of the required curriculum. On the other hand, some students have considerable abilities in a particular discipline but do not have any real interest in studying that discipline. Is your choice of major a realistic one?

Narrow Your Choices

So you've got a general idea of who you are or what you want, but now you need to focus down a bit. Think about some of the following questions:

  • Do you find yourself looking more at certain departments when you browse the ORC? Which ones? Write down the courses you'd like to take in the future.
  • Have you taken classes in all the departments you are thinking about? (If not, you should do so.) Have you taken non-introductory courses? List those that you have enjoyed the most.
  • Which professors or courses have you enjoyed the most so far?
  • Make a list of all the possible majors and departments you have considered. How do these programs match up with the qualities you mentioned above?

Arriving at a Decision

When your list has been narrowed down to a handful or fewer, try to follow these further suggestions to make a final decision.

 Step 1: Identify your major. Some things to consider if you aren't yet decided:

  • What topics do you enjoy learning about?
  • How do you like being evaluated in the classroom? (Papers, projects, exams, etc.)
  • Opportunities within the major (Off-campus programs, research, etc.)
  • Take a look at upper-level classes in a few major departments. Which classes are you most interested in taking during your time at Dartmouth?

Step 2: Go to major department website, read through the major information, & download the major worksheet (if available).

Step 3: Identify the courses you will be taking each term toward the major to the best of your ability.

  • This is your BEST guess as to what classes you will complete toward your major.
  • Many academic department websites have a tentative list of future courses available.
  • You may also look on the ORC to find trends of when classes have been offered: http://dartmouth.smartcatalogiq.com/en/current/orc/Departments-Programs-Undergraduate.
  • Choose courses you are interested in and assume they are offered in the same term each year – you can re-submit your major plan to reflect updates!

Step 4: Use The Sophomore Year booklet to learn who gives pre-major advice in the department you are seeking to major in. It is always a good idea to talk to a professor about your major plan and interests within that major. https://dartgo.org/sophomore_year_booklet

Step 5: Read through how to declare a major on the Registrar's website: http://www.dartmouth.edu/reg/guides/dartworks/declare_major_or_minor.html

  • Consider the special features of each department, such as FSPs, LSAs, seminars, special research opportunities, etc.
  • Make sure your D-Plan matches up with the courses you might need or want to take.
  • If you still can't decide between multiple majors, you may want to consider double-majoring or doing a major and a minor.

Step 6: Guides to declaring your major: https://students.dartmouth.edu/undergraduate-deans/students/academic-advising/planning-your-major/step-step-guides

Still Lost?

  • Go visit your faculty! Just drop in or make an appointment to talk with professors you have connected with or the heads of departments you are interested in.
  • Think about the activities you are involved with and speak with other members of those groups to see if your academic interests might match up.
  • Research majors at Center for Professional Development and find out what former students have done with majors in different departments.
  • Dialogue with people you trust about your interests and passions and how they might align with possible majors.
  • Consider a Senior Fellowship.

Resources

  • Undergraduate Deans Office, Carson Hall 125, 646-2243
  • Academic Departments
  • Center for Professional Development, 646-2215
  • Premajor Advising, Wentworth Hall, 646-1632