Exploring Potential Majors

There are many things you can do to explore a major and see whether it feels right for you. Check out the steps below for some ideas. Of course, your Academic Advising Director or AARC Advisor is always happy to talk through this decision with you as well.

Explore Your Interests

  • Browse the Majors site to see what majors look interesting and what are some good courses to learn more about them.
  • Take an introductory class in the field. IntroSems are great but not the only option. This can give you some insight into the topics, methods, and materials important to that field.
  • Enroll in a 1-unit class. Even if you cannot fit an introductory class into your schedule, many departments offer lecture series with few or no prerequisites that can still be quite useful in exploring a major.
  • Browse the faculty profiles on the department website to see if the range of topics and approaches in that major interests you. You can read some of their published research to learn more.
  • Read some nonfiction bestsellers written for a general audience in that field. Then read scholarly reactions to them. (Ask a librarian how to find these)
  • Engage in research in the field. Whether it a summer-long program or a short commitment during the academic year, a research experience can provide an excellent view into a potential major.

Talk to People!

  • Attend Majors Night. Held every autumn, Majors Night allows you to chat with representatives of most majors and minors at Stanford in one place.
  • Meet the Student Services Officer, or talk to the student advisors/peer advisors in the department - they are a great starting point for any questions.
  • Attend a pre-major luncheon, dinner, or info session. Tip: You may need to get on the department’s interest or pre-major or events email list to learn about these.
  • Visit office hours for a professor whose research interests you, and ask them to recommend a book or if you can see their lab. Or ask them how they decided to commit to that field.
  • Do “informational interviews” with alumni in that major. (BEAM can give you tips on finding alumni and setting these up; Handshake has suggestions on how to conduct them.)
  • Find out what advanced students are doing in the major. Places to look: SURPS and ASURPS. Some departments share thesis abstracts or presentation videos on their website, or ask the SSO/peer advisors if you can see examples of past theses.

Plan it Out

  • If a particular major sounds promising, you can research its requirements by going to the relevant department’s website or by visiting the Stanford Bulletin. Consider how the coursework aligns with your interests.
  • Make a couple of four-year plans that fulfill all major and university requirements. Pay attention to prerequisites and what quarter courses are offered. Assess whether your schedule seems compelling and manageable.

See Also