Declaring a Major

Declaring a Major

I declared my major! It’s a fun thing to say. I, Paige Moskowitz, have declared and I am officially an American history major at Barnard College.

Declaring a major is a defining moment in the college experience. Whether you've known since age 7 what you wanted to study, or if you needed to explore a bit once you arrived on campus, it’s exciting for everyone to turn in the paperwork and finally declare a major.

At Barnard, most students declare a major by the spring semester of their sophomore year. It gives students time to try out different academic disciplines and, ultimately, find the right fit for them. Once a student decides on a major, it’s pretty simple to declare: 

1) I picked up a form from the Registrar’s Office

2) I met with my pre-major academic advisor and got their signature

3) I met with the chair of the history department and got their signature

4) I returned the form to the Registrar’s Office, picked up a snazzy “I Declared!” button, and in a snap, I had declared my history major.

You may be wondering about step #2. Every Barnard student is assigned a pre-major academic advisor when they arrive on campus. A pre-major advisor is a professor from essentially any department that helps students plan their schedules for the first few semesters, and offers advice as a student figures out what they want to major in. Once a student declares, the pre-major advisor changes to a major advisor, a professor who teaches within the department you’re majoring in. Students can request a specific professor to be their major advisor, like if they’re interested in the subject that the professor specializes in or they’ve taken a few classes from that professor before and like their advising style, or a student can randomly be assigned an advisor in their department. Later on, if a student’s interests change and they realize a different advisor might be a better fit, students can fill out a form in the Registrar’s Office and change their advisor.

I declared a single major, but a student declaring a double major goes through the same process! There’s space on the major declaration form to list a second major and a second major advisor. Many Barnard students double major in a variety of combinations. I have a friend who’s a dance and biology double major, know someone who is an American studies and psychology double major, and I know an environmental science and sociology double major. You can even use the same form to declare a minor (it’s a super handy form!).

Barnard offers more than 50 majors, but if none of the majors are quite the right match, Barnard students are able to design their own major! Working with their Class Dean, academic advisors, and department chairs, students are able to create their own customized major out of classes already offered at Barnard and Columbia. Past “design-your-own-major” majors include: health informatics and linguistics.

Indecisive about your major? No problem! You can always change your major and fill out the major declaration form again and again until you find the perfect fit for you!


Must-Take Class: Making Barnard History

Must-Take Class: Making Barnard History