Major Declaration

When the student declares a major, he or she is responsible for securing an adviser in the major department and completing a Declaration of Major form which includes a comprehensive four-year plan. Usually this planning is done with both support from the first adviser and consultation with the new adviser in the major department. As the new adviser in the major department you should feel free to ask the student to revise the plan before signing off on it. Of course, plans should be free from technical errors: the course decisions and credit counts should allow the student to graduate! Also, the major declaration includes an essay which should provide a solid rationale for the student's decision. 

When are declarations due? Frequently, the student will begin the process of deciding on their major early in the second year. Not only is it natural for students to be more focused within their studies by this time, but our off-campus study application process requires applications due (with preference for the major declared) by the end of the fall semester. The normal major declaration time is two weeks prior to pre-registration in the fourth semester, around early April. 

Whose job is it anyway? Despite this being the student's responsibility, Tutorial advisers often play an important role in this process, offering support and guidance. The Registrar's Office sends a reminder to students in their fourth semester who are still undeclared. This email comes about two months before forms are due, and it includes a link to the Declaration of Major form and the due date. The Registrar's Office sends a reminder to these students' advisers, too. At that point you may decide to invite your undeclared advisees for a group meeting to discuss the process and begin their plans. 

A tough choice. Sometimes this planning process comes easily to the student, but for other students it is a difficult decision. If you end up with an advisee who is having trouble deciding, you might begin by probing with some questions:

  • Is it about having to make a choice (and feeling like you then can't change your mind)?
  • Is it difficult to make a decision because there are too many good options?
  • Is it about feeling like you don't have any good choices?
  • Are your ideas about what you want to study in conflict with the expectations of your family?
  • What happens when you limit yourself to just one area? Do you feel that you'll become completely defined by your major?
  • What about double majoring or completing an interdisciplinary concentration?
  • Do you assume that your major has to tie directly to what you do after graduation?
  • What are your options for after graduation? What do you want your life to look like?

Sometimes students' answers to these questions help guide your conversation or let you know you need to make a referral. Remember that students struggling with their choice of major should speak with the staff in the Career Development Office, x4940, or Academic Advising, x3702. A matter of logistics. Part of process to create a four-year plan includes deciding which courses to take within the major department to fulfill requirements. Students should consult their Academic Evaluation on PioneerWeb (ACAD EVAL). Within this system they can pose "What if ...?" questions to the computer program. So, for example, if you have an advisee interested in a Theatre major, you can provide these directions to your student:

Before you meet with the Theatre department, go to PioneerWeb. Login to PioneerWeb and click on "Course Areas & Academic Info" tab at the top of the page. Then look for the "Academic Information" box. Click on "Academic Evaluation (check degree progress)" link. This will take you to an area where you can check your progress towards your Grinnell degree, AND (this is the cool part) you can ask it, "What if I were to major in Theatre?" and select ok. The computer program will go through all your courses to date and tell you what you would need to take if you were to major in Theatre. In addition to reading the requirements in the College Catalog, this should significantly assist in your planning.