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When do I need to commit to a major in university?

June 1, 2021
Author: Christine Johnson

Top five questions about university majors

New university students are often asked, “What are you studying?” 

But what exactly does this mean, and how is your university “major” different from the degree you ultimately hope to earn? One of the challenges university students face is that there are so many new terms to learn and keep straight. Things can quickly get confusing. 

When students start a new undergrad program, one of the first things they’ll need to start thinking about is choosing a degree and a major. To help you navigate this new process, we’ve put together the top questions about university majors and resources students should know about when they’re studying for a degree.

1. When do I need to commit to a major in university?

The short answer is that you should commit and declare when you feel ready. 

If you are studying for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), or Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree, there will come a time during your studies when you will need to declare your major to complete your degree. Declaring your major is the step you need to take to help you plan your program and will provide you with more options that connect with specific campus communities.

Pro tip from Jamie

“Declaring a major is important because after you declare you’ll have better access to research opportunities, exchanges and co-op experiences based on the topic that you’ve picked.”

~ Jamie Wood, Educational Advisor

2. What’s the difference between a major and a minor in university? 

For a bachelor’s degree, a major is the main subject or focus of study you’ll learn about throughout your degree. A minor is a secondary focus of study. For example, you could major in Criminology and minor in English. Majors are typically chosen to complement your career goals, and a minor may be chosen to enhance the major.

As a student studying for a BA or BSc, degree requirements include a minimum of one major or two minors. When you’re studying for a major in a specific subject, roughly half of the courses you take in your third and fourth year will be in that subject area. To complete a minor, students usually take between 10-15 courses in that subject.

3. Can I declare a university major at any time? When do I need to do this?

For most degrees, you won’t have to commit to a specific program until your second or third year of study. When you first apply, you should select a degree that offers a range of programs that interest you. Once you arrive at Vancouver Island University (VIU), you will be able to choose a program that is offered within your degree.

It is important to know that once you declare a major it doesn’t mean that this plan is set in stone. You can still change your major after you declare, but as you get into year three and four of your studies, it can be harder to meet all of the requirements of a new major or minor if you make changes.

Pro tip from Michelle

“You should try and declare your major by the end of your second year because many programs at VIU reserve seats in third- and fourth-level courses for students with that subject as a declared goal.”

~ Michelle Steel, Educational Advisor

 

4. How do I declare a major?

You’ll need to set up a time to talk with your Degree Advisor about your goals. 

“Declaring a major” means connecting with your Degree Advisor about your degree goal or desired subjects of concentrated study. They can help you with:

  • Declaring or changing your major or minors
  • Planning your course choices
  • Providing program details
  • Providing graduation info
  • Connecting you to other resources on campus

Pro tip from Shawn

“If you are studying for a BA, BSc or BBA, 'declaring a major' means connecting with your Degree Advisor about your degree goal or desired subjects of concentrated study and getting the coding for that goal.” 

~ Shawn O'Toole, Educational Advisor

 

5. Are Degree Advisors different from Educational Advisors?

Yes. Educational Advisors are available to help you when you first submit your application and through your first year (before you’ve chosen your degree or major).  

Degree Advisors help you with questions specific to the degree you’re interested in studying. Degree Advisors are the people who know the degree requirements best and will be the ones to approve your application to graduate.

Pro tip from Michael

Educational Advisors can help you to discover, plan and work toward your goals. We are available to answer your questions or steer you in the right direction if anything about your degree comes up before you’ve declared a major.

~Michael Kuntz, Educational Advisor

 

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