University of Wisconsin–Madison

Declaring Your Major

Before you graduate, it is required that you officially declare your major, and the declaration process for each major is different.

You might need to apply and be admitted to the school/college of that major, or the major itself. You might need to speak to the major advisor first, or complete certain coursework before you can apply. Most majors will require you to submit a major declaration form or some type of application.

Each major has more details on their “How to Get in” section listed on the right-side of each major’s page in the Guide. Because the process can vary, please check in with your assigned advisor to make sure you have the information you need.

Guide

  • When do I need to declare a major?

    In general, you should be ready to declare a major by the end of your third or fourth semester (usually this is your sophomore year). Some school or colleges will require that you declare once you reach a certain number of course credits.

    There are some strict rules about how and when to declare certain majors, so please be sure to share which majors you are interested in with your advisors so they can help you make an informed decision.

  • I don't know what I want to major in - who can I talk to?

    There are many ways you can explore majors and certificates on campus, and it’s normal to be interested in a number of subjects! You can meet with Cross-College Advising Service (CCAS) advisors who can help you create a plan to strategically assess your interests and goals while making timely progress towards earning your degree.

    Learn more here.

  • Are there restrictions on which majors I can declare?

    Yes, there are some strict rules about how and when to declare certain majors, so please be sure to share which majors you are interested in with your advisors so they can help you make an informed decision.

    You can learn more about which majors or programs have restrictions below.

Benefits of Declaring a Major

If you’re strongly leaning towards a certain major or field (like the biosciences) there may be some benefits to declaring your major even before you are 100% certain about your choice. Once you declare a major, many opportunities open up to you like:

  • Priority course enrollment
  • An assigned major/certificate advisor who specializes in advising for that major
  • Eligibility for scholarships only open to that major
  • Networking opportunities with other students, alumni, or professionals
  • E-mail lists with major related information about opportunities like internships, workshops, special speakers, research, student organizations, study abroad, etc.

Types of Declaration Processes

Flexible Declaration Programs

Flexible Declaration is the most common way to declare a major.

In this type of program, students spend the first several semesters taking classes that satisfy basic requirements while still exploring possible majors.

Some majors require specific prerequisite courses and a minimum GPA before you declare the major. Sometimes you need to declare the major before achieving senior standing (or completing 86 credits).

Examples:

• History
• English
• Anthropology
• Political Science
• Sociology
• Philosophy
• Zoology
• Psychology
• Communication Arts

Competitive Enrollment Programs

Some majors have limited space available, and students need to apply to enroll in that program after 1-2 years of coursework.

All programs have prerequisites, and most have a minimum GPA requirement. Some programs limit the number of times that students may apply.

 

Examples:

• School of Business
• College of Engineering
• School of Nursing

Freshmen Declaration Expected

In these programs students enter the major or degree as early as possible, usually their first year. Though this might not be strictly required, it is strongly encouraged due to the progressive structure of the coursework.

Some programs like Music and Dance may also require passing an audition for admissions.

Examples:

• Music
• Dance
• Art
• Design Studies
• Dairy Science
• Food Science