Choosing a Major or Minor
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The choice of academic concentration is best made after exploring a range of disciplines in a thoughtful and deliberate way. Take a wide variety of courses and pursue as many enrichment opportunities (internships, research experience, etc.) as possible. Be flexible with your career goals and be prepared to change your mind. Taking distribution requirements and a few electives early in college will help you learn what disciplines you enjoy.
The following tips can help you make your decision:
- Take a look at our Quick Guide to Exploring your Major Options.
- Review Your Options - Get a listing of all the majors, concentrations, and degree programs offered at Northwestern, available at the UAAC. On this list, circle majors that interest you, and cross off majors that don't.
- Gather Information - Pick up major information from the UAAC Resource Library, review our reference books on choosing a major, and consult the list of majors available at Northwestern.
- Narrow Your Focus - Shorten your list of possible majors to two or three that interest you the most.
- Ask Questions - Speak with faculty members and advisers in your prospective majors' departments and schools. Contact information for all NU departments is available at the UAAC. Consult with other students in your prospective major.
Ask yourself the following questions for each major that you are considering:
- What subjects will I study?
- What is the disciplinary focus of the major?
- What are the major and related course requirements for this major? Will I enjoy these courses? Why?
- What classes will be easiest for me? Which ones will be most challenging? Why?
- What minors or other courses might complement this major?
- Does this major provide an opportunity for internships, faculty research, and/or experiential learning?
- What skills will this major help me to develop?
- Is graduate school usually required to work in fields associated with this major?
- What kinds of jobs do students in this major pursue?
- Sit-in on a Course - If you hear of a class that sounds interesting, e-mail the professor to see if he or she will allow you to attend a class. Or attend a class with a roommate/friend if he or she is taking a course that sounds compelling to you.
- Take a Course - If possible, take introductory courses in the majors you are considering. Even if you do not choose one of those particular majors, the introductory courses may count toward distribution requirements or as related courses in other major programs. Some majors require that you take an introductory course before you declare your major.
- Make a Decision - Choose a major that best meets your needs and interests. Don't be afraid to make a decision. You are likely to succeed in a major you enjoy because you will commit the time and effort necessary to be successful.
A dual degree program encourages breadth of scholarship. It is a parallel arrangement of studies in which you receive both a BA and a BS degree, generally in five years. You must complete the stated degree requirements for both schools for a dual degree. Each department and school administering the degree work must approve the plan of study. You will receive two diplomas upon graduation.
A double major requires that you fulfill the degree requirements for only one school (your primary school) and the course requirements for each of your two majors. You then may have the entry noted on your transcript: "Also completed departmental program requirements for a major in physics" (for example). In both cases, the diploma indicates the degree received and does not designate specific majors.
There is no single "right" major for you and there is no specific "right" major for every career field. Northwestern has over 65 majors available. Many majors can help you develop the necessary skills to prepare you for various work environments or graduate programs.
Careers in law
You may major in any program of study, in any of NU's six schools. Law schools accept applicants from all academic backgrounds. The most important thing is to major in an area that you enjoy and in which you will do well.
Instead of focusing on your major, law school admission committees will evaluate the specific types of classes that you take in undergraduate school. Taking courses that require reading, writing, critical thinking, and analytical skills will prove valuable when you apply for law school. Often classes in areas such as English, history, political science, classics, and philosophy allow you to develop these types of skills.
Take advantage of opportunities to complete upper-level coursework in classes such as research and honors seminars and independent studies. Taking advanced classes demonstrates your eagerness to develop a greater understanding of a subject and your willingness to take on challenging work.
Courses with the word "law" in their titles are not required. Don't feel compelled to take them unless you are interested in the subject areas that the classes cover. Review the WCAS pre-law webpage for additional information.
Careers in business
Businesses want employees to have good communication and interpersonal skills, to possess strong analytical skills, to think creatively, and to be able to integrate information from diverse sources. Any major at Northwestern will allow you to develop these skills.
Some of the majors commonly pursued by Northwestern students interested in a business career are Economics, Learning and Organizational Change, Industrial Engineering and Communication Studies. These majors provide good preparation for a business career; however, they are not the only avenues to business school or a career in business.
Most business schools and employers like to see evidence of skills and interest in areas such as mathematics, computers, statistics, economics and other social sciences. You can pursue the major you most enjoy and still have room for a minor, (such as Economics or the Business Institutions Program), a certificate program to develop your leadership skills, (such as the Undergraduate Leadership Program), or specific classes that demonstrate your aptitude and interest in a particular area.
For more information, see the following Northwestern online resources:
Liberal Arts majors
A liberal arts education attests to a breadth of knowledge and enables you to develop critical thinking and analytical skills that will not become obsolete over time. It won't certify you for a specific job. Liberal arts majors find employment in business, research, education, not-for-profit organizations, and various other occupations.