Choosing an Arts & Sciences Major…

Important Things to Remember Before You Begin Your Journey

  • As a good explorer, you’ll be faced with many exciting possibilities.  You need to make thoughtful and informed decisions about what your next step will be.
  • There are many ways of finding the right major.  If one way doesn’t work, you can always explore another path. You may not find the “perfect” major, but you will find majors that are more interesting and personally satisfying than others.
    There are many ways to fulfill your destiny.   Finding a major requires that you reflect on your interests and abilities, then explore and learn about available majors.  There are resources available to assist you through the exploration and decision-making processes, as well as with planning your overall academic life.
  • Choosing a major allows to plan your future, and opens up other options.   The degree requirements are flexible enough to allow you to pursue a double major, or a minor, or select a variety of electives that suit your interests and long-term goals.  Where does your destiny lie?
  • Deciding on a major allows you to develop an overall educational plan that incorporates research and internship opportunities, allows for participation in meaningful study abroad or national student exchange programs, as well as incorporate co-curricular and leadership activities.
  • Liberal Arts majors are sought after!  Selecting a major does not mean you are choosing what you have to do for the rest of your life.   Although the major – career relationship does sometimes go hand-in-hand, most graduates have developed content knowledge (specific to a major) as well as transferable skills: abilities, skills, and personal attributes that can be used in a wide range of careers.

Exploration starts with some self-assessment

Identify and reflect on activities or things that you find enjoyable, or that always peaked your curiosity.  Some questions you can ask yourself include:

  • Am I drawn towards certain activities?
  • Is this a potential a major for me or is it more of a hobby?
  • Are there certain topics or subjects that I enjoy over others?
  • Do I prefer being indoors or outdoors?
  • Do I like solving problems, doing puzzles, etc.?
  • Do I like working with my hands?

What are some of your interests?

Reflect on both your strengths and weaknesses, as well as skills you have obtained through work or volunteer experiences, or those that come naturally to you.  Some questions you can ask yourself include:

  • Am I a creative person?
  • Have I been praised by others for something I did?
  • Have others told me that I am logical or analyze problems well?
  • Can I focus for long periods of time or pay attention to detail?
  • Do I have difficulties in, or do well in, certain subjects over others?

What are your abilities?

Reflect on what is important to you, how these things affect the decisions you make, and how you might handle situations where one or more of your values come in conflict with each other. Some questions you can ask yourself include:

  • How important is it to me to have creative freedom?
  • How important is it to me that I help others?
  • How important is it me that I have a high salary or am I looking for something that gives me a comfortable living style?
  • How important is it to me that I have flexible or standard work hours?
  • What do I believe in (political, religious, ethical beliefs)?

What are your core values?

Reflect on what internal or external factors affect the decisions that you make.  Some the questions that you can ask yourself include:

  • Am I looking at things that interest me or what others think would interest me?
  • Am I more concerned about career choices that what I would enjoy?
  • Where do I see myself in ten years?
  • What outside responsibilities or interests might affect my choices?
  • Do I take initiative or do I wait to be told to do things?

What internal and external factors motivate you?

Assess what your learning style (need page), or your preferred or best mode for learning and processing information is. The ability to learn is a skill that extends past the years you spend in college. Being a life-long learner allows you to keep pace with changes in technology and the ever-changing global environment that we live in, as well as how these changes affect you and society. It may also influence your academic performance as an undergraduate. Everyone has their own unique learning style – discovering your style in another important step in learning about yourself.
Click here (need page) to view some on-line resources. As you use these resources, keep in mind that while the results of these assessments may help you learn a little more about yourself (i.e, what your preferences are versus what you are actually capable of doing), they do not define who you are. And while there are many different types of assessment tools available to help you as you begin your journey of exploring potential majors and careers, there is no one test that will give you “the answer.”

Have you begun the process of narrowing down your choices to a reasonable number of options?

If not, you may want to: 

  1. Look at the courses you have taken so far.  What classes have you enjoyed and done well in?  Are your classes clustered in any one subject (e.g., all English) or a broad area of interest (e.g., all in the social sciences)?  Explore those further as possible majors.  Use your general education and elective requirements to try out new disciplines.  But remember, a good explorer dares to venture into unknown lands!
  2. Read the UH Mānoa Catalog.   Besides course descriptions, it includes brief descriptions about the different departments and the majors offered in Arts & Sciences.  You can also refer to the list of A&S majors/minors/certificates in our exploring your choices website.   A good way to start is by reading the descriptions of courses offered by a department.    As you read the course descriptions, take notice of those majors where you find a number of classes that sound interesting to you.   After you compile a list of potential majors, refer back to the description of the academic program in the catalog.  Be sure to look at any related major requirements (e.g., math, chemistry, and physics for majors in the biological sciences) as well as the differences between degree types (e.g., BA versus BS) for any of the majors.  As you look through the majors, remember to consider the interests, abilities, values, and motivations you’ve identified.  Which majors seem most aligned with your preferences?
  3. Take a walk through the Bookstore – look through the textbooks to get a better idea of the material covered in different majors.  Where did you stop and scan through textbooks?
  4. Make an appointment:
    1. with an academic advisor at The Advising Center.  At the very least, you and your advisor can review your academic progress to date, and review the major decision process and the resources available to you.
    2. with a Career Development & Student Employment counselor by calling 956-8136 or stopping in at QLC 212.  They can help you identify your unique skills, interests and values, and explore potential career options.  Deciding on a specific career may influence your choice of majors, electives, and whether or not to pursue a minor/certificate or additional major.
    3. with the career counselor at the Counseling & Student Development Center by calling 956-7927 or stopping in at QLC 312.  They can assist you in developing occupational plans by exploring your strengths, interests, and skills.

Once you have narrowed down your choices, you may want to: 

  1. Research your options in depth.  You can do this by reading the UH Mānoa Catalog. Read the course descriptions of required courses in the catalog to verify that you are still interested in this major, and take into consideration whether you have the ability or skills needed to do well in these courses.  Also note that some majors require pre-requisite courses, a specific GPA, or performance and/or admission tests.   In addition, some departments offer more than one type of degree (ex: BA or BS; BA or BFA, etc.), the requirements of which will be different depending on the degree you choose to pursue.   Visit the department office or website to pick up more detailed information or view current course syllabi.
  2. Make an appointment with major advisor(s) to discuss courses and requirements for each major that you have identified.  Think of this as an informational interview – you can ask specific questions about the major, courses offered by the department, and internship or research opportunities.
  3. Register for the introductory level course if you have not completed it.  Taking a non-introductory or upper level course in the major may also assist you in deciding if that major is right for you.  However, remember that courses can have prerequisites and some departments give priority registration or restrict enrollment to declared majors.  But remember, good explorers do not venture down every path when trying to find their way through uncharted lands.
  4. Sit in a few lectures for a variety of courses in the majors that interest you.  This allows you to get an idea of the material covered in the major and may assist you in making a good decision.  Be sure to obtain the instructor’s permission before sitting in.
  5. Find an upperclassmen in the major, and ask them about the courses they have taken and what their impressions of the major are.  Listen with a critical ear – remember to take into account that they may have values, interests, and abilities that are different from yours.

Now that you have gathered all your information, you can make an informed decision about your major, your career, and your future.  Choosing a major from among the options that you have identified can sometimes be difficult.   Scrolling down you’ll find a method to assist you making a decision.

Selecting from among your choices:

Based on the findings of your self assessment, use the Major Assessment Worksheet to assist you in evaluating your choices in the context of your interests, abilities, motivations, and values.  You will find it easier to make a decision if you list only those things that you feel are specific to the major listed. Be sure to include as many pros & cons that you can identify, and do as thorough an evaluation of each major you are considering.  Don’t worry if some of your reasons fall into more than one category.

For example, if you were considering Art as a major, your worksheet might look like this:

Download a blank copy of the Choosing a Major worksheet (pdf version)

Remember that pursuing a first-choice major doesn’t mean you have to give up all other options.   The degree requirements are flexible enough to allow you to pursue a double major, or a minor/certificate.

If you are having difficulty making a decision, make an appointment with an Arts & Sciences academic advisor to discuss your concerns.

Once you have identified your major, keep scrolling to see what you need to do next.

When you have decided on your Arts & Sciences major you will need to either declare or apply for it.  

If you have selected a major in A&S, you will need to fill out the Declaration of Major form in duplicate.  Schedule an appointment with the major advisor to discuss the courses and/or requirements you will need to complete.  Once your major advisor has completed the backs of the Declaration of Manor, turn in the completed forms in to the service counter in QLC 113.

If the major you have selected is in a non-Arts & Sciences college or school, make sure you have the necessary prerequisites (courses, grade point average, class standing, admission exams, etc.) and apply to transfer to that college/school as soon as possible.  Be aware of application deadlines and keep in touch with the advising office for the college or school that your major is in.

EXPLORING YOUR CHOICES …  what’s next?! 

We highly recommend that you attend a JUMP Session at this time.  JUMP sessions are group advising sessions that provide a student with a complete review of degree and graduation requirements.  You will learn to evaluate your progress towards the completion of your degree requirements and devise an academic plan to meet your remaining  requirements.

This academic plan can then evolve into a comprehensive educational plan for your undergraduate career – one that includes both your coursework as well as research and internship opportunities, participation in study abroad or new student exchange programs, and co-curricular and leadership activities.

UH Mānoa is a research university.  This means that it is committed to the discovery and creation of new knowledge.  Because inquiry, investigation, and discovery are at the heart of the enterprise of a research campus, everyone should be a discoverer and a learner.  In other words, look for ways to become engaged in the chief enterprise of the campus.  Regardless of your major, you will find opportunities that allow you to develop transferable skills beyond what you can acquire in the classroom, to follow your own interests and paths of inquiry, to explore possible careers, to clarify post-graduate educational goals, to be mentored by faculty and to mentor other students, to develop awareness and sensitivity to others and issues of which you may have been unaware.

Make the most of your undergraduate experience!  This can be achieved by developing a comprehensive educational plan, and then by becoming an active and involved citizen in the UH Mānoa community.  Interact with the faculty, staff and your academic peers.  Attend the many lecture series and cultural events offered on campus.