How to pick a major

Whether you had a degree in mind when you applied to university or had no clue what you wanted to study, now is your time to decide for real.

A blonde woman in a white T-shirt sits in front of a wooden table covered with school supplies. Her head is leaned back, and a book is laying open on top of her face. Photo: cottonbro

The end of the semester is almost upon us, and with that, it’s time to make some important decisions about next year. The first big one is course selection, which happens in late March for returning students. Visit to learn what the registration day is for your specific degree, and for more information on how to register for courses.

Another big decision that plagues us in first and second year is declaring our major(s) and minor(s). This can be a difficult situation if you’re unsure of what you’d like to do after graduation, or if you have a mind as indecisive as mine. But don’t worry, you’re not alone! Here are two tips that can help you make your decision and a quick outline of the process for actually declaring your major.


Know what you don’t like

Sure, this seems like a straightforward solution. But after taking multi-disciplined courses in various faculties, finding what you like might start to feel like finding a needle in a pile of needles!

To start, narrow down the courses or aspects of courses that you didn’t like. Perhaps that Psychology course didn’t hook your attention as you had expected, or the English class was just too much reading for you to keep up with. Though some things are unavoidable (like the essays or lab reports no one wants to write), understanding what you dislike can help you disqualify disciplines that you know are of no interest to you. During this process, ask yourself questions like, What would I like to learn more about?, or, What did I find boring and why? Eventually, eliminating one degree will open the door to others.


Do your research

Looking into jobs that spark your interest is a great way to help determine your desired major. You probably already started this career search in high school when you were applying to university programs, but now you have new information (thanks to your first-year classes) to help narrow your searches. Maybe you applied to a Bachelor of Arts program intending to major in English, but you find that your interests have shifted to Classics after taking a mythology course. With this knowledge, you can look at different jobs in the field and determine what major(s) will put you on the right track.

If you're looking for help during this research process, Dalhousie has great resources at your disposal! Talk to your faculty advisor—they can give you specific information about degree requirements and different ways to complete a major. Depending on what faculty you're in, the Bissett Student Success Centre advisors can help you pick courses and work through the major declaration process.


Actually declare your major

Once you know what you’d like to study, making your official declaration can be done in as little as 5 minutes. Here’s how:

  1. Log onto DalOnline
  2. Once at the Main Menu, click “Web for Students”
  3. Click “Student Records”
  4. Click “Declare your Major/Minor/Certificate”
  5. Once redirected, follow the prompts stated on the webpage
  6. Choose your major from the dropdown menu next to the label "Major #1" (you may choose to declare your other majors, minors, and/or mertificates at this time, but it’s okay to wait if you are not ready)
  7. Then make your choice official!

It may take a few days/weeks for your declaration to register depending on how busy Enrollment Services is, but once it's confirmed, you’re all set! If there are any issues regarding your selection, you’ll get an email to your Dal account.

Remember, your decision isn’t permanent. You can always change your major if you find your interests are changing and no longer reflect your degree. For first-person accounts of what it’s like to choose (and re-choose) a major, check out Brooke’s and Noah’s stories.