Distance Learning Help: Choosing Your Major from Afar

Still searching for the major you love? Don’t worry that you aren’t on Grounds – you can do a lot remotely!

Please note that this guidance was written primarily for students from the College of Arts and Sciences, as they are less likely than students in other schools to have decided upon a major by their second year. However, much of the general advice will be helpful for any UVA student who is considering their options for majors. The guidance below has to do with the process of making a decision. Information about any changes to the logistics (paperwork, etc.) of major declaration will be communicated as needed by each school.

You can major in anything! Major does not equal career.

Although a handful of jobs require specific majors, most employers are open to hiring candidates with diverse degrees, backgrounds and skill sets. In fact, in a survey of UVA Arts & Sciences graduates, only 27% reported a direct connection between their undergraduate major and their current career. So, your choice of major is only one factor in determining your future job prospects and career paths: your electives, activities, experiences, and skills often tell employers more about you than does your major.

Consider your interests. Let your talents and passions guide you.

What subjects capture your attention? What readings do you find enjoyable? What topics do you find yourself thinking, talking and reading about? Follow those! Remember: Students tend to perform well in majors that interest them.

If you are unsure, you can take the PathwayU assessment to explore some of your interests, values, and strengths – then see which majors and career fields you are matched with. PathwayU is available free and online from the UVA Career Center– just log in with NetBadge!

Read class descriptions!

Using SIS, browse all undergraduate classes by subject. If you are unfamiliar with a subject be sure to explore it! Notice which departments have the most classes that interest you. Then go visit the departmental website to read more about the major requirements. Be sure to read required upper-level course descriptions. Can you imagine yourself enjoying most of them? If so – that’s a good sign! If not – then keep looking!

Remember: You can always complement any major with additional classes, research, and internships.

Contact departments directly to learn more.

Each major in the College of Arts and Sciences is overseen by a Director of Undergraduate Programs. After you read the program’s website thoroughly, you can contact this person for assistance with any additional questions regarding requirements, declaration, and more. This is also a great person to ask for insider tips! For example: Who does well in this major? What do students love about your major? What is the recommended sequence for classes? Which classes complement each other well? Which combinations of classes should I avoid?

If you are interested in applying to programs outside of the College, get in touch with their admissions office for information about timelines, prerequisites, and other questions that are specific to the program.

Here are links for those offices:

Plan it out!

What would it look like for you to complete this major? First, use the “What-if Report” in SIS to see what requirements you may have already satisfied. Double-check this against information on the departmental website. Next, use a tool like the SIS planner, a spreadsheet, or even just paper to map out all the major requirements. You can also add in any other remaining requirements or desired classes. Does this look like a schedule you can enjoy and be successful with?

Consult with your advisor and/or your Association Dean

Gather advice from multiple people as you consider your major and your academic plans. There may be other opportunities related to your interests that you haven’t yet considered! All students in the College of Arts and Sciences have an Association Dean. These experienced faculty members can answer questions about College policies and help students to consider how their interests align with majors and minors. Association Deans are currently not meeting with students in person, but are available to meet with students by phone, Zoom, Skype and/or email. Schedule an appointment by calling the main office number: 434-924-3351 (Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm Eastern).

Students enrolled in UVA’s other schools can find similar support through these resources:

Be creative and explore with your courses!

Take advantage of all that UVA has to offer – take classes that sound interesting from a variety of different disciplines and departments.

Do an informational interview.

Is there a job out there that sounds interesting to you? If so – you can conduct an informational interview! You would reach out to someone by email or phone to ask to chat with them briefly about their job. This gives you an insider’s perspective into that job, company and/or industry. Be sure to ask people what they studied/wished they had studied in college! Visit this page from the UVA Career Center for more information, sample questions and more. The Career Center can help to connect you with alumni in your field of interest.

Connect with the UVA Career Center.

You can connect with a Career Counselor by phone or Zoom. Schedule an appointment on Handshake, call the Career Center at 434-924-8900, or email careercenter@virginia.edu to make an appointment. At the time that this document is being written, the Career Center’s plans during the period of online classes are to be on call for students from 12pm-5pm (Eastern) Monday – Friday. You can check here for any updates.

Contributed by Christy Rotman, College Life Skills Coach, 3/12/2020

Other Guidance on Adjusting:

Internal Resources