Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Major and Minor Questions

One of the College's degree requirements is completion of a major. Find answers to common questions related to majors and minors.

How do I choose a major?

Choosing a major is an individualized process. Elsewhere on this website, you'll find lots of information about majors, minors, and certificates, including requirements worksheets and some of our best advice for how to choose. The short version: explore! Our interactive list of all majors and minors can be a good place to start. 

Your major does not determine the rest of your life, but it will determine anywhere from a third to half of your courses at Northwestern. Your major should be interesting to you; it should ask questions and investigate problems that you find intriguing, and it should use methods to explore those problems that speak to your strengths as a student. You have lots of options, and you have the chance to really own your academic plan! Your first-year adviser can be a great sounding board as you consider your options, and every department has a special webpage and adviser for first-year students that you can consult for detailed information about getting started.

How do I declare my major and minor?

Weinberg students must officially declare a major before the end of sophomore year. Since minors are optional, there is no fixed deadline for declaring one.

Declaring a major or minor is easy. Here are instructions

Declaring a major or minor can get you on department or program mailing lists, lets you develop a relationship with a department/program adviser, and may give you priority for registering for some courses. So, declaring earlier rather than later is generally wise.

Should I double-major?

Some students have to complete two majors because one of their majors is an adjunct major. All adjunct majors require the completion of a second major too. This second major must be a "stand-alone" major; that is, every student must have at least one major that is not an adjunct major.

There are a number of student myths about second majors; often students believe that everyone has two majors, or that they are not getting the most out of their education if they do not do a second major, or that they won't be able to get a job if they don't have two majors. These myths are not true. For some students, especially those with a wide range of academic or extracurricular interests, it often makes more sense to complete a major and a minor, or a major and a variety of electives targeted to your varied interests.

If you are considering adding a second major, be sure to discuss your ideas with both your College Adviser and your major adviser(s).

What is an ad-hoc major?

Weinberg College requires you to complete a major, a demonstration of competence in a coherent field of study. Most students complete this requirement with either a major offered by a department or a major in an interdisciplinary program. Some students add to their chosen primary major a second major or a minor, certificate, or concentration.

A few students' curricular interests will not be met by these options, in which case an individualized course of study called an ad hoc major can be considered. Using already existing majors as formal models, you and the professors who agree to advise you can carve out a new major by putting together existing courses and special projects in new combinations which reflect your interests and talents.

Ad hoc major proposals take time and effort to develop and must be approved by the College Curriculum Review Committee.

What is an adjunct major?

Some of the majors offered by Weinberg College are adjunct majors. If you complete an adjunct major, then you must complete another major too. This second major must be a "stand-alone" major; that is, every student must have at least one major that is not an adjunct major.

The adjunct majors offered by Weinberg College are:

Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences (MMSS) is also a special admission major.

If you do an adjunct major, be sure to discuss the choice of your second major with a Weinberg or major adviser. Some adjunct majors mesh particularly well with other majors (MMSS and Economics, for instance). Some adjunct majors also have more liberal double-counting rules.

How many majors and minors can I complete?

A student’s total number of majors plus minors may not typically exceed three. (This is called the "Rule of Three.") Exceptions require permission from the Weinberg College Advising Office and cannot be granted during the first year. A sophomore, junior, or senior considering exceeding this limit should meet with their College Adviser to discuss options and procedures. 

Back to top