Choosing Your Major

While choosing your major is one of the key decisions you will make at Stanford, it can also be among the most difficult.  Consulting with your Academic Advising Director (AAD) and your Pre-Major Advisor (PMA) as well as faculty, department or program advisors, and student services staff to assess how various academic fields fit with your academic interests, strengths, and goals can help you identify a major that excites you intellectually, and which focuses and develops your most important academic interests.

Advice for Exploring and Choosing Majors

Discuss your evolving interests, plans, and questions with your advisors and mentors

Speak early and often with your Academic Advising Director or Academic Advisor for Student-Athletes about your evolving interests and thoughts on majors. These UAR advisors have deep knowledge of Stanford curriculum and study programs that can lend new perspective to your decisions and, sometimes, lead you in new directions.  They can also make valuable referrals to other faculty who share your interests. 

Explore prospective departments / programs through introductory courses

Introductory Seminars, in particular, provide a good opportunity for you to assess the field of study within a small, seminar format. Most departments also offer larger introductory courses intended to provide an overview of the field. 

Take advantage of faculty office hours

Review majors and requirements from the Stanford Bulletin

A number of departments and programs offer tracks, options or concentrations that allow special focus or interdisciplinary study within a major field. Many majors and their subfields are unique to Stanford, so you should consult faculty to learn about how they relate to your interests.

See Requirements in the Stanford Bulletin

Consult department or program websites

These often provide detailed descriptions of the disciplinary goals and practices that characterize various majors. Additionally, these sites often outline the research interest and expertise of the faculty, and may discuss career paths of recent graduates and alumni.

For engineering majors, consult the online Undergraduate Handbook.

Visit departments and programs, and attend open houses and information sessions.

Each department / program has a student services administrator (SSA) who is available to explain major requirements and typical programs of study to prospective majors. Ask the SSA to refer you to the director of undergraduate studies (DUS). This faculty member, who is responsible for advising prospective majors, can discuss details about study in the field. 

The SSA or DUS can also refer you to a faculty member who specializes in your area of interest.  Many departments also have undergraduate peer advisors or a list of current majors who can talk about their experiences in the major. Ask the SSA or DUS for names and contact information.

Explore and compare approaches and methods in different fields of study.

Consider how your interests and academic strengths align with the approaches and methods practiced in various majors that interest you. Some majors require significant time spent on quantitative analysis, problem sets, or laboratory investigation. Others focus on primary source readings, papers, and textual interpretation. Some take principally theoretical approaches while others are largely applied. It is important to determine which modes of thinking, inquiry, and problem solving are of greatest interest to you. These are excellent topics to address when meeting with faculty in prospective majors. 

Majors and Careers

Although your major may anticipate career paths you are considering, it does not necessarily need to determine your future professional or educational plans. The Stanford liberal arts education lays the foundation for skills and attributes that all employers seek, such as critical thinking, oral and written communication. While it is true that some careers have academic requirements (particularly in technical fields), most jobs do not require a specific major.

The Career Development Center offers advice and support to help students translate their academic major and intellectual interests into their professional interests. To take advantage of their expertise,

Majors and Preparation for Graduate or Professional School 

Planning for Medical School 

Medical schools do not privilege any particular major or set of majors in admissions decisions. Students intending to apply to medical school should choose their major according to their intellectual interests. All candidates for admission must satisfy a set of core science requirements.

See more about Planning for Medical School

Planning for Law School 

No required or preferred major exists for students planning to attend law school.  Students should choose the major that best fulfills their intellectual interests. 

See more about Planning for Law School

Planning for Business School 

Students intending to go to business school should major in the field of their choice. No required major for business school admission exists. 

See more about Planning for Business School