Undergraduate Education

Declaring a Major

The procedure for declaring your major at USC varies according to department or school requirements. Some majors accept students year-round, some only once a semester, and some once a year. Some can be declared at any time, some require completion of units at USC first, and some require junior standing. Some require prerequisite courses, and even interviews, while others can be entered with no background in the area whatsoever. Some majors are open to any interested student, while others are heavily impacted and therefore highly competitive.

If you've been researching various programs before deciding on a major, you may have already come across information about any requirements or prerequisites to join the major. Once you know which major you want to declare, here is what to do:

1. Find out the Admission Requirements, if any

The catalog list of Undergraduate Majors links to the admission and graduation requirements for every major USC offers. In looking at that, it might help to know that majors generally fall into one of two types, in terms of admission requirements.

  • Open majors can be declared at any time by any student in good standing (not on academic probation).
  • Competitive majors require specific prerequisite courses and usually a minimum GPA, but meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Each application cycle may have only a limited number of places available, and the competitiveness of the major depends on how many students apply. These majors have application forms and application deadlines; some of them require satisfactory performance in prerequisite courses, standardized tests, recommendations, and/or interviews. Some competitive majors admit students only once per semester.

Contact department advisors if you have questions.

2. If There are Admission Requirements, Complete Them

This is sometimes easier said than done. For open majors, you can skip right on to #3. For others, you may spend a couple of semesters at this step. This is the time to continue to explore your interests, work with academic advisors, and do everything you can to make yourself into the best possible candidate for the major or majors you are considering.

For highly competitive majors, such as Journalism or Cinematic Arts Film and Television Production, and for majors with strict admission requirements, such as Business Administration or Communication, it is a good idea to have a "back up" plan (an alternate major choice) in case you do not get admitted to these more impacted programs.

3. Apply to Your Major

Make sure you know about any application deadlines. Some majors, like Sociology, allow you to declare any time of year. Some majors, like Communication, accept applications only once per semester, and not in the summer. Some, like Animation & Digital Arts, accept only one time per year.

Whenever the time comes to apply to your intended major, be ready, get the application early, and take your time filling it out. If there is a personal statement, take it to the Writing Center or the Career Center, have a friend read it, let it sit for a while and read it again; a good personal statement can really make your application stand out in a competitive application process.

In the event that you are denied admission to the major, take a moment to reassess your options. Is there an opportunity to re-apply? If so, meet with the advisor or admissions counselor for the major and discuss what additional information (grades for additional courses, etc.) can have an effect on your admissions outcome and take the steps to apply again, if desired. For many programs, however, the answer is no, you cannot re-apply. In this case, you have hopefully already identified an alternate major program to pursue and may consider a minor in the area, if available. If you have not already determined another major, meet with your advisor right away to revise your plans and discuss new possibilities.

4. If You are Accepted, Fill Out Any Necessary Paperwork

Depending on the competitiveness of your major, you may know as you turn in your application that you "got in," or you may have to wait for several weeks to find out. Even open majors may ask you to fill out an application, and you may need to meet with a department academic advisor or a department admissions counselor to talk about your plans and fill out the paperwork.

The thing that actually declares your major is the "Change of Major" form. Sometimes this is done behind the scenes, sometimes this will be the only form you fill out, and sometimes it may be part of the larger application. The Change of Major form gets sent on to Degree Progress where your major is officially changed on your student records.

5. Enjoy Your Major!

Now that you have officially declared your major, make sure to keep in touch with your academic advisor to stay informed about potential adjustments to your course schedule, when you can expect to graduate, and opportunities for co-curricular activities such as internships, research, and events related to the major.

USC Undergraduate Programs