AEA Referral Process

About USC Academic Exploration Advising (AEA)

Academic Exploration Advising (AEA) is the designated advising office for students who are still exploring their major options.  Students may identify as Exploratory, Undecided, Undeclared or Students-In-Transition.  Most students experience some academic uncertainty during their time at USC, and the AEA academic advisors are here to assist you each step of the way.

AEA advisors collaborate closely with other campus partners including, but not limited to, all University undergraduate academic departments and faculty, Academic Review and Retention, Degree Progress, Office of Student Accessibility Services, Financial Aid and the Kortschak Center for Learning and Creativity.

AEA advisors are available to meet with students at any point during the semester and once a student has received a referral to the AEA office through the USC Advisement Database appointments can be made online.

AEA Referral Process 

Undergraduate USC students may be referred to AEA for a variety of reasons such as:

  • Exploring new majors
  • Assistance with applying to a major with admission pre-requisites
  • Maintaining your current major program or USC school affiliation while discussing additional or alternative majors

NOTE: A referral to AEA simply sends your information to the AEA team; your major is not changed until an AEA advisor has your permission to do so.

An official referral to AEA should be made by a student’s major advisor.  If the student has also identified a potential major with admission pre-requisites, we ask that the student also be sent a referral to that department by their major advisor.  These referrals are made through the USC Advisement Database.

If you are not sure that your current academic department is the right fit for you, you can request a referral from your major advisor to the AEA office.  After being referred you will be assigned an AEA advisor within two business days.  You will then be able to set up an appointment in myUSC to meet one-on-one with the advisor and discuss your potential future path at USC.

A Road Map for your AEA Experience

Current Students

  1. Meet with your current major advisor and let them know you are considering an alternative or additional major; request a referral to AEA.
  2. Receive an automated email with information about AEA.
  3. You will be contacted by AEA within 2 business days and assigned an AEA advisor. This advisor will work with you until you declare a major in a USC school.
  4. Set up an appointment to discuss your possible options with the AEA advisor and come up with next actions to take, which could include:
      • Changing your major to Exploratory,
      • Doing additional research on academic programs on your own, or
      • Deciding to stay in your current program and not change to a different major.
  5. Follow through on your action plan as appropriate, including attending workshops/information sessions or registering for pre-requisite classes.
  6. Set up follow up appointments with your AEA advisor, who will help keep you on track for future semesters. You will meet with your AEA advisor each semester until you have determined a major program that fits your needs and interests.
  7. Once you are ready, declare or apply to your chosen field of study.

Incoming Students

Incoming students who are interested in a referral to AEA can request one from their current major advisor. We will respond to all student referrals in as part of the Orientation process.

Incoming students who have decided to change their major to Exploratory should fill out the declaration form here:

Switch to Exploratory

If a student wishes to withdraw a submitted change of major request, please email from your USC email address, and include your name, USC ID number, and a statement that you wish to withdraw your request.

First-year students

  • register with your current major for at least 12 units
  • requests will be processed the week of August 10th
  • confirmation emails will be sent after the change has been processed
  • advisors will reach out after the change to discuss any necessary alterations to the student’s schedule

Transfer students

  • must have fewer than 64 units complete to submit a change of major request
  • register with your current major for at least 12 units
  • requests will be processed the week of August 10th
  • confirmation emails will be sent after the change has been processed
  • advisors will reach out after the change to discuss any necessary alterations to the student’s schedule


AEA Referral FAQs

Q. What does it mean to be referred to Exploratory Advising?

A. Exploratory students can be many things. Our advisors work with students who are exploring their fields of interest, those who are working on narrowing their focus, and those who have identified their focus, but need to complete pre-application requirements for their chosen major. Exploratory students integrate their exploration and pre-application classes with their university requirements.

Q. Do I have to change my major to Exploratory to meet with an AEA advisor?

A. No. It’s completely up to you if you want to switch. You will work with your AEA advisor to determine your best path forward.  AEA advisors are available to meet all USC students who are interested in exploring alternative programs of study.

Q. Can my AEA advisor lift my departmental hold if I remain in my current major?

A. No. We are happy to work with any student in transition; however, students who maintain a declared major other than Exploratory must meet with their declared major advisor to have registration restrictions lifted before they can register.

Q. Will changing my major to Exploratory impact my admission to my intended major?

A. No. Being Exploratory does NOT negatively impact your competitiveness to your intended major.

Q. How can I ask for a referral to an AEA advisor?

A. Ask your declared major advisor to refer you to AEA through the USC Advisement Database. If you intend to apply for a major with admission pre-requisites, ask your declared major advisor to refer you to that pre-major special program in addition to AEA.

Q. Once I am referred, how long will it take for an AEA advisor to follow-up with me?

A. A current, continuing student referred to AEA will be assigned an AEA advisor within 2 business days. Once you are assigned an advisor, you are able to schedule an appointment using the Undergraduate Advisement icon on myUSC.