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AEA Referral Process

Academic Exploration Advising (AEA) is the designated advising office for students who are exploring their major options.  Most students experience academic curiosity or even academic uncertainty during their time at USC, and the AEA academic advisors are here to assist you each step of the way.

AEA Referral Process 

If you would like to explore majors or 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, which will processed through the USC Advisement Database. 

You may also contact us regarding your interest in exploratory advising by sending an email to

NOTE: While a referral to AEA sends your information to the AEA team, your major is not changed until an AEA advisor has your written permission to do so.

Students who are at Junior status (64 units) are welcome to work with us on a referral basis.

A Road Map for your AEA Experience

  1. Meet with your current major advisor and let them know you are considering an alternative or additional major; request a referral to AEA. You may also contact us regarding your interest in exploratory advising by sending an email to
  2. Receive an automated email with information about AEA.
  3. You will be contacted by AEA in a minimum of 3 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 interests and possible options with the AEA advisor and come up with next actions to take, which could include establishing an action plan:
    • 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 applicable, including attending workshops/information sessions or registering for pre-requisite classes. Review the guided steps for choosing a major for additional support.
  6. Set up follow up appointments with your AEA advisor, who will support you in working toward your goals future semesters.
    • If you are a student with an active referral to AEA, you may meet with your AEA advisor each semester until you have determined a major program that fits your needs and interests.
    • If you are a student who declared Exploratory, Undecided or Undeclared, you are required to meet with their AEA advisor at least once per semester until you declare a major other than your AEA major.
  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 during Welcome Trojans Orientation. Incoming student referrals to the AEA office may be processed after your Welcome Trojans Orientation.

Incoming students who have decided to change their major to Exploratory:

  • Should register with your current major for 12-16 units
  • Review the Exploratory Change of Major process found in the Welcome Trojans Orientation Blackboard > Academic Departments > Exploratory – Academic Exploration folder for AEA Change of Major processes and procedures.
  • Must have fewer than 64 units complete to submit an AEA change of major request
  • Submit the AEA Change of Major form by the stated deadline. Incoming students interested in changing their major after the stated deadline may follow the procedures outlined above under the section “Current USC students”

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.

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.

For an overview of our advising approach and advising cycle, please review the Exploratory Advising Cycle and What is Exploratory webpages.

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, if applicable.

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 in a minimum of 3 business days. Once you are assigned an advisor, you are able to schedule an appointment using the Undergraduate Advisement icon on myUSC.