Major Changes and Double Major
About 20% of CALS Students change their major within their first two years. Students are encouraged to enrich their undergraduate degree with internships, study abroad, research, and other experiential activities. College is a time to explore, try new things, and consider new intellectual interests. If your current major is not a good fit, this page contains various resources to assist you.
A major guides the selection of courses in its area of interest. Except for majors where students select all of the courses taken (ex. the interdisciplinary studies major in CALS), the required courses or types of courses represent the advice of faculty in each major as to how students can best prepare themselves for careers connected to that major. Only a few majors are directly connected to professional certification programs. Most prepare students for a broad category of employment (business, human health, education, etc.). For some areas of employment, there is no major that provides specific career preparation (ex. physician, law, etc.), but a number of majors are flexible enough to allow students to prepare for these careers.
The courses that you take and the competencies gained are the most valuable parts of your academic program. “Majors” as such don’t have much impact past Cornell. Different institutions have different course requirements for majors. Most careers take students from a wide array of academic backgrounds. There are opportunities at the interface between two majors. As you move through your academic program, you need to be thinking about what you want to be great at doing. What competencies will give you the competitive edge? What makes you passionate enough to devote the time needed to excel?
Students should be aware of two facts:
- Many students end up in careers unrelated to their major, and
- It is never too late to decide on a career direction; many career decisions happen after graduation.
Both of these facts make choice of a major somewhat less important than you might imagine. Enjoying the major while you are at Cornell is more important.
As you move through Cornell, you should pay attention to what really turns you on in courses and outside activities. Most career decisions ultimately relate to innate interests. Hobbies, how you spend your free time, and courses that genuinely interest you provide important clues about where your interests really are. This is where passion comes from.
What you do outside of formal classes is essential to your education. Jobs, internships, international programs, volunteer work, and related non-classroom activities all give you valuable experience in working with others, leadership development, specific job skills, and understanding career opportunities. These activities develop competencies that cannot be gained in a classroom.
Don’t be afraid to think differently. Although most students try to match their major to their career interests, a few will become involved in a major without any connection to their career interests. Even if your intention is to become a lawyer or doctor, this is a great time to explore food science, global development, or viticulture if that also interests you.
Find out more about each major by visiting the CALS Program Finder.
Once students have decided that the major is a good fit, contact the advising coordinator in that major. They can answer questions about the major and explain the application process. Some majors have requirements that must be met before a student is accepted to the major; for instance, you may have to take specific courses or meet a GPA requirement. If pursuing a second major, see the section below: Double Major.
We recommend students schedule an appointment with the CALS Career Advising Staff. They can provide students with personal assessments and career exploration relevant to various majors.
Change majors to another college at Cornell University
The Office of Internal Transfer assists undergraduate students who are considering transfer between colleges within Cornell. The internal transfer process requires students to apply and the criteria for admission vary by program. If you have a clear idea of what you want to pursue, you can contact the admissions or advising office in your target college. Visit the Internal Transfer Office for more information.
Students interested in the Applied Economics and Management major (AEM) should refer to the internal transfer information on the Dyson website.
Dyson students who wish to transition to another CALS major should apply through the internal transfer process. As the Dyson School is uniquely positioned in both the SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, CALS is committed to working closely with Dyson students who seek to join another major within CALS. Submitted applications will receive every consideration.
Dyson students wishing to add a second major in CALS should follow the process described in the following Double Major section below.
- To begin the process for declaring a double major, students should meet with their current faculty advisor (CALS) or their staff academic advisor (Dyson) to discuss how declaring a double major will support their academic and professional goals. Note: to be approved, students must be able to complete requirements for both majors within their expected graduation date.
- Students should contact the department of interest to discuss requirements and identify a second faculty advisor.
- CALS undergraduate students must be granted permission to earn a double undergraduate major by both the major departments and the Office of Student Services. CALS students wishing to double major in AEM, should refer to the application process on the Dyson School website.
Dyson students must seek permission from the Dyson Office of Student services.
- Once approved, the department staff will notify Student Services of the double major, and the student’s official record will be updated.
- Both majors must be within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (note: this includes AEM major/Dyson School students).
- Students must complete the requirements set forth by both departments to graduate with a double major.
- It is the student's responsibility to keep both faculty advisors informed of their academic progress.
- Students are not permitted to extend or delay their expected graduation date to complete requirements for a double major.
- Students completing a double major receive one degree and one diploma.
- If a student has completed one major but not the other at the time of graduation, the student's degree will be conferred with the completed major.
CALS Students wishing to remove a second major from their record may contact the CALS Office of Student Services, cals-studentservices [at] cornell.edu ().
Dyson students wishing to remove a second major from their record may contact the Dyson Registrar, dyson_registrar [at] cornell.edu ().
CALS students can review the list of approved Cornell University minors which the CALS Curriculum Committee has reviewed. It is not necessary to file paperwork with the college when declaring a minor. Students interested in completing a minor should link to the specific undergraduate minor for a contact and application for more information. It is the student’s responsibility to declare and complete the minor before graduation. An incomplete minor will not delay degree conferral.
A completed minor will be certified by the offering department and appear on the official transcript.
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