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As a student in the College of Arts & Sciences, you will ask big questions that reach across disciplines, develop as a citizen and leader, and gain a variety of real-world skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, analysis, and collaboration. 

This is the heart of the liberal arts degree, which affords you a breadth of exposure to many disciplines across the arts and sciences while also giving you depth in a chosen discipline, your major.  

What Is a Major?

A major is an area of study that you decide to pursue in more depth by taking approximately 30-36 credits or 10-12 classes in that discipline or department, generally in the third and fourth years of study. While it is an important part of a degree, it is only one component representing about a quarter of the 120 credits required for graduation. The rest of your credits are comprised of your general education requirements and other interests you pursue.  

Debunking Major Myths

Myth or Fact? My major should be "practical" if I want to get a job after I graduate.  

Myth! Remember a major does not equate to a specific career path. Although a handful of careers do require a specific major, most employers hire candidates from diverse degrees and backgrounds. All majors in the College prepare students to be critical and creative thinkers and provide a solid foundation for a range of careers after graduation. The classes you will take for your College major will hone highly sought-after skills, such as: critical reasoning, research, oral and written expression, teamwork, the ability to move between details and the big picture, emotional intelligence and more.

Myth or Fact? Everyone knows what they want to major in already. 

Myth! Every first-year student enters the College of Arts & Sciences as an undeclared student and declares a major by the end of their second year. While some students begin with a strong sense of their intended major and/or career goals, many students discover their path while experiencing academic and extracurricular life at UVA. That is to be expected as part of one’s undergraduate experience. Plus, it is very common for many students to change their intended major as they discover new interests.  

Myth or Fact? Double majoring makes me a better candidate for a job or graduate school.  

Myth! Sometimes students assume that a double major provides a competitive edge in job applications or graduate study, but that has not been shown to be true. In general, employers and graduate school programs are seeking candidates who are well-rounded and possess important transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, creativity, critical thinking and more. While developing a strong academic record is one piece of the puzzle, it is also important to consider how you are gaining real-world experience, growing as an individual, and gaining transferrable skills through experiences outside of the classroom, such as work and volunteer experience, research, internships, study abroad, leadership roles, and more. While adding a second major can be a positive choice for many reasons, it can also limit a student’s time and flexibility to pursue these experiences.

How Do I Choose a Major?

Choosing a major is a journey of gaining insight and gathering information on possible pathways to continue towards your goals. The process should involve a bit of self-reflection and self-assessment, exploration of possibilities within the College, investigation into future career pathways, and advising from various resources on Grounds. See below for more ideas on each part of the process: 


A helpful first step in choosing a major involves self-reflection. 

  • Consider: What topics do I find myself thinking, talking or reading about? What are my strengths? What classes have I previously enjoyed? What life experiences have impacted me? Where have I previously excelled? 
  • Take the free PathwayU assessment to explore some of your interests, values, and strengths. 
  • Ask friends and family for their impressions of your strengths and talents. 

Explore Course Possibilities

It is important to explore subjects that you already know and love as well as the ones you have yet to know! 

  • Browse all undergraduate classes by subject in SIS. If you are unfamiliar with a subject area be sure to explore it. Notice which departments have the most classes that interest you. 
  • Ask peers about classes they have enjoyed and why. 
  • Enroll in a variety of courses each semester to explore different subjects and departments. Use January term and/or summer sessions for extra time. 

Investigate Career Pathways

Remember a major does not equate to a specific career path. Although a handful of careers do require a specific major, most employers are open to hiring candidates from diverse degrees and backgrounds. In fact, a major is only one factor in determining your future job prospects. Your electives, activities, experiences, and skills also reveal who you are to employers and these will fill out your resume. 

  • Conduct an informational interview with someone who has a job that sounds interesting. This gives you an insider’s perspective into that job, company and/or the industry. Be sure to ask what they studied or wish they had studied in college! 
  • The UVA Career Center can help connect you with alumni in a field of interest. 
  • Meet with a UVA Career Counselor or Career Peer Educator 
  • Prioritize ways to gain experience and pursue interests outside of the classroom. 

Discover the Majors

The College of Arts & Sciences is the largest of UVA's twelve schools, with over 55 majors and minors! It is important to take time to explore these departments: 

  • Research a department’s website to learn more about the requirements. Be sure to read course descriptions for upper level courses (3000 and 4000-level) which will comprise the major. Can you imagine yourself enjoying most of them? If so, that’s a good sign! If not, then keep looking. 
  • Go meet with the Director of Undergraduate Programs (or DUPs as we call them!) 

Seek Advising

With the help of your advisor, Academic Advising Dean, and departmental advisors, map out a potential plan to complete the major requirements over your remaining semesters to see if you like how things look. 

Last updated: May 30, 2024
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