Declaring a Major or Concentration

Major Declaration

From anthropology to astronomy, from economics to ethnicity and race studies, Columbia offers over eighty majors across foundational disciplines in the liberal arts. We encourage you to explore the many fields of study in the Arts and Sciences. Whichever department you choose as your academic home, you will have the opportunity to develop your critical thinking, refine your research skills, challenge your intellectual presuppositions, and expand your cultural horizons. 

Beginning the Major Declaration Process | Criteria for Declaring a Major
Exploring Majors and CareersPolicies Governing Major Declaration
Using the Online Major Declaration System | FAQs

Beginning the Major Declaration Process

GS students may declare a major or concentration online during the following periods. Please refer to the GS Academic Calendar for specific dates.

  • October
  • Mid-February - Mid-March

GS students must fulfill the requirements for a major to receive a bachelor’s degree from Columbia, and must formally declare a major program before completing 90 points towards the degree; concentrations must be declared prior to completing 80 points. Ideally students should declare a major after completing 45 points of coursework toward the degree. Students who matriculate with at least 45 transfer credits may declare their respective majors in their first term at GS as long as they have 12 points in progress.

Before declaring a major, students should read the information on majors and concentrations on the Degree Fulfillment page in order to understand the choices and policies relevant to these academic programs. Students may also wish to consult with GS academic advisors, faculty members, department websites, and the department descriptions on the GS website when deciding on a major.

Criteria for Declaring a Major

In order to declare a major during major declaration month, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Enrollment in at least one semester at GS with a minimum of 12 points completed or in progress
  • Completion of at least 45 points toward the bachelor's degree (including transfer credit)
  • Regular and satisfactory progress toward fulfilling the GS core requirements

Students who have completed 90 or more cumulative points without a major on record will be placed on registration hold and may receive an Academic Warning. Additionally, students who wish to make any changes to their declared major and/or concentration must see their academic advisor.

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Policies Governing Major Declaration

Before using the online major declaration system to declare an academic program, GS students should review the following academic policies, if applicable: 

Major/Concentration Degree Requirements

All students must complete at least one major to fulfill the degree requirements, and may select a second major, concentration, or special concentration in addition to this first selection. Selecting only a concentration will not fulfill the requirements for the bachelor’s degree.

Double Majors

Students should have a strong academic record, and excellent academic reasons for choosing to declare two programs (majors and concentrations). Students who wish to pursue two programs must declare both programs prior to completing 80 points toward the degree. Students who wish to declare two programs must have a minimum GPA of 3.2. 

Students cannot declare two programs owned by the same offering unit (department, institute, or center).  For example, a student may not declare programs in Russian Language and Culture and in Slavic Studies, both of which are owned by the Department of Slavic Languages; similarly, a student may not declare programs in Mathematics and in Applied Mathematics, both of which are owned by the Department of Mathematics. All joint majors (e.g., Economics-Political Science) will be considered as owned by both offering units, so that a student may not, for example, pursue programs in both Political Science and Economics-Political Science.

Double Counting

Students who declare two programs may, in some cases, overlap requirements for the two programs.  There are three scenarios in which students may double-count program requirements, and students may take advantage of any or all of these scenarios:

  • If two programs both require the same coursework to teach fundamental skills needed for the field, those courses may be applied to both programs; specifically: (1) elementary and intermediate foreign language courses, (2) the calculus sequence (I through IV, or Honors A and B), (3) introductory courses in Statistics (STAT UN1101 or 1201), and (4) the introductory course in computer programming (COMS W1004).
  • Students may also apply a maximum of two courses to both programs, if each course is already approved toward the fulfillment of the student’s two declared programs.  Offering departments, institutes, or centers may choose to restrict the double-counting of particular courses.
  • As with students with one declared program, the maximum number of courses students with two declared programs may overlap to the Core is two. Students may not overlap Core courses with both of their programs (triple-counting).

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Using the Online Major Declaration System

The online major declaration system will be available on the first day of each major declaration month.

Students who use the system must declare at least one major and are limited to a maximum of two program selections (the second choice of program may either be a major or a concentration).

Students will receive an email confirming their academic program and providing information about their department’s system for advising new majors.

Students with questions about declaring a major, or who experience any technical difficulties with the online major declaration system, should email gsmajordeclaration@columbia.edu.

Majors Requiring Departmental Approval

While most majors can be officially declared using the online system, the departments listed below require written departmental approval.

Students selecting a major from any of the departments listed below must print and fill out the GS Major Declaration Form (also available from the GS Dean of Students Office) and take it to the appropriate department (addresses listed below). Once departmental approval has been obtained, bring the form to 403 Lewisohn to finalize the major declaration process.

Before visiting the departmental advisor, students should create a plan of study based upon the major’s prerequisites, requirements, and course offerings, and bring this plan to the meeting with the departmental advisor.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I take courses that may count toward my major prior to declaring the major? 

In sampling courses across the curriculum, many students end up taking courses that will count toward their major prior to actually declaring the major. This is a good way to receive an introduction to a major and to get a head start on the some of the major requirements prior to declaring. However, students should be aware of the following:

  1. Most departments do not allow a student to count toward the major or concentration courses in which the final grade earned is a “D” or a “P”. (Exceptions are noted in departmental guidelines for the major.)
  2. Some Columbia departments have restrictions on the number or kind of Barnard courses that will count toward the Columbia major or concentration.
  3. Some departments, like Economics, will not count courses taken out of sequence.
  4. When in doubt, check the department website.

What if I cannot decide among several different options? 
Students are urged to schedule an advising appointment with their GS advisor to discuss their interests and options. A student’s advisor can help in thinking about the important questions to consider when choosing a major. Students also encouraged to visit  departments, attend Major Open Houses, review their undergraduate handbook (several departments have these), meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies or another faculty member in the department, and review the departmental websites. Many departments and programs host open houses for potential majors during February and March; watch for announcements in the twice-weekly GS News and Announcements email or contact a department directly to find out if an open house is scheduled.

What if I am interested in a concentration? 
All GS students must complete a major in order to graduate from GS. Concentrations are optional but, if pursued, must be declared. Students who want to declare a concentration must do so before completing 80 points of coursework toward the degree. Prior to declaring a concentration, students must declare (or have declared) a major and must have a minimum GPA of 3.2. In some cases, students who have attempted a double major choose, later in the process, to change the second major to a concentration.

What if I want to pursue a double major? 
Students interested in double-majoring should discuss the viability of this with their respective GS advisors. Students may also consider doing a concentration in one area and a major in the other. Students who are interested in double-majoring must declare both majors before completing 80 points toward the degree; exceptions to this rule may be made if the student has already made significant progress toward major completion prior to the formal declaration.

What happens if I do not declare a major? 
Students who do not declare a major by the time they have earned 90 points toward the degree will be placed on registration hold.

What if I want to change my major or concentration after one or both have been declared? 
Students should schedule an appointment with their GS advisor to discuss why they want to change their major as well as the new major they are considering. The student and advisor will then complete the necessary paperwork for deleting the old major and declaring a new one, as this cannot be done online. Students normally are not permitted to declare a new major after earning more than 90 points toward the degree, but for compelling reasons exceptions can be made. Students should follow a similar process for changing or dropping a concentration.

Can any of my transfer credits count toward my major?

  1. Each department has the discretion to count up to 12 credits in transfer toward the major; some departments have a different limit and may accept a different number of credits. Approval by GS of transfer credit toward the degree does not mean that this credit will automatically count toward the major.
  2. At least 18 points toward the major must be taken at Columbia.
  3. Students should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) about which transfer courses may count toward the major and satisfy existing departmental requirements.
  4. Directors of Undergraduate Studies usually require transcripts and syllabi to make decisions about whether transfer credits will count toward the major. Once a student has declared the major, the GS Dean of Students Office sends the DUS copies of all the relevant transcripts on file with GS.

Can courses taken as part of study abroad count toward the major? 
Students who are approved for study abroad by GS must receive approval from their major department with respect to any courses taken abroad that may be counted toward the major.

Can summer term courses count toward the major? 
Students must make sure that summer term courses at Columbia will count toward the major. This permission comes from the department, not the student’s GS advisor.

Any other exemptions to the above rules are clearly articulated on the GS website or on departmental websites.

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