Columbia College | Columbia Engineering

Exploring Majors

Step 1: Assess your interests and abilities

Art of Engineering was probably one of your first opportunities to learn more about your own interests in engineering and about each of the Columbia Engineering departments. Now that you are about to declare your major, you will want to ensure that you are making the right decision. Below are some ideas on how to begin to assess your interests and abilities as they relate to choosing a major.

We recommend that you complete the exercises that follow:

  • List your academic interests, skills and strengths
  • List areas that need improvement/development
  • Consider your personal study and work styles
  • List your academic and professional values in order of importance
  • Identify the characteristics you value in the people with whom you work
  • Keeping all of the above in mind, envision your best and worst job scenarios
  • Ask yourself: Am I thinking only of career expectations, or am I looking at majors I can be passionate about?

Step 2: Gather information about majors

Read the Columbia Engineering Bulletin and department websites. As you explore the website of each department that interest you, think about the following questions:

  • What are my options?
    Some Columbia Engineering departments may have multiple majors or multiple tracks within a major. Keep in mind that, in addition to a major, you may pursue a minor in either another engineering or liberal arts field.

  • What courses will I take?
    Probably the most obvious effect that major declaration will have on your time at Columbia is in your course scheduling. Therefore, you should generally like the classes that the department offers.

  • Who are the faculty? Many department websites will provide faculty profiles. Take time to look at professors’ research interests and publications. Knowing this information will not only inform your major decision and refine your goals, but also might help break the ice when you meet a professor for the first time.

  • What opportunities are available for undergraduates?
    Some departments have a carefully designed undergraduate research program, while others may have unique study abroad or internship opportunities. 

  • What kind of careers do students in the majors pursue?
    In addition to information on each department’s website, you can use the Center for Career Education's resources on majorsgraduating student survey data and the connection between majors and careers to learn more.

Step 3: Discuss your plans with your CSA adviser

In planning your course of study, make sure you take note of your department’s pre-requisites, major or track requirements, technical electives and course offerings. You may need to choose major-specific courses as early as your first year to successfully complete some programs. Discuss your plans with your adviser to make sure that you are on track both for your selected major and to complete your general first-year and sophomore requirements. Bring a written plan with you when you meet with your department adviser for the first time.

Think carefully and realistically about your selections, but recognize that you may make changes at any time — as long as the changes you make still allow you to graduate on time!

Final step: Declare your major

James H. and Christine Turk Berick Center for Student Advising

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