Sophomores share conflicting opinions on Duke’s major declaration process

Duke sophomores expressed conflicting opinions on the major declaration process, pointing to students' ability to access their advisers and the amount of time they have to declare.

Trinity College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates can declare their major anytime during their sophomore year but no later than the Friday before spring break. Undergraduates in the Pratt School of Engineering declare their major during the summer before their sophomore year.

Students are required to complete two steps on DukeHub to officially declare their major — the What-If report, through which stude​​nts must prove that they are capable of completing their intended plan of study throughout their remaining time at Duke, and the major declaration form.

Once students complete these steps, they schedule an appointment to meet with their academic adviser, who reviews and then passes the student’s plans to the Academic Advising Center for final approval. Students are then required to complete the pre-major advising survey.

Students who want to switch their major or add minors and certificates after their initial declaration must fill out the academic plan change form.

Sophomore biology major Arielle Kim noted that while she initiated the conversation about declaring her major to her adviser, they were crucial in streamlining the declaration process.

In contrast, sophomore chemistry major Emily Post struggled to get responses from her adviser who works at the Marine Lab, located three hours away in Beaufort, North Carolina.

“It would’ve been easier if he was on campus, and I could have just showed up to his office,” Post said. “I filled out all the [forms] on my end in December … but I had issues [contacting] my adviser [and making sure he was] on board.”

Sophomore psychology major Amelie Coelho, a formerly declared biomedical engineering student in Pratt, said that she did not receive much guidance from her adviser, since students “don't really get major-specific guidance until [they] declare.”

Coelho added that she has observed inconsistencies between advisers based on discussion with her friends. 

“We all had to do the What-If report, but some of my friends [also had] to write essays about what they wanted to declare,” she said.

Kim said that although she found the major declaration process to be “quick and easy,” she recommends that students do not push it off to the last minute to make sure that they are able meet all of their graduation requirements on time.

Post thinks the major deadline is “a little too late.”

“It was kind of a shock, because sophomore spring, you already have your classes locked in and you’re halfway through your time at Duke,” she said. “So at that point, I was like, ‘oh, maybe I can’t study abroad or maybe I can’t do these things.’”

Post said that filling out her What-If report was the first time that she thought about each of her classes and mapped out her schedule until graduation. She added that being required to complete the What-If report earlier would have forced her to consider her remaining requirements more carefully, allowing for a “focused” approach to choosing classes.

Speaking on her experience as a transfer from Pratt to Trinity, Coelho said that she thinks the deadline approaches fast “unless you know exactly what you want to do.”

Still, she agrees with the placement of the deadline.

“I think it’s in a good spot … you have all of freshman year and half of sophomore year to decide what you want to do,” she said. “That has been really nice for me, finally coming into my own and deciding what path I want to go down.”


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