Policies Governing the Major Requirement

All College students are required to complete a major in the School of Arts and Sciences. This requirement ensures that all graduates of the College develop a thorough understanding in at least one field of knowledge through concentrated study over several years in at least 12 courses.

Students are subject to the specific policies and requirements of a given major in effect at the time they declare that major, and they remain so even if the major requirements are subsequently changed. With the approval of the department or program, however, one may be permitted to abide by the new requirement structure.

Credits Needed for Graduation by Major

  • Students must have a g.p.a. of 2.0 in major and major-related courses already taken. Some majors require a higher g.p.a.
  • Some departments and programs (including Architecture, Communication and Economics) require specific coursework or other prerequisites before application to the major.

Application to a major should be made in the second semester of the sophomore year, prior to Advance Registration for the first semester of the junior year. Students who have not declared a major by the end of Advance Registration during the spring semester of their sophomore year will not be able to register for the next semester until they have declared. Athletes must be declared by the beginning of junior year to retain eligibility.

When students are ready to declare their major, they should:

  • Update their Academic Planning Worksheet on Penn InTouch, adding the appropriate major. Students should consult the departmental website for the intended major to gather details on requirements.
  • Meet with their pre-major advisor. If there are any concerns or doubts about choosing the right major, they should be discussed at this time. By the end of the conversation, a decision should be made on the major, even if it is tentative. The pre-major advisor will make any needed adjustments to the General Education Requirements section of the worksheet and then change its status from Unofficial to Official.
    NOTE: This is only the first step. An official worksheet does not, by itself, constitute a major declaration.
  • Contact the major program and ask about declaring the major. The steps at this point vary. In some departments, students will speak directly with the undergraduate chair. Some will ask students to fill out and submit an application. Students will be assigned a faculty advisor with whom they must speak before declaration is complete. It is the students' responsibility to be sure that all the required steps have been taken. If not, they may still find themselves on hold for Advance Registration.

School of Engineering second majors

  • SEAS students who would like to declare a second major in the College of Arts and Sciences should contact the relevant SAS department and follow the department's procedure for declaring a major.
  • Students in the College who would like to declare a second major in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences should read further.
  • Most students may double count no more than one course toward both the Major and the Sector Requirement. Students with a double major may double count one course for each major.
  • Students in majors that allow courses from both the Living World and Physical World to fulfill their major requirements are permitted to double count two courses toward the Major and the Sector Requirement—one each in the Living World and Physical World sectors. Majors in which this double counting is permitted include, but are not limited to, Biological Basis of Behavior, Biology, Biophysics and Earth Science.
  • Students who are double majoring must have a minimum of 18 unique course units between the two majors and may count one course from each major toward the Sector Requirement. Students who are triple majoring must have a minimum of 24 unique course units among the three majors. Major departments may have additional rules limiting such double counting.

All courses taken for a major must be taken for a letter grade, not pass/fail. Some departments have a minimum grade requirement for all courses within the major.

  • Only the department or program advisors determine which credits transferred from another institution can count toward the major.
  • At least half the courses in the major must be taken at Penn. Some departments require more.

Transfer students who come to Penn with sophomore standing will have one full semester before they are asked to declare their major. It is expected that most will be able to declare the major at the standard time (March of sophomore year). In the first semester, exploration should be the top priority. Students should browse the websites of prospective major departments for more detailed information of requirements and prerequisites.

At least half of the courses satisfying the major requirement must be taken at Penn.

Transfer students who come to Penn with junior status are expected to have a fairly specific idea of their likely major. They should carefully read about any prospective majors on the department’s website and speak with the undergraduate major advisor or coordinator as soon as possible in the fall. Courses taken in the major should cover material which is new to the student and for which the prerequisites have been taken. The exact time frame of major declaration will depend on the major and the courses the student has previously taken.

Junior transfer students who are athletes must declare their major as soon as possible after arriving on campus in order to be eligible for athletic competition.

At least half of the courses satisfying the major requirement must be taken at Penn.

Students may apply for an individualized major if they have:

  • Earned a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.5.
  • Declared a standard major by the end of their sophomore year. (They must continue on to complete at least a minor in that area.)

As part of the application students must:

  • Meet with Dr. Hocine Fetni in the College Office no later than their fourth semester to discuss details of the major and the application process.
  • Provide a concise rationale for their proposed major.
  • Plan a tentative coherent course of study for the major, with at least 14 credit units, to culminate in a major research project which, upon completion, will be presented to the University community in a public lecture. (This should be done in consultation with two faculty advisors. See below.)
  • Find at least one standing faculty member in the School of Arts and Sciences who recognizes merit in the proposed individualized study and accepts the responsibility of acting as the student's main advisor for the individualized major and for sponsoring and overseeing the thesis.
  • Find another faculty member whose specialty is in some way related to the major, but is different from the first advisor's and who is willing to serve as a second advisor.
  • College students pursuing an engineering major DO NOT earn a dual degree. They earn a single degree from the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Because College students who pursue an engineering major do not earn the Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) degree, they do not receive professional certification and are not thereby qualified to sit for any certification exam in Engineering.
  • The engineering major does not fulfill the College’s Major Requirement for graduation and must be declared as a second (or third) major. College students pursuing a major in engineering must have a major in the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • For College students pursuing an engineering major, the graduation requirement of at least 16 courses in the College of Arts and Sciences outside of the College major still applies.
  • Policies governing academic actions (Mandatory Leave of Absence and drops), academic standing (probation), and petitions are those of the College of Arts and Sciences.

SEAS majors for college students

  • College students must complete at least two semesters of coursework at Penn before they may declare an engineering major. In addition, College students must declare an engineering major no later than the fifth semester at Penn.
  • Each of the engineering majors available to College students has specific prerequisites that must be completed before the major can be declared.
  • College students must be in good academic standing to be eligible to declare an engineering major. In addition, College students must have a minimum 2.0 cumulative g.p.a. in prerequisite and related/required courses for the intended engineering major.
  • Course requirements and contacts for SEAS majors available to College students are found here.
  • College students must complete at least two semesters of coursework at Penn before they may declare an engineering major. In addition, College students must declare an engineering major no later than the fifth semester at Penn.
  • Each of the engineering majors available to College students has specific prerequisites that must be completed before the major can be declared.
  • College students must be in good academic standing to be eligible to declare an engineering major. In addition, College students must have a minimum 2.0 cumulative g.p.a. in prerequisite and related/required courses for the intended engineering major.
  • Course requirements and contacts for SEAS majors available to College students are found here.
  • Students with a minimum g.p.a. of 3.0 may apply to their department or program to become candidates for honors in the major. Some majors will require a higher g.p.a.
  • Applications for honors in the major are usually taken in the first semester of the junior year.
  • The requirements for honors in the major vary from program to program and may include special courses and individual research on specialized subjects under the guidance of a faculty advisor. In some departments, additional credit is authorized for work done by honors candidates.
  • Students who complete honors in the major will have this designation entered on their transcripts.