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Choosing a Major

All first-year students enter the College of Engineering as unaffiliated (undeclared) students.  Students will apply to their intended major typically during the sophomore year.

Exploring Majors

We know some students are certain of the major they wish to pursue, while others are less sure.  Students who are unsure or undecided are encouraged to be proactive, learn about various majors and career options, utilize the many resources that are available, and develop a plan for affiliation.  With that in mind, Engineering Advising offers several suggestions: 

Applying for a Major (Affiliation)

Students must be accepted into an Engineering major (i.e., affiliate) prior to the start of their fifth semester of enrollment (i.e., beginning of junior year for most students).  Students who are not successfully affiliated by this time are withdrawn from the College and often times the University, as well.  Each Engineering Major has specific affiliation requirements that students must meet in order to be accepted into the major.  The Engineering Undergraduate Handbook includes the affiliation requirements for each entering class for every major.

Students are encouraged to apply to their intended major during their third semester (i.e., fall of sophomore year for most students). Students will either be accepted or denied.  Students who are accepted to their major will be accepted "fully" or "conditionally."  If accepted "conditionally," students must meet specific requirements set forth by the department in order to continue in the major following the upcoming semester. 

Students who are denied affiliation have several options: Continue to pursue their primary major of interest, consider another major in Engineering, explore a major in a different College at Cornell, or consider transferring to another institution.  Often, departments that deny students will provide feedback on why the student was denied affiliation and what, if anything, can be done to remedy the situation and allow the student to successfully affiliate with the major following another semester of coursework.  This feedback is important and will help the student develop a realistic plan and assess how best to proceed for the upcoming semester.  Students may need to adjust their intended course schedule in order to increase the likelihood of successfully affiliating or prepare for another option at Cornell.  In addition to talking with the departments within Engineering, students who are denied affiliation are strongly encouraged to visit with Engineering Advising to discuss options and plan their course schedule carefully.

To officially apply for affiliation, complete a Major Affiliation Form (pdf), also available from:

  • Engineering Registrar, 158 Olin Hall;

  • The Undergraduate Department for the major with which you wish to affiliate;

  • Engineering Advising, 167 Olin Hall.

Affiliated Advising

In each Major, a faculty member serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). The DUS works with students’ faculty advisors and with the Undergraduate Coordinator (a staff member), to assist current and prospective Major students. Each Major is different, but in many cases the faculty advisor or Undergraduate Coordinator handles most advising issues, referring students to the DUS for more unusual or difficult questions. DUS responsibilities vary from Major to Major, but generally include the following for affiliated students:

  • Ensuring that up-to-date degree requirements and course offerings are publicized to faculty and students;

  • Serving as the point person for student concerns/issues with advising and curriculum;

  • Advising students on substitutions for required courses, and on the process for gaining approval for any deviation from curricular requirements;

  • Signing administrative paperwork when the faculty advisor is unavailable (in some Majors).

Each Major also has an Undergraduate Coordinator who works with the DUS to help support students and faculty with any questions about the Major. While responsibilities vary between departments, Undergraduate Coordinators are generally responsible for:

  • Answering general questions about the Common Curriculum, affiliation and Major curriculum requirements;

  • Tracking students’ academic progress within the Major;

  • Assisting with college forms such as transfer credit applications, petitions, add/ drop forms, etc.;

  • Serving as a point of contact when faculty advisor or the DUS is not available;

  • Being a resource to help students navigate Cornell to achieve success.