At Tufts, all students come in undecided. To declare your major, you first must get a faculty advisor in that department. In Arts and Sciences, all students must declare their major by spring semester of their sophomore year while Engineers must declare their major by spring semester of their first year. There’s no need to worry about declaring because you can always change majors! The deadline is only there to encourage students to begin to think seriously about their major and academic path as a whole.
I knew pretty early on what my interests were. Provided the daunting Principles of Economics, or EC-5, course went well, I knew I was going to declare a major in Economics. I also knew I wanted to declare a second major in either Political Science or International Relations. The two fields are very similar, but certainly have distinct differences. I knew that International Relations and Economics had a lot of overlap and that I could in fact concentrate in International Economics within the IR major. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to focus on American politics, which led to my decision to double major in Economics and Political Science.
Once I had made my decision, the only step I had left to take before declaring was the one that seemed the most daunting: choosing an academic advisor. Although I had decided on Economics and Political Science in my first year, I waited until my Sophomore fall semester to declare. I had taken some larger classes my first year in Economics and Political Science and I hadn’t gotten particularly close with faculty members in those departments as yet. When thinking about registering for spring semester classes in my sophomore year, I noticed that some courses had reserved seats for specific majors. Since I wanted to have that advantage in registering, I decided to declare before the Spring semester deadline. I had a friend who had also recently declared Economics as their major and they told me that they chose their advisor by finding a professor who shared their specific interests in the field. They hadn’t had a class with their advisor yet either, but chose their advisor by reading the bios of the professors in the Department that are posted online as well as by talking with upperclassmen. I decided to do the same.
Knowing I wanted to focus on American politics, I read the bios of the American politics professors. I found one professor who taught a few classes that I intended to take in the future and who was also formerly a pre-law advisor. I knew I wanted to go to law school and I also thought that it would be beneficial to have an advisor who I would take multiple classes with during my time at Tufts. I also found my Economics advisor through the Economics Department page online. The courses she taught and research she has conducted all focused on income inequality, public policy, and other economic concepts that related to inequality and injustice. I wrote her an email stating that we shared the same interests and that I hoped that I would be able to take classes with her in the future. I then asked if she would be willing to be my advisor and if I could discuss it with her further in her Office Hours later that week. I did the same with my Political Science advisor.
I received enthusiastic responses from both professors and met with them in their Office Hours. I was able to speak with them about my interests and projected academic path. They both readily agreed to be my advisor and accepted me as one of their advisees on SIS. The task I had once thought was so daunting was actually quite simple and unintimidating. I now had two great advisors who knew my majors inside and out. I was able to talk with them at any time about what classes I should take, the order in which I should take them, and how to structure my schedule so that I could double major and also study abroad for a whole year.
Many students ask professors who have taught a class that they have taken before or are teaching a class that they are currently taking to be their advisor, and that’s great. However, you, like me, may not have a strong relationship with a professor in your Department by the time you want to declare your major. Or you might want a professor other than one that you’ve taken a class with to be your advisor. Or you might’ve only taken classes with adjunct or part-time professors, who can’t be your advisor. Or you might not have taken a class in that department yet at all. That’s all okay! Professors truly are so approachable: they care about all Tufts students and want us all to do well. They know that one way they can help us is by advising us! Don’t be afraid to make that first step because you’ll likely find that building a relationship with a professor who you haven’t taken a class with yet is not as difficult as you may think.