Now that you’ve decided where you’re going to spend the next four years and everyone has bothered you for the details (where is Yale again?), the next question you’ll have to face is, “So what’s your major?” Yes, it’s asinine small talk, but at some point, you’ll need to be ready with an answer other than “I’m undecided” and plea freshman by shrugging your shoulders. At Yale, that point is the beginning of junior year, when everyone must declare a major. Though what you decide is nonbinding, you can only wait so long before you have to start accumulating the necessary number of credits to fulfill your department’s requirements. The most popular majors here are history, economics, English, political science and biology. Almost all majors require a senior project or paper, and some — particularly in the sciences — require several prerequisites that most students begin to take as freshmen. So if you have a decent idea of where you’re headed, take a look at your Blue Book at different major requirements to get a feel for what specific courses you may need to pick early in your Yale education. But let’s be honest: what qualifies as having a decent idea of where you’re headed, and who knows if it’s going to stick?
The first thing to remember is that Yale offers a liberal arts education. Translation: picking a major is not picking what you’ll do for life. To state the obvious, philosophy majors do not inevitably become philosophers, and English majors are not all aspiring poets. So if the idea of directing your education in one particular direction seems unfathomable, don’t panic. Cluelessness on picking a major is ubiquitous among Yalies, but somehow, upon graduation, everyone has done it, and without much fanfare.
A few among you may have mapped out the next four years (and beyond, though that’s not necessarily advisable). You may know that you’re prelaw or premed, your parents may know which majors are acceptable and which are forbidden, but the truth is that college classes are a far cry from high school in format, depth and variety. When you pick your classes, act on what you already know from K-12 but also be ready to do what everyone — including your mother — says is the essence of the college experience: expand your horizons. Striking a balance between classes that build on what you already know and classes that introduce you to an entirely foreign discipline is one of many ways to pick a fulfilling course load. And students do not have to register for classes until two weeks into the semester. Those two weeks are known as shopping period, when you’ll be able to walk into any class and decide for yourself what you think of the professor, the syllabus, the crowd and what time you’re going to have to drag yourself out of bed to hike up to Science Hill in some cases.
Yale has distributional requirements for graduation (see Groups spread), but for the most part, those will take care of themselves. Students largely have free reign over molding their own academic experiences. You’ve got four years and a massive Blue Book in your hands: now have fun and make the most of it.
–Yale Daily News