Why Worry About Colleges When Choosing a Major at UC Davis?

Just like Hogwarts: Brielle Mansell, left, a history major, and Elsa Lu, right, a design major, are in the same college (Letters and Science). Because of his major — mechanical engineering — Pedro Do Vale, center, is in the College of Engineering. They all worked together to design and build the "AggieSol" house, a team competition open to any major — in any college. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo)

Get in the Know With This Explanation and Lower Your Stress

Yes, I know that you consider UC Davis itself to be a “college.” But within our university, our majors and academic programs are organized by undergraduate “colleges.”

Similar to the way young wizards are assigned into the four houses at Hogwarts, students at UC Davis are assigned into our four undergraduate colleges: the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the College of Biological Sciences, the College of Engineering, and the College of Letters and Science. When you apply to UC Davis, you choose a major, which automatically places you into one of these colleges.

For many students, knowing which college they belong to doesn’t become important until they need to see an advisor, have a petition signed to drop a class or take medical leave.  

Get in the know and avoid last-minute panic attacks when you need help with your major, but don’t know where to go. Here’s a quick tutorial on how your major determines your college, and why that matters.

Changing majors could mean changing colleges

For example, if you want to major in biotechnology, the major is administratively housed in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. But if you decide to change majors, say to microbiology, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences would help you move to the College of Biological Sciences, where microbiology is housed.

What it means to belong to a “college” varies significantly from one UC campus to another. On some sister campuses, the college you select determines your general education requirements or your campus living community. Some UC campuses let you change colleges, others only let you change majors.

What happens if you are undeclared?

At UC Davis, you apply to a major. If you’re accepted, we’ll place you in the corresponding college. The only exception to this is that if you decide to enroll as “undeclared.” UC Davis will then ask you to select a college. For example, you can be “undeclared” life sciences major within the College of Biological Sciences, or “undeclared” in the humanities or fine arts within the College of Letters and Science.

I know, bureaucracy can be confusing.

The take-away message: Once you’ve selected a major and we have placed you in a college, it’s good to know what college you belong to. That's because the corresponding dean’s office will be the place to start when you really have no idea where to begin — for instance, when you want to ask the ever-popular question, “How do I change my major?”

— Robin DeRieux, senior writer for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences