A pre-major is not a common concept that incoming college students know about. From its name, it sounds like an extra step to get into a major, but it is a little more complicated than that.
Pre-major classes are classes that a student is required to take before declaring a major. A student will take the required classes before declaring a major to prove whether or not they will be successful in that area. Not every major or every school will require pre-majors.
Pre-majors are commonly at universities and for degrees that are commonly pursued past Bachelor’s degrees. Fields like medicine, education, science, psychology, and more are likely to have pre-major requirements.
All About Pre-Major
Pre-majors can seem annoying and look like a waste of time— almost like it is an extra step that doesn’t seem necessary to take. But after learning more about the ins and outs of why they exist and how they help you, you will understand that they are important in becoming a successful student.
Pre-majors are requirements that must be passed before being allowed to declare your major. If you want to become a doctor, you will likely take pre-major classes. These classes are all about the subject you have chosen to study, so in this case, all about the medical field.
If you pass the classes, then you have proved to yourself and your school that you are going to accomplish your major and be successful. If you don’t pass, then the school will require that you choose another major to study because they have proof that you are not going to be successful in the major you originally chose.
This seems harsh, but it really serves as a great test of your abilities. Some people may want to become doctors, but if they don’t pass the classes, then it proves that continuing that field of study is the wrong choice. Think of it as a trial run to see if you are cut out for the major you choose.
Why do I have to take a pre-major?
You need to take pre-major classes to prove to your school that you can advance in your chosen field and study it as a major. Schools need proof that you are capable of studying the major, and that you will pass your classes.
You don’t want to go to college and only fail classes—you want to study something that will be interesting to learn and something you can pass. By having some harder majors, like neuroscience, require a pre-major, schools can save you from paying for classes that you won’t succeed in.
A pre-major can also sift through all of the students. Those that pass are ready to advance, and those that don’t are not ready. This helps the school teach the students who are ready to learn this material, and they won’t waste time on those who prove they are not going to pass the classes.
How do I switch from pre-major to major?
The pre-major classes are like prerequisites to major classes. To get to the major and the classes therein, you must pass all of the pre-major classes. After completing the classes, your school should analyze your transcript or grades, and they will let you know whether or not you qualify to take the major.
Depending on the school and how they operate, you may have to fill out a form about changing from pre-major to major. Some schools do this automatically, and others need you to give them notice that you are doing that.
Whatever the process is, talk to your counselor or academic advisor about how to get from pre-major to major, and they will be able to answer all of your questions.
Degrees with Pre-Majors
Not all majors require a pre-major. It is likely that you will see pre-majors associated with the majors that are pursued after a Bachelor’s degree. People who get Master’s degrees and PHDs in the same field will likely have to take pre-major classes to start.
At Baylor University in Waco Texas, they offer a list of majors that they require pre-majors with. This list includes:
- Film and Digital Media
- Social Work
- Medical Humanities
This list can vary from school to school, but it is great to give you an idea of what majors require pre-majors. If you are looking into majoring in a field like one on this list, call your school or call the schools you are applying to and ask them. You can call for this information from your school to get a more accurate idea of what you will be required to do.
From the list, you can see that these majors can be intense. There is a lot of learning to be done in obtaining a degree in the majors listed, so it makes sense that you would want people who are capable of learning the degree to take it.
Those who don’t pass pre-major classes in these topics are likely to not do well in the actual major. And these are hard topics to learn as you get more advanced, so narrowing down who is ready to learn these topics is smart for both the school and you.
Related Article: 15 Best Minors for Law School
Is Pre-Major Similar to General Education?
General education involves classes you have to take that are required for your major, so in that sense, they are the same. Topic-wise, they are different.
General education includes your basic math, science, history, and art classes. These are often taken right out of high school when you first enter college so that you can get “high school 2.0” out of the way. Then, you take the courses required for your major that are specific to your major and not general classes.
General education also serves as a prerequisite to other classes. For instance, you need to take English 100 before taking English 200 or 300. In pre-major classes, the principle is the same. You need to take the pre-major level classes before being allowed to take major level classes.
In some ways, general education is similar to pre-major. But, one of these won’t necessarily replace the other. Once you get into your major after taking pre-major classes, you can still be required to take general education. This depends on your school and the programs they have set for their majors.
If you want to know what classes you have to take with your major or pre-major, look up the major on your school’s website. Then, add the word “catalog”. This will pull up a list of classes you are required to take.
For instance, if you have to take one science credit, but it doesn’t matter what type of science class, they will say that you should take one of these classes and give you a list to choose from. This is nice because you can cater your classes to be about things you are interested in.
It can help you stay interested in the things you are learning, and you can become more eager for classes you weren’t excited about. Having a choice in classes is helps you become more successful in your classes.
What happens if you change major to one that requires a pre-major after already being in school?
If you have been in school for one semester or twelve, the result doesn’t change. Pre-major classes are required to declare the major. You can try to convert the credits you took and see if they apply to the pre-major classes, but chances are they won’t apply until after the pre-major classes.
Then, the school will apply the credits you took. Some classes will replace ones you needed to take, and others will become elective credits. This is good because it means all the hard work and money you put into past classes are still worth something to your new major.
If you are going into pre-major classes straight out of high school, then as long as you pass and still want to continue studying the field, you won’t be wasting classes. If you change your mind or don’t pass classes, then you might have credits that won’t apply to your next major.
Choosing the classes you take at the beginning of college is important because you want to choose classes that will apply to what you want to study.
Related Article: When Is It Too Late to Change College Major?
What Happens if You Don’t Pass Pre-Major Classes?
If you don’t pass pre-major classes, you won’t be able to get into the major. But, if you didn’t pass only one of the classes, then you can retake it. Work with your academic advisor and see what options you have. Ask if you can retake the class and, with permission, take it again.
Sometimes life can get crazy, and balancing full course loads is not easy. If you are able to pass all classes but one, then that means you either are not good at that one class, or that time slipped by you and that class became harder to juggle along with the others.
You should try to get all A’s and B’s so your GPA is high, and so your school can look at your transcript and know that you are a dedicated student.
Going back and retaking one class is not shameful either—it proves that you are willing to go at it again and try to be more successful than the first time. It shows that you aren’t a quitter.
When you don’t pass a class in college, it can be devastating because of the amount of time and effort put into the class, but it can also hurt financially. Classes are expensive, books are expensive, and tuition is expensive.
Failing or not passing with a high enough grade is hard, and you can feel like you wasted your time and money. But, look at everything that was in your control and out of it. Sometimes, failing a class happens because more things out of your control took over, and that is okay.
Do not be too hard on yourself. Instead, pick yourself up and take the class again if you desire to do so. Maybe you need a better teacher, maybe you need to fix your schedule to allow for more time for the class, whatever you need to adjust, try to adjust.
You should work with your school to help you become a successful student. If you are retaking a hard class, then talk to your student resources department and find out what measure you can take to ensure your success.
There are tutors, study groups, and plenty of places you can go to focus on studying. Find out what your school offers you and use the resources you find will help you best.
If you don’t pass the first semester of pre-major classes, consider changing your major. Again, you are the only one who can determine whether switching is right for you because you are the only one who knows all the events going on in your life.
But, if you find that what you like is too hard to learn about and you are not being successful, then consider other options. There are many ways to work in your desired field of work, so look at the options and explore what you are interested in.
You might want to take a slightly different route that is easier to learn, or you might change your route completely to something else you love learning about.
Whatever the choice, make sure you are happy with it and you want to learn it. Learning about something you don’t want to learn about is really hard to do, and passing a class you don’t care about can be even harder. So set yourself up for success in the major you choose.
Remember, not passing one pre-major class is totally fine, but failing an entire semester of pre-major classes is a sign that this major is probably not the best choice for you.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.