UMass Amherst Develops Exploratory Track Program to Serve Undeclared Majors

Katherine Newman

UMass Amherst is realigning its academic advising program to better serve the one-in-four first-year students who enter the university without a declared major.

Beginning in September, all undeclared first-year students will join the new Exploratory Track Program and be placed in one of eight academic advising tracks designed to help them find the best major for their interests and aspirations.

Advisers who previously worked out of a central academic advising office will be reassigned to particular tracks, each affiliated with a school or college, providing more defined assistance and support to students in their exploration of a major.           

While the approach to advising has not changed, the new program is expected to give students a stronger sense of belonging within the schools and colleges while still encouraging them to explore options across campus. Students will also participate in special academic programming, including a first-year seminar within their school or college.

Katherine S. Newman, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, said, “Every student at UMass benefits from having an intellectual community to participate in from the very beginning of their time with us. The Exploratory Tracks represent a novel and exciting way to introduce students who are searching for the right major to the possibilities in each of our colleges and schools. They will have wonderful first-year seminars to choose from, advisors to work with, and a faculty community to get to know. I think this will enhance the first-year experience for everyone.” 

Students are matched with a track based on a review of their university admissions application focusing on interest, eligibility and academic proficiency.

Five of the tracks are available to all undeclared first-year students based on the review of their records. The five are humanities and fine arts; social and behavioral sciences; natural sciences; public health and health sciences, and education.

Three tracks – business, engineering, and computing and informatics – are open by invitation only to select students who had applied to them but did not receive direct acceptance.

The Exploratory Track Program was designed by the office of the provost working with the academic deans. The program will serve students past their first year as needed.