engineering innovations

First Year Engineering: Undeclared

Frequently Asked Questions

What is First Year Engineering: Undeclared?

First Year Engineering: Undeclared is a new program for a limited number of students who would like some extra time to explore the variety of engineering majors before declaring which they would like to pursue. Students in the Undeclared option will declare a major before the end of their first year.

Can students in the Undeclared Program end up in any of the engineering majors?

Students in the Undeclared Program may request placement in any major in the College of Engineering at the end of their first year.

What kind of students will apply to the First Year Engineering: Undeclared option?

We expect that students applying as Undeclared will have researched possible engineering majors as much, if not more, than students who have specified a major when they applied. Students applying for the Undeclared program may be interested in pursuing a field that is inherently interdisciplinary and need time to explore the majors that best support their interdisciplinary interests. Or they may have sincere interests in several different engineering fields.

Who will be admitted to the program?

Successful candidates for the Undeclared option will have a convincing application essay that explains why the Undeclared option is best for their career plans. Because this is a new program, we anticipate that only about 100 students (less than 7% of the class) will enter the College of Engineering as first year students in the Undeclared program.

I can’t decide between two engineering majors. Should I request the Undeclared option?

Students who have narrowed down their selection to two engineering majors are advised to list one of the majors as their first choice and the other as their second choice. By carefully choosing classes in consultation with an advisor, a student can keep their options open to transfer to a different engineering major at the end of their first year. (See “What classes should I take”, below).

What’s a good second-choice major, if my first choice is Undeclared?

The second-choice major should be carefully chosen, and reflect the student’s career interests at application time. There are two main reasons for this. 1) Some students who list Undeclared as their first choice may be admitted to their second-choice option, depending on demand. 2) We will use the second-choice major as an indication of the likely demand on majors at the end of the first year.

What classes would I take in my first year in the Undeclared Program?

First-Year Engineering: Undeclared students will take a regular set of foundational courses, common to many engineering majors, plus at least one (and possibly two) “gateway” courses. Foundational courses include Calculus (2 semesters), Chemistry (1 or 2 semesters), Physics (1 semester) and Rhetoric (1 semester). Students with AP credit may skip one or more of these courses and move ahead to other courses. Undeclared students are also highly encouraged to take Engineering 101, a one-hour course that provides an overview of all of the engineering majors.

Gateway courses are technical subjects that provide an entry point to one or two specific majors. These courses provide a way to “sample” a major, and they are often a required course in that major. If you eventually choose a different major, the gateway course often counts toward a requirement in that major. Examples of gateway courses are ECE 110 (for electrical and/or computer engineering), GE 101 or ME 170 (for mechanical, civil, general, and industrial engineering), and CS 125 (for computer science). All classes will be chosen in consultation with an engineering advisor.

Is there a class I can take to learn about the different engineering majors?

Yes! Engineering 101 is open to all students who are interested in a survey of engineering majors. Students in the Undeclared option are strongly encouraged to take Engineering 101.

How will advising work, if I’m in the First Year Engineering: Undeclared option?

Students in the Undeclared option will be initially advised by the College of Engineering advisors in 206 Engineering Hall. As a student becomes more confident in their major choice, an advising relationship with the Chief Advisor in the prospective department will be encouraged.

If I’m in First Year Engineering: Undeclared, will the grades I earn my first year influence the choices I have for a major?

Students in the Undeclared option must be in good academic standing (minimum GPA of 2.0) in order to declare a major during the spring of their first year. We will try to honor Undeclared students’ requests for placement within the engineering majors. However, we cannot guarantee that every student in the Undeclared option will be placed in their first-choice major, because of high demand for some majors. Having better grades may make it easier for you to get into a high-demand major.

Students who are not in good academic standing (GPA < 2.0) will be individually advised by the college staff, with decisions about their next steps made on a case-by-case basis.

If I am Undeclared, can I eventually choose Chemical Engineering, or Agricultural and Biological Engineering, as my major?

Yes, though either of these majors will require an inter-college transfer. The College of Engineering will work with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (for ChemE) and with the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences (for ABE) in order to accommodate Undeclared students who, toward the end of their first year, chose one of these majors. Note that the ChemE and ABE degrees at Illinois are ABET-accredited, just like all of the engineering degrees at Illinois.

What’s the difference between being in Undeclared and just switching majors at the end of the first year?

Good question! Both types of students are able to start their second year in a new engineering major, but there are some differences. Read carefully, and make a choice that is good for you.

First-year engineering students in the Undeclared option will be advised in ways that keep as many options open as possible, even before they select a major. We are not able to guarantee that every Undeclared first year student in good academic standing can have their first choice of major, but Undeclared students who request a major by March 1 in their first year will have priority over other first year students who are transferring between majors. (The March decision date makes it easy to pre-register for fall-semester courses appropriate for the new major).

Students who begin in a specific major are assured from the time of admission that they have a seat in that major. They automatically retain that seat as long as they stay in good academic standing. These students are welcome to explore other majors during their first year, for instance by taking Engineering 101 or by taking the gateway course for another major. Students who wish to transfer from one major to another should discuss their plans with a college advisor in 206 Engineering Hall as soon as possible during their first year. Requests from first-year students to change majors within the College of Engineering will be acted on in early April.