Thinking deeply about your possibilities for intellectual growth and development will be a hallmark of your partnership with First Year Advising and your first year at Notre Dame.

Exploration, Discovery, and Charting Your Journey

Some students know exactly what they want to study as they embark on their Notre Dame journey. Others are interested in a variety of disciplines and possible paths of inquiry. Regardless of where you fall, your first year as a student at the University of Notre Dame will be one of exploration and discovery. The Center for University Advising, home of First Year Advising, will be with you for every turn of the journey.

Even if you already have a strong sense of what field of study you wish to pursue, your first year is designed as a time to explore the boundless options at Notre Dame that can combine your diverse interests into a rich and challenging program of study.

While you will not formally declare your future college and major until the spring semester, you have to make at least a provisional decision about your future major(s) so that you can be registered for the appropriate classes for your first fall semester. You are not required to submit your cource preferences based on the major you listed on your Admissions application. Instead, the Center for University Advising's Fall 2020 First-Year Questionnaire allows for you to indicate your academic interests, curiosities, and aspirations. If you've not yet submitted your questionnaire, be sure to complete it by May 30.

To help you take your first steps of exploration, our website offers brief overviews of programs and requirements for the School of Architecture, the College of Arts and Letters, the Mendoza College of Business, the College of Engineering, or the College of Science. The Keough School of Global Affairs. These pages link to more detailed information on each college or school's website. Please review this information, keeping in mind that, at this time, you are choosing an undergraduate program and not a lifetime career. As you progress through your first year, you may change your plans concerning your college and/or major. Your First Year Advisor will accompany you as you discover new interests, encounter new perspectives, and explore the resources of the Notre Dame community.


Your First Year Advisor will work with you to build your fall semester schedule, taking into consideration your academic interests and goals, course preferences, credit by examination, and requirements for your current intended area of study.

During an Advising Team Meeting via Zoom in June, advisors will speak with you about how to prepare for a one-on-one meeting in July where you and your advisor will build your fall schedule together.

Students typically take five academic courses (at least three credits each) and the Moreau First Year Experience course (one credit) in both semesters of their first year, for a total of 16 to 19 credits each semester, depending on intended major and courses selected. Voluntary courses such as ROTC and music lessons and ensembles can be taken in addition to the standard course load. Students may not take more than 21 credits in a semester.

The Core Curriculum requires students to take two writing-intensive courses at Notre Dame. These courses are not sequential and can be taken in either order. Half of the first-year students will take a University Seminar during the first semester while the other half will take a Writing and Rhetoric course (or an elective if they have AP or IB credit for Writing and Rhetoric). In the second semester, students who took a University Seminar first semester will take Writing and Rhetoric (or an elective if they have credit for Writing and Rhetoric) and vice-versa.

Click here to review the Writing, Math, Science, Language, and College/Major requirements and view sample first year schedules.

As you begin to explore your options as a scholar, below are some important terms that you may use as you navigate your journey with you First Year Advisor:

The Core Curriculum, College Requirements, and Major/Minor Requirements.


The Core Curriculum is the heart of undergraduate education at Notre Dame. All students, regardless of major, must complete the Core. The Core is designed to integrate with other parts of your curriculum, such as majors and minors, and is not necessarily intended to be completed in the first year.

The Core is organized around 11 Ways of Knowing. Courses in these ways of knowing expose students to diverse modes of thought for approaching, analyzing, and understanding different aspects of our lives and our world. Each course forms a complementary part of the larger whole, bringing individual students closer to attaining the intellectual capacities and practices that fulfill the overall goals of a Notre Dame education.

The requirements of the University's Core Curriculum are grouped in four categories:

General Liberal Arts

  1. Quantitative Reasoning
  2. Science and Technology
  3. Quantitative Reasoning or Science and Technology
  4. Art and Literature, or Advance Language and Culture
  5. History or Social Science
  6. Integration or Way of Knowing not yet chosen from 4 or 5

Exploring Explicitly Catholic Dimensions of the Liberal Arts

  1. Foundational Theology
  2. Developmental Theology
  3. Introductory Philosophy
  4. Philosophy elective or Catholicism and the Disciplines


  1. University Seminar*
  2. Writing and Rhetoric or other writing-intensive course

*A University Seminar may be double-counted to fulfill both the USEM requirement and one of the other liberal arts requirements. Explore Fall 2020 University Seminar descriptions here!

Moreau First Year Experience

  1. Moreau: One two-semester course

All students must take the required writing course(s) and the Moreau First Year Experience in the first year. Students with AP or IB credit for Writing and Rhetoric can take another writing-intensive course after their first year and do not have to complete Writing 2 in the first year. Other Core courses may be taken in any year, although some majors require Quantitative Reasoning and/or Science and Technology courses to be taken during the first year.


After the first year, students are enrolled in one of the degree-granting units: the School of Architecture, the School of ArchitectureCollege of Arts and Letters, the Mendoza College of Business, the College of Engineering, or the College of Science. Students who pursue a supplementary major in the Keough School of Global Affairs must pursue a primary major through another college or school.

The degree-granting colleges and schools have their own requirements.


Majors and minors also have requirements. Your first year is the ideal time to explore your academic interests and select a major. You should therefore prioritize discerning your primary major over completing Core requirements, most of which do not have to be completed in the first year.

Click here for more information about majors and minors at Notre Dame.



In some colleges, you may have the option of pursuing majors in two departments, referred to as having a second or double major. A second major or double major between colleges is also possible. It generally requires the completion of all the University requirements, the requirements of the college of your first major, and the requirements of both majors. In general, a single course may not satisfy requirements for both majors.

A supplementary major is an academic program, generally consisting of eight courses. It can be completed in addition to a major, but it cannot stand alone in qualifying a student for an undergraduate degree.


Minors are optional secondary fields of study that provide the means to pursue interests that fall outside your major field of study. A minor usually requires five courses, but requirements vary. Many minors are interdisciplinary in nature. Some minors are available through Notre Dame’s Centers and Institutes, so you may also wish to explore those programs as well.

Some majors allow for concentrations, but not all. Concentrations usually require the completion of three courses recognized by your college and department and can indicate an additional area of specialization in your undergraduate degree.

Some students may find that the dual degree option best suits their needs. A dual degree allows you to complete two undergraduate degrees in different colleges. These programs generally require five years to complete. You must complete all of the university requirements, all of the requirements for both colleges, all of the requirements for both majors, and the total number of degree credits specified for a dual degree in the two colleges. While the total number of hours required does depend on the two major programs, the minimum required total number of degree credits is set to be 30 degree credits beyond the college total for the college with the greatest required number of degree credits. Dual degree programs are available in Arts and Letters with Engineering and Science with Engineering.


Electives are optional courses that may not satisfy the requirements of the University, your college, or your department. The number of elective courses you can take varies depending on your future school or college, ranging from 0 to 36 credit hours. You should use electives as an opportunity to look more deeply into an interest that you already have, or to explore new intellectual territory that may lead you to new abilities and interests.

Notre Dame is committed to providing opportunities for students to put their faith and values into action and to learn about social issues from first-hand experience. Not only do many colleges and departments offer service learning options, but you will find a wide variety of seminars and programs available through the Center for Social Concerns at socialconcerns.nd.edu.

Whether you’re looking to expand your research into a new country, discerning a call to serve internationally, or wondering how a Notre Dame experience could change your trajectory, Notre Dame International can help you explore a number of opportunities. It takes careful planning to participate in one of the study abroad programs without delaying graduation or limiting choice of major. If you select a program, plan your curriculum in consultation with your First Year Advisor.

This summer, you will explore various colleges and college programs and work alongside your First Year Advisor to build a course schedule for your first semester as a Notre Dame student. Advisors work with you both in the Fall and Spring semesters as you consider Core Curriculum requirements, potential college and/or major requirements, and elective courses to build a course schedule that works best for you.

Connect with us at firstyear.nd.edu