The University of Massachusetts Amherst recognizes that many incoming students would benefit from learning more about the many majors offered on campus that may be a good fit for their academic interests and aspirations. Beginning in fall 2015, the university is implementing an Exploratory Track Program for all students who have been accepted for admission as an undeclared major.

The Exploratory Track in Natural Sciences

The Natural Sciences Exploratory Track is ideal for students who enjoy experimental sciences and testing theories. Students on the exploratory track can explore the life and physical sciences, as well as applications in areas such as the natural environment, the built environment, agriculture, and medical and health care professions. Students exploring the natural sciences are curious investigators and data analyzers, whether they are investigating microbes or mathematics; food safety or ecosystems; galaxies or human and animal brains and behavior; molecules or geological strata and climates.

The College of Natural Sciences (CNS) houses many sciences under one umbrella. All majors in the college are available for Exploratory Track students to declare when they feel ready to commit to a focus. Students can begin exploring the College's majors now. If an Exploratory Track student develops an interest outside of CNS, changing into open majors in colleges and schools across the university is easily accomplished. CNS advisors help students understand how to declare majors.

Finding and Exploring Majors

The Exploratory Track Program assists students with their consideration and ultimate declaration of a major based on their interests, eligibility, and academic proficiency.


Exploratory Track students benefit from working closely with academic advisors to explore potential majors within the college and across campus. Students have access to one-on-one advising to assist with course selection and major exploration as well as general questions about acclimating to college life, finding resources on campus, and getting involved in campus life. Advisors are available by appointment at the CNS Advising Center. Exploratory Track students are required to meet with an advisor prior to registration for each semester. Individualized advising also occurs during New Students Orientation (NSO) in the summer prior to students’ first semester at UMass Amherst. Students are guided in their course selections by advisors using information about their specific background, interests, and placement test scores.

Course Selection

Many exploratory track students have some idea of their goals, while others are still considering their options. CNS is prepared to help both of these kinds of students. For those students with an idea of their goals, our faculty have developed first- semester curricula suggestions that can help them make a good start towards life sciences, physical sciences, environment and sustainability studies, computer science, engineering, or psychology—while still looking and keeping options open. Admission to the colleges of Information and Computer Science (CICS) and Engineering is by competitive application based on completion of prerequisite courses. The suggested curricula for those interested in computer science or engineering have been created with the input of colleagues in these colleges; requirements for admission to these majors are included in those suggestions. For students who are thinking about many possibilities, the CNS Advising Center can suggest courses to explore those options while beginning to complete university requirements.

Additional academic programming

  • All first-year students enroll in a first-year seminar with 19 or fewer students. Seminars are organized within colleges and engage students with a topic that serves as a way to begin honing skills in critical thinking, application of the scientific method, and exploration of a scholarly subject. Seminars also include some common curricula, offering information to assist students in making a successful transition to college.
  • Workshops, fairs, and information sessions will provide detailed information about majors within CNS. Information sessions for students wishing to apply to the colleges of Information and Computer Science (CICS) or Engineering are also offered.
  • All first-year students must complete a mandatory student success tutorial with the CNS academic deans to review essential university policies and regulations. Information about this requirement is emailed at the beginning of the semester.

Other Resources

Like all students at UMass Amherst, Exploratory Track students have access to a wide variety of academic resources and campus resources. In addition, students may find their academic passion partly through participation in related cocurricular activities. There are more than 500 registered student organizations on campus to feed student interests.