New Student Guide

Welcome to the new student guide to academic registration. Here we’ll provide practical advice about the curriculum you’ll engage in here at UMW.

Before we get to the curriculum matters, let’s touch on a few of the other issues addressed in the questionnaire.  Be certain to indicate academic interests, transfer credit (including AP and IB scores), and any activities/special programs that interest you. These items all affect your schedule, so the information will be useful.

During your first semester at UMW, you will take your First-Year Seminar (FSEM) class. FSEMs cover unique topics and involve multiple speaking, research, and writing assignments that prepare you for academic success. Your FSEM course will determine the residence hall in which you live, allowing you to live, learn, and engage with a common group of students. Learn more about your FSEM class topics by reading the FSEM Courses guide.


Now let’s move on to the curriculum matters.  It is useful to think of your degree program as a three-legged stool, with the three areas: Major Program, General Education , and Electives each playing a vital role.  We’ll go through each of these broad areas individually.  Once you have your questionnaire completed, staff in the Office of Academic Services will preregister you in a few classes, including your FSEM course, to help get you started toward your first semester schedule. Then, at Orientation, you’ll be able to adjust and complete your schedule while working one-on-one with a member of our staff and some faculty.  


A major is a collection of specialized courses in a single discipline (or a small collection of disciplines) which will give you deep knowledge in a subject. You can view a complete list of majors offered at UMW by following viewing the online Undergraduate Academic Catalog site.

It will be very useful for you to get some advice early in your academic career from the chair of the department hosting your prospective major.  To get some of that useful advice, click on your prospective major below. 


Accounting American Studies
Anthropology Applied Economics
Applied Physics Art History
Biochemistry Biology
Biomedical Science Business Administration
Chemistry Classics
Communication and Digital Studies Computer Science
Conservation Biology Cybersecurity
Economics Education
English English: Creative Writing
Environmental Geology Environmental Science: Natural or Social
French Geography
Geology Geospatial Analysis
German Historic Preservation
History International Affairs
International Business Latin
Marketing Mathematics
Music Nursing
Philosophy or Philosophy: Pre-Law Physics
Political Science Psychology
Religious Studies Sociology
Spanish Studio Art
Theatre Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies


For more information on the Honors Program, click here.

Another hot area of interest for new students is our variety of programs leading to teacher licensure. You can read advice about planning your course schedule as a prospective teacher licensure candidate by following the link to Education Programs at UMW. Additional information provided by UMW’s College of Education describes the many programs available for future teachers.


General Education


Every student will need to take courses in several general education areas and this broad spectrum of courses will help round out your liberal arts education. To start weeding through the General Education categories and getting some advice go to Navigating General Education. We’ll walk you through the various categories and give you some advice as you complete this portion of the questionnaire. Once you finish that portion of your questionnaire, you’re done for now (until you come for orientation). But you may still be wondering about the last leg of our stool.  If so, read on…



The last leg of our stool constitutes “electives.” So, what is an elective? Here’s the bottom line: elective courses constitute the remaining credits required to complete the minimum 120 credits for your degree after your General Education Requirements and Major Requirements have been completed. So, any course can be used as an elective. For many students, this will be a significant number of courses. For instance, a Sociology major may complete the major requirements with about 32 credits. General Education could potentially be completed with only 31-40 more credits. That means that the student will still need as many as 57 credits worth of elective courses in order to reach the 120 credits necessary for graduation. This could mean a lot of options for you!  For example, you could use your elective courses to pursue any combination of the following:

  • Complete a Minor – here’s a complete list of minors to peruse
  • Prepare yourself for graduate study or professional school by taking additional courses in your field of interest
  • Fulfill state or national requirements for a profession (i.e., Education)
  • Satisfy your own interests, talents and general ambition to learn more about an academic area or the world in which you live
  • Complete a double Major (keep in mind that completion of a double major may require additional credits)

And that does it! We hope that you have found some of the information here helpful to you. If you have questions or concerns, the staff in the Office of Academic Services is here to help. Give us a call at 540-654-1010 and we’ll be happy to assist you. We look forward to seeing you at orientation this summer!