General Questions, Declaring, and Academic Advising for Undergraduate Majors

[updated August 17, 2017 - updated PUCP form]

General Questions. For general information about the Symbolic Systems undergraduate major that you do not see on our website, email symsys-afs at lists dot stanford dot edu from an account, or see the Student Services Officer in Building 460, Room 127E during normal business hours (M-Th 8-noon and 1-4:30 pm).

Declaring. Students matriculating with the Class of 2018 or later must take SYMSYS 1 ("Minds and Machines", formerly SYMSYS 100) before their declaration of the Symbolic Systems undergraduate major will be approved. Students in the Class of 2018 or later must either have completed SYMSYS 1 or be enrolled past the add/drop deadline in Autumn Quarter to have their declaration approved. A Stanford undergraduate with a SUNET ID who entered Stanford prior to the Autumn of 2014, or who has taken SYMSYS 1, can initiate the declaration of a Symbolic Systems major on Axess, However, before the declaration is approved, you must come in person to the Symbolic Systems Program office (Building 460, Suite 040) for a declaration interview with either the Associate Director or an Undergraduate Advising Fellow. Before coming for a declaration interview, please fill out the Preliminary Unofficial Course Plan (PUCP) form and bring a copy of it to share with your interviewer either on paper or on your laptop. During your declaration interview, you will be asked some questions to verify that declaring the major is appropriate for you (e.g. that you will have sufficient time in your remaining career to complete the coursework, and that you have some familiarity with the requirements of the major). The PUCP is the best basis for this discussion. As part of the approval process, you will be given an account and a profile on the Symsys website, and you will be added to the email list for undergraduates in Symbolic Systems. If you are not ready to declare, but want to be included on email announcements sent to the general Symbolic Systems students list, you can self-subscribe to the symsys-others list and you will receive any student messages not restricted to declared Symbolic Systems undergraduates. To see when the Associate Director or an Advising Fellow will be available to help you declare, see AF/Staff Office Hours. As a final step before your declaration is approved, you must send a filled out Preliminary Unofficial Course Plan (PUCP) form to the Student Services Specialist, Katherine Burtt (symsys-sso at following your declaration interview. Symbolic Systems Program staff will not officially approve the courses on your PUCP as fulfilling the requirements of the major at this time. Filling it out is required as an exercise, so that we are sure you have thought through at least one possible path through the major. You can change your course plan after you send it to us without having to notify anyone, but you are responsible for ensuring that the courses you take meet the requirements (see below under Advising - Tier 2).

Advising. Once you are declared as a Symbolic Systems undergraduate major, you have until the Autumn Quarter of your junior year to find a Concentration Advisor. Prior to that, you will immediately be assigned to both the Program Director and Associate Director as Major Advisors. If you declare the major after the opening of Winter Quarter registration (late October) in your junior year, you must have a concentration advisor before your major declaration can be approved. Throughout your time as a major you will have access to three tiers of advising, depending on the questions and action you require:

  • Tier 1.Undergraduate Advising Fellows. The Advising Fellows (AFs) are 6-7 upper division undergraduate or coterm students in Symbolic Systems who have taken a substantial number of courses for the major and can advise you from a student's perspective. They answer questions such as "What is this course like?", "How can I get involved in research?", and "How can I meet other Symbolic Systems students?" The AFs also plan and host events for students, appear at majors fairs, perform declaration interviews, and serve as the official voice of students in policymaking for undergraduate programs in Symbolic Systems.
  • Tier 2. Director, Associate Director, and Student Services Officer. The Director, Associate Director, and Student Services Officer are official administrators of the program. One or more of them are generally the appropriate people to ask to sign forms and grant approvals on behalf of the program, depending on the exact approval required. They can also answer questions and give advice about the program as a whole, particularly pertaining to the core requirements, degree requirements, and finding an advisor.
  • Tier 3. Concentration Advisors. You must declare a faculty Concentration Advisor by the Autumn Quarter of your junior year in the major. If you have not done so, a hold will be placed on your registration for subsequent quarters. Your concentration advisor provides advising specific to his/her area of research and teaching, which should fit your concentration area within the major. Concentration advisors are not expected to provide advice or to know about program requirements or areas of the major outside of their specializations, though they may do so.

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