Frequently Asked Questions

Can I still finish college on time if I start in Open Option?

Yes! Open Option students typically graduate in the same amount of time as other Iowa State students. Open Option helps you learn about yourself and think deeply about what matters to you. So, when you do eventually choose a major, you are less likely to change it again. The classes you take while you are an Open Option student will count toward your graduation requirements.

How do I know what classes to choose if I’m not declaring a major right away?

You will have an adviser who works just with Open Option students. Your adviser will help you strategically plan a class schedule around what interests you. Be curious and open to exploring possibilities! You will also take LAS 101, which will help guide you in actively exploring your academic interests.

Will I still earn credit while I am in the Open Option program?

Yes. Your classes will count toward your general education requirements, electives, or future major requirements for graduation.

How soon do Open Option students typically declare a major?

We encourage students to have a declared major by the time they earn 45 credits.

I earned some college credits already. How will that impact me in the program?

Make sure you get your transcripts sent into ISU as soon as you can. If you’ve done this, an adviser will be able to see what you’ve taken and help you explore classes that will complement or build upon classes for which you’ve already earned credit.

Can I still join a learning community if I’m Open Option? And what’s a learning community exactly?

You sure can! Learning communities are a great way to explore academic areas that interest you, while making new friends and meeting amazing faculty.

A learning community is a small group of students with shared interests. Depending on the specific learning community, you may take one or more classes together, be part of a study group, take field trips or enjoy social activities like special speakers or a community service project.

Your adviser can talk with you about specific learning communities. For example, The Sky is the Limit Learning Community is just for Open Option students interested in the sciences, data and communication.

Do I have to declare a major before I study abroad?

If you want to study abroad, go for it! Your adviser can talk with you about programs that may be a good fit. Iowa State has many study abroad programs, and some are as short as a one week experience during Spring Break.

How is Open Option different than undeclared or undecided at other universities?

The Open Option program is an intentional path. You won’t be worrying about what to do or wandering your way through your first semester. With personalized attention and careful advising, you will be actively working toward your goals, earning credits, figuring out what you love, building your skills and preparing to make informed decisions on what’s next.

What is the difference between Open Option and the Bachelor of Liberal Studies program?

The Open Option program is designed for incoming students at Iowa State. Open Option students will go on to declare a major after a period of exploration.

The Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree is created for students who have already started their college journey and have earned 60 credits. It can be a good fit for a student who has already earned credits in a wide range of areas or at multiple institutions. It can also be a path for a non-traditional adult student who wants to finish a degree online.