Pre-Major Advisors


Your Pre-Major Advisor (PMA) is a Stanford faculty or staff member who volunteers to advise up to six incoming students from the time they arrive at Stanford until they declare a major. You will meet your PMA for the first time during NSO; after that, you will meet once each quarter until you declare your major.

By virtue of the fact that they are volunteers, you will find that the PMAs are some of the friendliest and  most generous members of the Stanford community. Your PMA can help you imagine opportunities that may not even be on your radar, or assist you in making thoughtful choices about your academic career as it relates to your goals and values. Because each individual PMA advises through the lens of their role here at Stanford, your PMA may facilitate your connection with the University by helping you build the relationships that are a vital part of the Stanford experience. In short, their role is to inspire you to embrace your Stanford journey with the full depth of your curiosity.

You will have a number of advisors here at Stanford, and while you can count on your advisors to provide accurate information (or a means of finding that information yourself!) no single individual is going to have all the answers. The way to get the most out of advising is to approach it as an activity you participate in by asking questions, listening to different viewpoints and perspectives, weighing options, imagining possibilities, identifying and connecting with resources, and making thoughtful decisions.

Partnering with your PMA

Your relationship with your Pre-Major Advisor is a partnership that is built through the ongoing conversation that takes place during your regular quarterly meetings.  In these meetings, your PMA may serve as a resource, a sounding board, a mentor, and as an important connection to the Stanford community. To make this partnership a success, you should strive to:

  • Ask questions and understand that advising is something you participate in, not something you passively accept.
  • Listen to advice, weigh options, and make mindful choices.
  • Be flexible and open to new options, opportunities, or possibilities.
  • Be honest.
  • Ask for help.
  • Follow up on decisions or ideas by taking action (and responsibility).


Until you declare a major, there will be an Advising Hold placed on your account in Axess each quarter. Although your Pre-Major Advisor (PMA) will lift this hold for you after your quarterly meeting, it cannot be stressed strongly enough that the reason for the hold, and your meeting, is not for your PMA to approve your study list; rather, it is to ensure that you set aside a small window of time to reflect upon and candidly discuss your Stanford journey at regular intervals. Additionally, we hope that the required quarterly meeting with your PMA will result in a substantial advising relationship that is cultivated over time. For suggestions as to how to make the most of your quarterly meetings, please see the The Advising Conversation, below.


There are several reasons why you may want or need a new Pre-Major Advisor (PMA). PMAs may leave the University for a research sabbatical, a leave of absence, or to take another job; alternatively, you may develop a mentoring relationship with another faculty member that you would like to formalize. In any case, the procedure is straightforward.

If your PMA is no longer able to advise you, you will be contacted by Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) and offered two options: you may identify and recruit a PMA of your own choosing or, if you prefer, a UAR advisor will be assigned to you.

In this situation, many students opt to identify and recruit a PMA of their own choosing, typically someone they already know such as the professor who teaches their Introductory Seminar, their PWR instructor, or the Principal Investigator (PI) in a lab where they are doing research. To reach out to a prospective PMA via email, please feel welcome to use this template. If your prospective PMA agrees, then email Alice Petty, the Director of Pre-Major Advising (, in order for the administrative change to be made in Axess.

If you have developed a mentoring relationship with a faculty member that you would like to formalize, the procedure is the same. Starting in the beginning of spring quarter of your freshmen year, you may recruit a PMA of your own choosing. To reach out to a prospective PMA via email, please feel welcome to use this template. If your prospective PMA agrees, then email Alice Petty, the Director of Pre-Major Advising (  in order for the administrative change to be made in Axess. In this case, you should complete the reassignment by offering a few words of thanks to your original Pre-Major Advisor.


While the content of your quarterly conversation is largely up to you, it should include a discussion of your current academic interests and performance, as well as any opportunities you are considering. In the sections below, you will find suggested templates that may help you - whether you are a freshman or a sophomore - organize and focus your conversations.

Meeting Your Pre-Major Advisor (PMA) During New Student Orientation (NSO)

The Autumn Conversation: Gauging Your Transition to Stanford

The Winter Conversation: Weighing Opportunities

The Spring Conversation: Mindful Reflection



You are welcome to convey any compliments, complaints, suggestions, or anecdotes based on your experience with the Pre-Major Advising Program here.