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Explore CAUS

Exploring Architecture & Urban Studies

Not sure which major in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies is right for you? Interested in several and can't decide, or just want to explore your options? Consider the Explore CAUS major, designed to let students "sample" a breadth of programs across the college before committing to one path forward.  

A student asks a question in an urban planning class

An undecided major in the College of Architecture & Urban Studies that serves as a portal to the college's four- and five-year degree programs.

The EXPLORE CAUS major was created to help students who know they are interested in Architecture & Urban Studies disciplines, but not sure exactly which major they want to pursue. Students considering the highly competitive Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, and Industrial Design programs but aren’t sure which one of those majors they want to apply to may find the Explore CAUS major a better start.

How does it work?

Once accepted to the EXPLORE CAUS major, students will pursue coursework across the College of Architecture & Urban Studies while also taking classes that meet some of their general education curriculum course requirements. We’ve secured permission for our EXPLORE CAUS majors to take certain classes typically limited to Architecture, Interior Design, Industrial Design, Landscape Architecture, Building Construction, Art, Environmental Policy & Planning, and Smart Sustainable City students. EXPLORE CAUS majors are advised about these courses during new student orientation.

You’ll be advised by Rob Jacks, Director of Academic Advising in the College of Architecture & Urban Studies, and receive advice on taking classes relevant to a CAUS major or majors you’re interested in and assistance with how to transition to another CAUS major. Frequently asked questions about the Explore CAUS major can be found at the bottom of this page.

What are the college's degree programs?

Check out the undergraduate majors and minors we offer through our college, and if you have questions and want to learn more, consider scheduling a visit or get a current student’s perspective by contacting one of our college ambassadors.

Rob Jacks headshot

Rob Jacks, Director of Academic Advising in the College of Architecture & Urban Studies, serves as the academic advisor to EXPLORE CAUS majors. Contact him at if you have questions about the major!

Frequently Asked Questions about the Explore CAUS Major

How long will I have to wait before I can apply to change my major to Architecture, Industrial Design, Interior Design, or Landscape Architecture?

The application period for major changes in the School of Architecture + Design starts in January. You’ll apply to the major you’re interested in, have an interview, and if successful you’ll be invited to attend summer studio in Blacksburg. You’ll attend summer studio at Virginia Tech and faculty will review your work at the end. If you do well and pass, you’ll be accepted to your new major, having successfully transferred in by the start of your second year at Virginia Tech.

If I start in the CAUS major and after my first year get accepted to a major in the School of Architecture + Design, will I be behind?

The answer to this question will differ student to student, based on the classes they take their first year, what kinds of credits they transfer to Virginia Tech, and how well they perform in summer studio. We have secured permission for our CAUS students to take the same math, science, etc. courses that students in the School of Architecture + Design take. The only thing you'll have to make up over the summer is your first-year studio experience.

Students who pass summer studio with a "C" or better will be allowed to move into the second year of their program as a sophomore, meaning that they'll graduate in the same amount of time as students who started in that major their first year. Students who don't perform as well may be asked to go back and complete the first-year studio their second year at Virginia Tech, pushing back graduation an extra year.

You'll take classes your first year as a CAUS major that a student in the School of Architecture + Design may not typically take until year two or three. This allows you to get ahead in some areas while you wait to catch up with your studio experience over the summer.

What classes will I take my first semester in the Explore CAUS major?

No two students will have an identical schedule, because the credits you bring to Virginia Tech influence what you’ll need to take. At new student orientation, you’ll map out your schedule and if you know what major you are most interested in, your advisor will help you secure courses that will eventually count for that major. A sample first-year schedule for a CAUS student who is thinking about transferring into architecture might look like:

  • ENGL 1105 (3) – Freshman English
  • CAUS 1004 (2) – Exploring Architecture & Urban Studies
  • MATH 1535 (3) – Geometry & Mathematics of Design
  • GEOS 1004 (3) – Physical Geology
  • LAR 1264 (3) – Seeing, Understanding, and Representing Landscapes
  • … and a general education curriculum or elective course of their choosing which would count for a major they are leaning towards.

How difficult is it to transfer to restricted majors in the School of Architecture + Design?

The application process is straightforward, and as a CAUS major you’ll have the advising support to assist you, remind you of the application process, and alert you to information sessions about the restricted Architecture + Design majors.

While these majors are extremely competitive, as a CAUS major you’ll have had exposure to coursework in those majors and opportunities that we think will help set you apart from other applicants if you manage to maintain a high GPA and stay engaged.

Is everyone in the Explore CAUS major looking to transfer to Architecture?

No! The Explore CAUS major is made up of diverse students who selected the major as a first choice. Some students will come in thinking they want to pursue a program like architecture, and over the course of their first semester learn about another major in the college which they will decide to pursue instead.

As a CAUS major, you’ll take a course, CAUS 1004: Exploring Architecture & Urban Studies, which exposes you to all the majors in CAUS and the careers that lead from those majors. You’ll also receive advising support to help you in your decision making. We’ve seen Explore CAUS majors change into majors in all four schools within the college.

How long can I stay in the Explore CAUS major?

Two years is the maximum time you can stay in this non-degree granting major.

What are the college’s non-restricted majors?

Building Construction, Environmental Policy & Planning, Smart and Sustainable Cities, and Art History are non-restricted majors that Explore CAUS majors may change into at anytime.