Planning Your First Year

Course Registration and Advising

How do I know that Physics/Astronomy is right for me?

Only you can answer this question, but we can help aid you in your path to self-discovery (we know how stressful choosing a major can feel at times). Are you curious about why the world is the way it is? Have you looked up in the sky and wondered what’s really going on in those beautiful twinkling stars so very far away? Have you ever asked what the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is? If yes to any of these, then studying physics might be right for you!

If you think you’re interested in Physics and/or Astronomy, but still aren’t sure you want to commit, we highly recommend you check out our PHYS 100 and/or ASTR 100 courses. They are both introductory courses and don’t have any prerequisites. Additionally, they both fulfill the lower division B General Education requirement, so you’ll still come out on top, even if you decide our majors aren’t right for you. In the meantime, you’ll also want to start working on your math requirements. Most of our degrees require Calculus, so you’ll want to take that (again, this will fulfill a GE requirement, so you won’t have wasted time if you change your mind). If you are not ready to dive right into MATH 161 (Calculus I), we recommend you take MATH 161X (an extended version of MATH 161 for students who feel they need a refresher on their Algebra skills). Finally, if you really don’t want to take Calculus, that’s ok too! That might mean that one of our interdisciplinary Physical Science degrees is right for you, as they do not require Calculus. See the next section for more information about our various degree programs.

At this point, you might be thinking: “Math is hard and I don't know if I can do this.” This is a common thought among many people considering a degree in Physics/Astronomy. No matter your current competence in math, if you follow your advisor's guidelines, you can and will succeed. You will not only learn the fundamentals of the universe described in the language of the universe, but you will learn discipline, logic, and you will find yourself growing smarter every week. You’ve got this!

What major is right for me?

So, you know you’re interested in Physics and/or Astronomy… Well, you’ve come to the right place! The department of Physics and Astronomy offers a variety of different majors, so there is something for everyone. The first decision you’ll want to make is what specific degree program is right for you. We have a B.S. in Physics and a B.S. in Astrophysics, which are our most rigorous degrees. These are right for you if you think you might want to go to grad school one day. Next, we have our B.A. in Physics. This degree is a little more flexible and is perfect for you if you want to go straight on to your career after your bachelors, whether that be in science industry, k-12 teaching, or wherever else your heart desires. And, have no fear, if you’re interested in Astronomy, the B.A. in Physics also allows you to take lots of Astronomy elective courses. Finally, we offer a B.A. in Physical Science with three concentrations: (1) General Physical Science, (2) Teaching, and (3) Foundational Health. The B.A. in Physical Science is an interdisciplinary degree, for students with broad science interests beyond Physics and Astronomy. It allows you to take a variety of different courses in the Physical and Natural Sciences (e.g. Chemistry, Geology, Biology). Please see our Degree Programs pages for more information about our degree offerings.

What classes should I take in my first semester?

This depends on a variety of factors, including: (1) what major you have selected and (2) what mathematics courses you have already completed. The best ways to figure out what is right for you are to check out our sample four-year plans and meet with your academic advisor. Happily, you will be given the opportunity to meet with your advisor at Orientation. In this meeting, you will not only work out how to get the ball rolling on major requirements, but also help you figure out getting some General Education requirements out of the way. You will then register for courses sometime over the summer. Please see the Office of the Registrar website for more information, including registration dates.

Generally speaking, you will definitely want to start on your math requirements for the major in your very first semester. Most of our students will either take MATH 161 or MATH 161X (Physical Science majors have some more flexibility). Be sure to chat with your advisor about which math course is right for you. Additionally, we recommend you take PHYS 100 and/or ASTR 100 in your first semester. Even if these aren’t required by your major of choice, they will be a great way for you to dive right into Physics and Astronomy!

Campus Life and Housing

Not only is Sonoma State right in the middle of beautiful Sonoma County, but it also offers award-winning on-campus housing. For more information about our housing options and applying for housing, please see the SSU Housing website.

Once you’re on campus, there will be plenty of opportunities for fun activities and meeting your new peers. Our Recreation Center offers fitness & wellness programs, intramural sports, and even its own rock climbing wall! Looking for something more on the social side? There are a large variety of different clubs, fraternities, sororities, etc at SSU. See the SSU Student Involvement website for more information. As a member of the department of Physics and Astronomy, you’ll especially want to check out our Society of Physics Students club.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

Now that you’re in college, you might be wondering how you’re going to pay for it? First, you’ll want to be sure to apply for Financial Aid if necessary. Additionally, you can apply for a variety of scholarship programs. There are awards offered directly from the department of Physics and Astronomy, those offered campus-wide, and those offered external to the university. Please see our Scholarships page for more information.