Roadmap to College: Should I Choose a Major on the Application?

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Every college application asks you to “select a potential major” or to indicate an “area of concentration.” How should you answer this question? The answer depends on the individual. Approximately 50 percent of students applying to college answer that they are an “undecided major,” because they really have no idea what career path to choose and they don’t have a particular strength in one area, such as science. The other 50 percent of students have been able to focus on a particular area in high school. They may know people (especially parents, family members, or friends) in a certain field or they may have had a part-time job or an internship and have been able to narrow the list down to a field of study, such as business, and even more specifically, accounting. Others may have taken a career assessment, which indicates the types of job categories in which they would prefer to work. If you are in the group where you do have an area of interest, then there could be an advantage in applying to a particular major in a university.

The major you have selected could be an “under-represented” major, where there is a low volume of students and therefore a college may accept more students into this major. Also, sometimes colleges add new programs of study or they hire new faculty members to expand an existing major. If they are looking to accept students into this major and you can demonstrate an interest in these areas, you may have a slight advantage in being accepted.

The best advice is to be true to yourself and to remember that even if you do select a major, in most cases you can change your major when you arrive on campus or later on. Most colleges don’t require you to select a major until at least the second semester of your sophomore year. It is likely though that you will be assigned an academic advisor in the field that you designate as your major. My daughter applied to college as an anthropology major, and she has had the same advisor since freshman year. She has been able to forge a strong bond with him, which is a definite advantage.

TIP: I know two students who applied to a large pubic university.  One applied as an "undecided" major and the other student applied as a math major.  Their grades and standardized test scores were similar, but the student who listed math as her major was accepted, whereas the other student was not accepted.  This example may be extreme, but it could happen.

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