There are pros and cons for declaring a major on your college application. Also, there are certain ways to approach the application for both students who know what they want to do and for those who are undecided.
First are the pros for declaring you want to study in a certain program when you apply to a college.
1. It shows you have definite goals for your education.
2. It demonstrates you are applying to this specific school because you have a particular interest in a program they offer and will be more likely to attend if accepted.
3. It makes you stand out as a candidate, especially if you apply to general fields of study like business, fine arts, or engineering.
4. If you have an interest in an unpopular major, you have less admission competition.
5. If you are underrepresented in a field (e.g., men for nursing), you increase your admission prospects.
6. You might increase your ability to earn scholarships or financial aid which is sometimes more available for certain majors.
There are cons, too, for declaring a major on your college application.
1. It makes it more difficult to research the admission options colleges have. Some colleges will reject you outright if you do not get acceptance to a certain program. Some colleges will admit you into general studies if you are not accepted into your fist-choice program. Some colleges don’t care if you have a major or not.
2. Some schools make it harder to change a major once you are accepted into a particular program.
3. You have fewer options for exploring what you want to do in your future. It is shown that students still change their majors often, even if they think they know what they want to do. Research also shows that students who have taken time to explore career options often enjoy their work the most.
4. Some programs’ credits are not transferrable when majors are changed, making it more likely you will add to the time you will need to earn a degree and the price you will pay for that degree.
What should you do if you know you want a certain major? This is a good position to be in as you will be part of the ranks of directed applicants.
1. You will able now to research colleges that have the best faculty and programs in your field for a better college fit.
2. You will be able to tailor your application to what you want to do by highlighting activities that are related to your interest and by writing an essay that demonstrates your goals and interests.
3. You will be able to ace the “why-should-I-go-to-this-college” essay.
What should you do if you are undecided? You are not alone. More than 50% to 70 % of students are not sure what they want to major in.
1. You should not appear scattered or undirected.
2. You should use your essay to show that you do have interests and goals—just so many of them you could go in many directions.
3. You should demonstrate your motivation for a college education with higher grades and your extracurricular activities.
4. You should take advantage of colleges that offer exploratory studies programs or don’t allow declaration of majors until the end of the sophomore year.
Most importantly, you should find a college that fits you and then gain admission. It’s not about admission first by telling them what THEY want to hear.