As a high school senior applying to colleges, it’s common to not know what you want to major in quite yet. At the same time, you may have classmates who are already sure of what they want to study and plan on picking a major early in college. Either way works, depending on your situation. Here are several factors to consider when deciding whether to apply undecided or to declare a major.
If you have experience with a certain subject, declare a major
If you already feel passionate about a certain subject, go ahead and declare it as a major on your application (you can always change your major later if you wish). Keep in mind that if you do so, readers of your application will pay more attention to related courses you’ve taken in high school and look for evidence of your commitment to the subject. If for example, you declare a journalism major on your application, admissions officers will likely look for good grades in your high school English courses, and perhaps note if you participated in student newspaper. If you don’t have good grades to show for, or did not take related classes when you could have, this might reflect poorly on your application, depending on the competitiveness of the program. So, consider both your interest in the subject as well as how well you’ve done in related classes.
If you aren’t excited about a field of interest, don’t declare a major
On the flip side, if you don’t feel strongly about a specific area of study, don’t force it. It’s okay to apply undecided; many colleges know that students often come in not knowing what they want to study, or even that students will explore and possibly change majors once in college. If you apply undecided, definitely put your best foot forward: emphasize your academic success where you can, as well as your extracurricular activities and leadership skills and roles. If you have a few different strong interests in multiple fields, it’s a great idea to speak to those in your application essays. Demonstrate to the admissions officers why it’s hard for you to narrow your passions down to one single major.
If you’re applying to a particular school within a college, declare a major
Some colleges require you to apply to a specific school or program within the college, like the school of arts and humanities, the business school, or the architecture program, depending on your intended major. If so, it may behoove you to declare a major on your application to show your interest in the field. Some schools go even further and may actually require you to declare the associated major. These types of colleges often work well for students who feel very committed to their intended major, as they will be able to focus their studies greatly on this area of interest and gain a lot of knowledge about it quickly. If you are undecided about a major, apply to the most general school within the college, or look for colleges that do not require you to apply to a specific program from the get-go.
[RELATED: How to Design Your Own College Major]
Looking ahead, if you end up applying undecided, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a disorganized path of study when you get to college. What this means is that you’ll want to intentionally explore different topics your first year to begin narrowing down majors—and what better place to explore various interests than a university? Remember that college career centers, as well as academic advisors and professors, are great resources to ask for advice about selecting a major and learning more about a specific field.