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College Resources

Declaring a Major on Your Application

You’ve spent months slogging through pamphlets, websites and campus tours, painstakingly narrowing down your list to a handful of best fit schools.  You breathe a sigh of relief, knowing there will be no more big decisions to make until colleges put their responses in the mail.  And then slowly, out of the corner of your eye, you notice a spot on your applications asking you to declare your major.  Panic befalls you once again!

Don’t worry; you’re not setting your future in stone with one swift check mark.  Many schools won’t hold you to the intended major listed on your application.  And nearly all apps allow you the option of putting “undecided”.  However, there are some instances in which what you select will matter.

When Declaring Holds Weight

Unlike liberal arts colleges, most universities are composed of different schools – engineering, arts & sciences, nursing, business, etc.  Sometimes, applicants must apply directly to the school in which they hope to study, not the university at large.  In these situations, you’ll clearly need a general idea of what area and/or discipline you might want to pursue.  

Typically, it’s fairly easy to change majors from within a specific school.  Therefore, if you applied to a college of business and initially declared yourself an accounting major, you could likely switch to marketing or finance without much of a problem.  Unfortunately, issues might arise if you decide you want to study international relations or mechanical engineering instead.  Indeed, transferring between schools might be a challenge.

The difficulty (or ease) with which you can move between colleges will be based upon each university’s individual policies.  Some schools and programs (within the same university) might maintain different admissions criteria.  And a handful might limit their enrollment.  Consequently, this means that just because you are an undergraduate at X University, you are not necessarily guaranteed a spot in any/every department.  

It should be noted that some prospective students make the mistake of thinking they can apply to a school with less stringent criteria to secure admission and then simply change majors once they enroll.  Sadly, that’s not always the case.  Check with your guidance counselor and/or an admissions officer to learn about the likelihood of transferring between schools.

Show Me the Money!

Additionally, there are times when declaring a major might have financial benefits.  Indeed, some schools and programs have specific scholarships geared towards certain fields of study.  For example, there could be funds specifically earmarked for microbiology students.  And if you’re confident you want to study microbiology, well then it would behoove you to declare and jump in on the action.  Of course, you might ultimately decide that you want to change academic routes.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  However, you should be aware that your award package might shrink.

Declaring a major on your application should not induce heart palpitations or sweaty palms.  Ultimately, colleges understand that you’re young and still have a lot of intellectual exploring to do.  However, it’s important to research the policies of your prospective schools.  After all, you don’t want to haphazardly check off elementary education all the while knowing you probably don’t want to be a teacher!  



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Don Munce