Picking your major is one of the most intimidating parts of the college application process, but taking the time to really research various programs and do a little bit of self reflection can help relieve some of your stress. In order to make the process a bit easier, I provided a few key points to consider during the major selection process.
Creating a “theme” in your application
When deciding what major to apply as, try to really think about what you’re naturally interested in and how that’s reflected in your application as a whole through your extracurriculars and coursework. Don’t just focus on what you’re interested in, but also why those things fascinate you. Try to find a common thread among all of your activities and create a general “theme” in your application. Emphasizing this theme in your essays will not only make you more memorable as an applicant, but will also help you articulate your interests and professional/academic goals more clearly.
Public vs. Private
It’s also important to take into consideration whether or not the school you are applying to is public or private. For private colleges, it is relatively easy to switch your major so you don’t have to worry about it as much. For public schools, however, it is usually very difficult to change your major once you get onto campus so really make sure that you would be satisfied with the degree that you apply for if you get accepted.
If you have a lot of academic interests and have trouble finding just one major, make sure to look into interdisciplinary programs! Many schools offer degrees that combine topics in both STEM as well as the arts and humanities to provide skills that suit the rapidly changing job market. Definitely use resources like YouTube videos and university websites to find interdisciplinary majors that suit your academic interests. There are also pages on Reddit and College Confidential about students who applied to specific programs and tips that they have about the process, so make sure to look at those as well!
Applying to Multiple Majors
If you are still unsure about what major to apply for, I would also recommend applying to a lot of schools without restricting yourself to a particular major if you can afford it. Since the process is pretty unpredictable, casting a wide net when it comes to your college applications (regarding your major, the type of school, etc.) can actually be really beneficial. Additionally, some of your schools might not have a particular “niche” major that you’re interested in, in which case you will have to apply for something else. It’s also a good idea to apply to different majors since some schools might have stronger programs/departments than others. However, if you do decide to apply to a variety of majors, you still have to make sure that whichever major you do choose makes sense within the context of your application as a whole (in both the extracurricular and academic sense).
If you do decide to apply to a lot of schools with different majors, it is especially important that you start writing your essays early. Crafting a well written essay takes time, and no matter how much you may want to procrastinate your best work will not be produced if you’re cramming that process into two weeks over Winter Break.
Also, make sure to look into specific courses offered within your major to see if they actually sound interesting to you. For example, I remembered that when I was applying I looked into a lot of Cognitive Science departments because it was a major that really fascinated me. However, even though many schools offered a “Cognitive Science” major, since the topic was so broad, the courses at these schools varied greatly. Some of them focused on the more quantitative Human Computer Interaction part of Cognitive Science, while others focused more on the biological neuroscience-y side. I really had to research each and every department and decide what schools matched my preferences before applying for that particular major. Although the work was tedious, it was worth it in the end because I could compare only the programs that suited my academic interests the most when it came down to making a final decision.
To figure out the strength of a university’s major or interdisciplinary program, it’s a good idea to also check out their employment outcomes. Many colleges publish data that includes their graduates’ job titles, salary, and geographic location. You can also look at resumes on Linkedin or other sites to see what most majors from a specific university end up doing post graduation. Looking at future applications of a particular degree can help you figure out if it’s a good fit for you and your professional goals.
Even though the process of choosing just one major may seem daunting at first, taking the time to research specific programs that universities offer and do some personal reflection along the way will save you time, energy, and money in the long run. If you have any specific questions about choosing your major, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!