Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?
If a student is relatively certain about what he/she wants to study, then it can make sense to indicate a prospective major when applying to college. Many students, however, are not at all decided about what they want to study, and many who thought they were decided change their minds once they get to college – sometimes more than once. If an applicant doesn’t have a strong idea of a prospective major, it’s perfectly all right to indicate “Undecided”. A fairly large percentage of students apply in that category each year, and schools are quite used to seeing that designation. There are many directions of study and careers that a student may never have considered or even heard of before, so a whole new world of possibilities will open up.
Most schools in the U.S., Canada, and Scotland recognize this initial uncertainty and don’t require students to declare a major until the end of their second (Sophomore) year. How this is handled and when the major must be declared depends, of course, on the institution. In many schools, there is no requirement to register into a specific department, and the student has considerable leeway in ultimately choosing a major or changing from one major to another. In other institutions, a student is required to register into a specific department – Humanities, Mathematics, Sciences, etc. The student can later, without much difficulty, change from one major to another within that department, but it might be a bit more difficult to change to a major in another department. The ease of the process depends wholly on institutional policies.
By way of contrast, a majority of the universities in the U.K require that students register directly into a course of study (major), and if a student discovers that the course which was chosen is not the right one for him/her, the student must drop out and go through the entire application process again into another course of study. This can be a source of considerable annoyance if students discover that they have made a mistake and want to change courses. On the other hand, by entering directly into a course of study without spending the first year or two on general studies, students can often finish university in three years rather than four.
Bottom line: In most cases, it’s perfectly all right to be “Undecided”, but do your homework in researching the institutions in which you’re interested and have a clear understanding of their individual expectations and requirements in this regard before you apply.
Based upon my experience, it is okay to be undecided when applying to an undergraduate program. Many colleges have great counseling services that will assist undecided students with choosing an appropriate major. If you apply with a prospective major, you may have a slight advantage. Students with a major, can apply for scholarships that are related to their major. These students have an easier time developing social relationships – since they can start with their peers who share their major.
It’s OK to be undecided. If you are undecided, you will want to explore different possible majors in your freshman and sophomore years, talk with your advisor, professors and the career office about different possibilities. You may want to take a personality profile to see which careers fit your personality and see what majors would support those careers.
If the school has multiple colleges, you may need to decide which college you want to attend. If you have narrowed down your choices to a few majors, you may want to see whether it is easy or hard to switch between those majors and what the required courses are for those majors.
Stating that you are “undecided” on your application really doesn’t hurt your chances. Interestingly, in some case stating a prospective major can actually hinder your chances. This is typically the case with very specific, specialized majors.
For instance, some schools offering pre-med programs only accept a certain amount of applicants per year. And, in some cases, those applicants have to put forth quite the campaign to receive the “big envelope”. So in some cases, students wishing to study medicine that might fall a little short when it comes to competing with other applicants may want to consider stating that they are “undecided” on their application. Once accepted, they can work with their college advisor to get on the right track and ultimately declare “Pre-Med” at a later date.
Best of luck!
The reality of college is that most students change their majors a couple times before finally graduating. This should tell you that no matter what boxes were checked on applications, most students were undecided. However, you will need to give each college an idea of what you will study, so they can ensure you will have a place in that program. Are you leaning towards science, liberal arts, engineering, fine arts, etc? At most colleges, you will be able to change majors with little trouble, but there are some universities and some programs that make change a challenge. If you are undecided, make sure your college list contains schools that will encourage you to explore different options and help you declare the right major once you have decided.
I think it is okay to be undecided. Many students who are applying to colleges go in undeclared. There are several reasons to be an undeclared major. First, you are being true to yourself. You are in touch with the fact that you don’t know 100% exactly what you want to study. Secondly, you are opening yourself up to many educational options. You can take classes in many different subject matters to see what interests you. Finally, you generally don’t have to declare a major until sophomore year, so it gives you the opportunity to explore and then declare a major. Unless you are applying to a specific pre-professional program, like nursing, or you know that you want to apply to an engineering school, I don’t believe that knowing your major beforehand gives you a distinct advantage in the admissions process.
Yes, it is okay to be undecided, for the most part, colleges and universities don’t require their students to declare their major until the end of their second year (before applying, make sure to double check with each college to find out their graduation requirements and how easy it is to switch majors). Also, the average college student changes their major at least four times so it is better for students to take different classes earlier in their college career to help them figure out their major.
Each school has a different viewpoint on going in with an undecided major or sticking with one subject and not changing. In California for example, the public universities mostly frown upon not choosing a major and some down right say, no specific major, no acceptance such as Cal State San Luis Obispo. However, after speaking with many admissions representatives from other states, there are several universities that openly accept “undecided” and aid the student with a freshman seminar of sorts to provide guidance of the different programs available at their campus. They would typically encourage you to declare a major at the end of your first semester.
When working with a private college admissions counselor, he or she can aid you in finding the policy as a specific school you are interested in attending.
It is absolutely okay to apply to a college without a specific major in mind. Many students have no idea what they want to major in when they first come to college, and many of those students who have selected a major change their minds at least once during their years at school.
However, there are some caveats to this. While general admission to a university will not be based on what your major is, you will be unable to apply directly to specific programs or colleges within the university without declaring a major. For example, you can not apply to the Business School at many colleges until you have declared Business as a major and met the pre-requisites for enrollment. (You can enroll directly into some Business programs too, but you must declare this as your major on your application.)
It is also true that for certain majors, specifically Engineering and Allied Health majors, the sooner you declare this major and start coursework the better. This is due to the fact that these majors have an extremely heavy courseload requirement for graduation and many of the classes must be completed in sequence. For example, students who are interested in Engineering will have to take upper level math and physics courses, including courses like Calculus 1 and 2, and many students will have to wait until completing these math courses before enrolling in Physics. Therefore, it may take some students longer to complete a degree program than the traditional 4 years if they start their major coursework later in their academic careers.
This, however, should not discourage you from applying to colleges as an “undecided” major. The pressure to choose a major will be great, and it will be important that you take your first year to get as many general education requirements completed and really explore what major you potentially want to pursue. But, the major you choose should not be based on whether you think this will help you get in to the college you want.
It is OK to be undecided. Indeed, years of experience have taught college educators that a student’s interests can change greatly once they have the opportunity to explore new areas, or even get into a previously expressed interest at a higher level. College is a time of growth and greater self-awareness and inevitably that leads to some changes in one’s intended direction. Of course, it does matter if you are applying to a specific school within a university, like the engineering or education, where you will be getting specific training that is different, but otherwise it does not really matter, and the fact that the school is asking is aimed more at getting another sense of you and your interests as well as a sense of what areas may be drawing student to their school. In the end, if you do know, fine, but if not don’t sweat, most of the admissions people probably changed too.
For United States universities, knowing your major usually does not occur until your junior year. However in foreign universities, one usually begins their specialized field of study as a freshman.
In the United States it is more expected that one may choose a different field of study and that is why students are exposed to an array of subject matter. As university level is usually much more challenging than high school, one may realize that they do not have the ability to compete with the brightest students in a particular field, or one may develop a passion for a subject they had not been exposed to prior.
It is fine to have a prospective major, however it is fine to be undecided. Remember your university guidance counselors are invaluable in assisting you in this matter at hand.
Totally okay to be undecided, as most students are, but if you have an idea of a few subjects you are interested in, it’s a good idea to write them all down. There’s a difference between being totally undecided and knowing you want to study something in engineering but not exactly what. This way, the school knows more or less where you will fall if admitted in terms of general department, but knows that you need some wiggle room to figure out where your true passion lies.
While it’s okay to enter a university as undeclared many competitive institutions are stressing a student’s ability to graduate within 4 years. Given that some majors like science, medicine and engineering require many foundation courses during Freshman year it is good to have a realistic idea about what you intend to study before you apply. It is well worth your time to work with a certified college counselor who can help you identify your strengths and aptitudes so that you choose the right major and begin to prepare for it early. Having the right foundation will make you more competitive to not only the University of your choice but the actual department you will graduate from.
This is my rule of thumb: There’s a significant difference between being interested in an array of different things (on one hand) and being disengaged/confused (on the other). The former is usually fine; the latter is never fine. For disengaged/confused students, do everyone a favor: go to a community college.
However, I never had a problem with a student who had legitimate multiple interests. The only time this could have been a slight issue was if the student was a music applicant (we had a stellar music program). In this case, the Dean of the College of Music would want to see that student had a near pathological obsession with music.
I would imagine that this rule of thumb holds true for most schools and admissions offices…with the exceptions of niche schools/programs, as in the case above. Similarly, Cal Tech won’t really care that you have an interest in Elizabethan poetry. They care that you’ve dreamed about rockets since you were three.
Having a focus to your college search based on your interests does help to winnow through those more than 2,000 colleges and universities. If you are interested in studying engineering, it is necessary to choose the type of engineering school and to apply directly into the School of Engineering since it is extremely difficult to transfer into engineering programs. However, most college students will change their major not once but several times during the course of their studies and admissions officers, of course, realize that this is quite usual. If you do not know what you want to study yet, do not despair — it is okay to be undecided.
It’s ok to be undecided about your major. The first 3 or 4 semesters of college is a great time to figure out what you actually want to do. Some students are not sure about what they like until they get into a class.
It is okay to be whatever you are! Roughly 50% of students change their major at some point during their college years. My roommate and I were among the 50% who changed at least once, although I did have some friends who switched as many as three times. Truth is, many of us are probably undecided about a college major and it is okay to acknowledge that, embrace that, and get excited to explore in college. From my experience as an admission counselor, we didn’t negatively regard undecided students as unworthy for admission. In fact, a student who was undecided often was looked at a bit more leniently (again, just from my experience). If a student noted that they were “pre-med,” we were looking for a certain number of years of math and science; however, if you marked “undecided,” we would not look for such academic units. In such a case, we would focus more holistically on the GPA and the application portfolio.
College is about learning who you are and whom you want to become. You may enter thinking you want to be a chemist and leave with a teaching degree. It’s ok to be unsure! Do the research take courses and explore. Now I’m not recommending two or three years later still being confused, but many freshmen enter college undecided! Even the most planned out, organized person could have second thoughts!
It depends on the school. Some schools require that you determine your major in advance upon applying, while other schools (the majority, in fact) give you until the end of your sophomore year to declare a major. For many schools, though, you will apply to a specific school in which many different majors our housed (e.g., School of Arts & Sciences).
With that said, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, for those schools that don’t require that you have a prospective major, I would still suggest trying to list at least one major of interest, just to show that you have put some thought into what you might want to study, and to give depth to yourself as an applicant. Secondly, please remember that some majors have more academic course requirements than others. So the sooner you determine your major (or at least area of interest) the better, in order to be sure that you are fulfilling all necessary requirements.
Whether your classmates in high school will admit it or not, the #1 major for any incoming college freshman in the United States is undecided. (That kid next to you in Algebra who swears that he’s going to be a cardiologist after college? He might go into medicine – or he might emerge from his undergraduate program as a professional jazz musician. Trust me – one of my college classmates did just such a 180 turn!)
Now, for some schools, you may be required to apply to a specific college within their larger university (e.g. the college of engineering, the college of arts and sciences, the college of music, etc.) and that can be daunting when you’re an undecided student because you don’t necessarily know where you’ll fit. My advice in this case is as follows:
If you truly ARE undecided, apply to a university’s college of arts and sciences or to their college of liberal arts. This is the most general program they offer and will afford you the opportunity to explore some different academic options before you have to commit to a particular major down the road.
If you THINK you want to be in a particular field – like engineering or music – then you should prepare your application for that particular school within the large university and start your college career in that direction. Admission counselors and academic advisors in the programs will be able to help you down the road if you decide that you want to make a change or go in a different academic direction – just make sure before you enroll at a particular school that you’ll be able to change and still graduate on time so that you know exactly what to expect before you arrive on campus!
It’s OK to not have your entire life planned out at the age of 17. Because of the current economic situation, many parents are now looking to have their kids have an exact career path mapped out when they graduate high school. In many ways, it’s unrealistic. At 17, students have not experienced enough to have everything figured out. So, go ahead and check undecided as your potential major. It’s OK. Colleges will not penalize you for it.
It does not put students at an advantage or disadvantage to indicate a major on their applications. The only exception concerns programs at universities specifically geared toward an area of study. Colleges ask students to declare a major mostly just so they can forward the names of students interested in a particular major to the specific department so the department can then send information to students. Students should feel free to indicate whatever major they prefer – or none at all – on their application. It certainly offers no advantage or disadvantage; after all, students could list any major they want on their applications and it would not stop them from changing their specialty area upon entering the college. Most colleges ask students to declare a major by the spring of their sophomore year.
It is always ok to be undecided, unless you are applying to a college that requires that you choose your major from the get-go.
Undecided is OK at most schools, but verify that with an admissions officer.
you can not apply engineering major with undecided application for admissions.
it is the worst way of showing your determination about what you are going to do in college and it is reasonable to believe that you may not find the best major at my college.
no students will use undecided if counselor is employed and necessary counseling sessions are provided. many colleges offer undecided major but we all know colleges can not run its course with students undecided.
I suggest you to help youself by takign the steps to select the right major and minor. you are entitled to change your major just like the most students in college.
Don’t worry about going in undecided as many high school students are doing the same thing. However, make sure you do your research on the particular university and aware of transfer issues. If you want to join a competitive program, from film to engineering, the university may have impacted courses, that will make it harder to declare later on. A good option for the undecided is a Liberal Arts school with emphasis in broadly defined concentrations. This way, you will not have to commit until later on and you can remain free from the pressure to declare.
Not many high school students know what they’ll major in at college — especially since they haven’t been to college yet!
You don’t need to worry if you haven’t settled on a major yet — most colleges do not require that you pick a major until the end of your sophomore year or the beginning of your junior year. That gives at least 4 semesters of exploring your interests and by that time — you can make an educated and informed decision. Also – during your time at college, be sure to take advantage of student advisory, counseling and career services so that you can choose a wide but smart range of courses. Many college students — over 50% — come in as undeclared and once students decide their majors — many change them two or even three times! So while flip-flopping majors aren’t uncommon — you don’t want that to be you — especially when time and money are at a premium at college.
Honestly, even if you declare a major, the chances of you changing your degree interest before you graduate is good. So if you want to begin undecided, that’s just fine. The advantage to being open minded about a major is the opportunity to explore areas you might otherwise not make time for. In addition, you may discover a subject that you’d never heard about and fall in love with. Keep in mind that certain majors will require you to apply directly to their program from day one because there is the matter of course sequencing. Other programs will have limits on the number of students they can enroll, so take that under consideration as well.
It is okay to be undecided, but not to be unthoughtful or non-reflective about the possibilities. Sometimes being “undecided” is actually better than indicating an interest in an oversubscribed major. Likewise, indicating an interest in an under-subscribed major (like classics) can be a positive.
The college years are a time to explore your interests and discovery what you’re passionate about. Most schools encourage students to take courses in a wide variety of subjects before declaring a major (usually by junior year). Some even allow you to create your own major and/or take courses free of any prescribed requirements at all. In other words, being “undecided” is just fine.
There are some colleges, though, that require students to declare a major upon application (on the West Coast, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is the most notable). Be sure to research a school’s requirements before applying. If you’re not comfortable committing to a path of study as a freshman, there are plenty of other colleges that will accommodate your desire to try different subjects and find the major that inspires you.
Applying undecided is perfectly fine. Actually the majority of students change their major at least once, so it may even be the smart thing to do. There are some programs (nursing, business, physical therapy) that are very competitive, and if you really don’t know yet what you want to do, going in undecided is probably the right thing to do.
Depends on where you are applying. Liberal arts colleges do not require students to select a major until the end of sophomore year and actively encourage students to explore different majors before deciding. If you are applying to engineering school, presumable you have decided to study engineering and may even have picked a focus within engineering such as chemical or mechanical.
The question remaining undecided about a major sometimes comes up with my students. I know when I interview for Brown and the information says the student is undecided, I do my best to get to know that student and find out what his or her preferences are. So few students at the age of 17 or 18 really know their future direction, and so many students change their minds during college. Admissions officers realize this, and they assess candidates on many factors other than prospective major. Sometimes, students answer the major question without the utmost of sincerity; for example, they think it “looks better” to have a particular major. That’s why colleges look at the entire candidate package.
Not knowing what you want to major in cannot hurt your application. In fact, at UChicago, we want our first-year students to arrive with a healthy intellectual curiosity, and to explore a wide variety of academic fields in our Core curriculum.
Students usually declare a major towards the end of their second year or the beginning of their third. And, of course, many students change their major (sometimes more than once), and some students double major, add a minor, etc. The breadth, focus, and direction of your academic career are really in your hands.
At UChicago, we believe in the value of a broad, rigorous liberal arts education, and we teach the fundamental skills: critical thinking, analytic reasoning, and persuasive writing. These are skills that will serve you well in any career. Certainly there are some majors that lend well to certain careers, but we’ve had philosophy majors go on to work in finance, English majors become doctors, and math majors find careers in the arts.
A very high percentage of college students change their majors, so there is not a high expectation that all applicants will know what they want to major in. What is more important is conveying your curiosity and enthusiasm for one or more of the academic programs available at the schools to which you are applying. Evidence of thoughtful curiosity and real enthusiasm for learning will lead to a clear academic focus during college, so those attributes are more important than a clear direction. If you know what you want to do, that’s great, but if you don’t, but have curiosity and enthusiasm for one or more academic subjects, just be sure to convey those attributes in your interview, essays, etc.
Applying undecided will not hurt your chances for admission. College is different than high school. There are many more areas to explore. So, if you don’t know what you want to study, don’t panic. I am reminded of a young woman who wasn’t sure what she wanted to major in. As a freshman she opted for an economics course, a subject she knew little about, because she was tired of hearing her father say “take something useful!” She graduated majoring in economics. My advice – don’t rule anything out and don’t rush into a decision. Enjoy the journey!
“Undecided” is the most popular major among incoming college freshmen, but if you think you are beginning to focus on a specific major, it’s fine to state it. When I taught in college and advised students, I was very impressed with how often students switched majors before settling on one at the end of sophomore year. That so many disciplines were so interesting to them was testimony that our college was doing a lot of things right – so long as we could help them settle on a major in time to complete it.
It’s importnat, though, to be sure that the college offers majors in the disciplines you are interested in – be sure to check that out. You can’t major in Russian if it isn’t taught at your college!
It is absolutely okay to be undecided! There are some colleges where this is more complicated than others. In small liberal arts schools this is almost expected. In contrast, in large universities it can be difficult to transfer into some majors if you are not accepted into them as a freshman. This is especially true in pre professional majors such as engineering and architecture.
Just as a reminder- most students change their majors at least twice during their college career.
Here is my video response to the question.
It’s perfectly OK to be undecided. Many (maybe even most) students enter U.S. colleges and universities not knowing what their major will be; and many of those who do enter with a declared major change their minds at least once before they graduate. That’s one of the reasons for the four-year bachelor degree, instead of the three year degree that’s offered in most other countries of the world – you have time to explore and develop your interests.
It is perfectly normal to enter college being undecided on a major.
It is definitely okay to be undecided
It’s perfectly acceptable to be undecided about a prospective major. You’re still in high school and have yet to explore much of what this world has to offer. Further, more than half of all college students change their major at least once. So, use your freshman (and possibly) sophomore year to sample coursework, delve into the academic and extracurricular life of a college, and discover what “makes you tick.” That being said, if you have a general academic interest and are applying to an institution where entry into a particular school (within the institution) is very difficult, you should consider indicating your expected plans. For example, if you’re an aspiring journalist applying to Syracuse, indicate Newhouse as your school of choice; if you are intrigued by the world of business and are applying to Penn, consider choosing Wharton.
It is ABSOLUTELY OK to be undecided! Unless you have a specific field of study that you are already passionate about, it’s actually better for you to be undecided until you take a few classes. The reason is this: for the most part, the first two years of college consist of the same classes for everyone. You have to have a certain number of biology, English, and math classes at a college level before you even start into your preferred subject. So, even if you go in undecided, you’re going to be taking the same classes as those who go in with a specific field in mind.
I, for example, went into college dead-set on going into Physical Therapy. I had greatly enjoyed Biology in high school, and wanted to extend that into college. However, when I got into classes, I learned that I have a natural ability for English and a above-average grasp of literature. Long story short, I will graduate with my Bachelor’s in English in Fall 2014, and have already been accepted into my Master’s program.
So, in conclusion, it is better to be undecided sometimes, especially during your first year. Just go, take the classes you need, then take some that sound interesting to you. Usually, after your first or second year, you’ll be ready to commit to the degree of your choice.
Very few students know what they want to study specifically when they enter college. However, many scholarships are related to specific majors of study. If you do have an interest in a particular major, explore classes in high school that might give you an idea of whether or not you truly do like them, such as: theater, music, architecture, or science.
Have a clear understanding of the school’s admission process and you can that by asking questions such as do you admit by department or are students admitted to the school first and then students can decide on a major? Each school has majors that are highly competitive to enter. For example, nursing is a competitive major and requires the student to declare during the application process. Another example, physical therapy. At some schools if you are not admitted to they might offer the student nursing or occupational therapy . Know upfront what the school’s admission process is and how they handle your intended major will be a big plus for you. There are, of course, many schools that will permit the student to be admitted undecided, but understand that they are majors that can not be entered after freshman year. Some examples, architecture,
computer engineering and physical therapy. Undecided is a good choice if you are really not sure and want to explore course work and make a decision after freshman year.
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