Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

Seth Allen
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Grinnell College

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

Here is my video response to the question.

Tam Warner Minton
Consultant College Adventures

Undecided

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.

Rana Slosberg
Owner Slosberg College Solutions LLC

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

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.

Suzanne Shaffer
Owner Parents Countdown to College Coach

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

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.

Kiersten Murphy
Executive Director and Founder Murphy College Consultants LLC

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

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.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

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.

Randi Heathman
Independent Educational Consultant The Equestrian College Advisor LLC

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

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!

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

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.

Reena Gold Kamins
Founder College, Career & Life, LLC.

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

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.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

Do you need to have a prospective major, or is it okay to be undecided?

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.