As you complete your college application and later the supplement questions, most colleges would ask you to indicate your “intended major,” “alternative majors,” or something as simple as “area/field of interests.” There are countless myths about what to put down and whether your answer affects your chance of getting in. Every school can be different when it comes to undergraduate admissions: some schools have requirements for different colleges within the school, while some wouldn’t look at intended major at all.
Applying to a Specific College
Some schools would require their applicants to put down specific colleges they’re applying to. In some cases, requirements are also different so be sure to find information on school websites. Take UC Berkeley, for instance. If you plan to study engineering, you have to put down “College of Engineering” in your application so that when you’re accepted, you would already be an engineering student (undeclared) and may begin to take engineering pre-requisite courses for your intended major.
Because UC Berkeley has a prestigious undergraduate engineering program, it might be harder to get in. Therefore, when applying to these programs, be sure to have everything ready and apply to other schools for alternatives. Also, what if you get accepted as a non-engineering student and would like to switch over? Now, this really depends on the school. Some schools are easier to switch majors between two different colleges while some are extremely hard. Go to the school website and look for “internal transfer” or “switch major” to acquire more information.
Applying without Choosing Your Major/College
Most schools in the U.S. do not require their applicants to choose a major or college before their arrival. They offer undergraduate admission, and once accepted, you would explore the majors and course in your first year and eventually apply to the major you want after finishing pre-requisite courses, usually as a sophomore. Even if you’ve already put down your intended major, it’s certainly okay to switch as long as you you meet the minimum grade requirement in pre-requisite courses.
Specific Major vs. Undecided
If you have a particular intended major in mind and have demonstrated strong interests and stellar academic performance in the field, putting down a specific major could help contextualize your experience. If the application offers more than one blank for intended major, feel free to put “undecided” in the first one and the major you’re the most interested in next. This tells admissions officers that though you have a major to study in mind, you’re open to other options and willing to explore different majors once accepted.
On the other hand, if you really have no particular area on interests, it’s okay to put down “undecided” first and choose less competitive majors as your secondary options. Typically, social sciences and humanities are less competitive than STEM majors. After all, colleges use the information you provide to have a better understanding of their applicants, so showcase your strengths whenever you can.