Should I be honest about my major?

Q: I was wondering, since I think I’m going to major in psychology and it’s a pretty popular major, do you think I should put my major as undecided when applying and change it later because then I won’t be compared to students who are sure about psychology?

A: As with so many other questions in this process, the short answer is, “It depends.” You certainly want to be honest in your applications. If you’re sure about your choice of major, by all means let folks know. But your question is more about what kind of impact choice of major has, right? The effect that your anticipated choice of major is likely to have on your chances of admission depends on 1) the extent to which the school in question is actively working to manage their enrollment across disciplines 2) the extent to which the school in question allows students to move freely from one field to another once they’ve matriculated, and 3) the extent to which your focus on your field of interest provides your application with a kind of “through-line” of passion and commitment.

What you may want to do is call the schools that you’re most interested in and identify yourself as a rising senior (or junior or whatever the case may be). Do NOT let someone else make these calls for you. Explain that you’re very interested in the school and have a quick question about choice of major; might you speak with the person who has a primary responsibility for reviewing applications from your part of the world? If yes, get their name and prepare to speak with them. If no, try to get their name anyway and ask if there might be someone else who can help you.

Then you’ll want to ask some of these questions:

Do you know what percentage of your graduating students graduate with a degree in the major they initially expressed interest in? (Here you’re trying to get a sense of the fluidity of their curriculum.)

Are some of your majors more competitive than others in terms of admissions? (If yes, which majors and how so?)

I think at this point that I’m interested in _____, but am not sure how firm that interest is; can you tell me a little bit about how choice of major plays into your decision-making in selection committee?

If I do apply as a major in _____, do you have any advice about how to maximize my chances? (It never hurts to ask, and sometimes you’ll get a really great piece of advice this way.)

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Posted on November 8, 2006, in applying. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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