Major Decisions: Does Your Major Influence College Admission?

Mar 17, 2023 

What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s your dream job? These may seem like big questions, but the even bigger question isn’t “What?” but “How?” How do you achieve your academic and career goals? The most basic answer, and first step, is to figure out what you want to major in and what college you want to attend. But what if your major impacts what college you get into? As competition increases and admissions rates drop, some might begin to wonder whether they will have a better shot depending on what major they choose. If you’re anxious about picking your major and want to make a choice that not only suits you best, but that will also give you your best admissions chances, then read ahead for helpful advice and strategies.

How Your Major Impacts Your Chance of Admission 

Although the answer to the question of whether your major affects admission is simple, the reason is not. Let’s start with the answer: generally the major you want to study won’t affect your admission to a particular college. The reason is that most of the time colleges don’t factor your major into their decisions because they don’t even ask for students to officially declare a major until they’re sophomores and because they understand that students frequently change their majors. However, there are some exceptions that make it difficult to say conclusively that majors have absolutely zero impact on admission.

  • Small and Private versus Big and Public: One aspect of a college that affects how much your major impacts your admissions chances is how big a college is and whether it is private or public. Generally speaking, large public universities get a lot of applications and a lot of interest in certain programs, so they have limited slots available for students interested in their most popular majors; yet this effect is likely small to negligible if you’re already a strong applicant (e.g. GPA, scores).
  • Competitive Majors: The most competitive majors fall into two categories. The first category includes majors that are part of respected programs, like business at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, or some fine arts programs. The second are majors that are popular everywhere, such as computer science, business, engineering, pre-med (e.g. biology), and nursing. Students who want to study these majors, especially at bigger public universities or renowned institutions, may find it more difficult to get accepted depending on where they apply.
  • Less Competitive and Obscure Majors: The answer to competition isn’t to go in the opposite direction to increase your odds because obscure majors have their own problems. Specifically, majors that are so obscure that they have low enrollment can actually become competitive if a college is only willing to devote minimal resources for a small amount of staff and classes. Even worse, some programs can be in danger of being eliminated entirely.
  • Undeclared Majors: If you’re genuinely unsure of what to major in, you can apply as undeclared and it won’t affect your chances of acceptance. But if you know what you want to study and you’re wondering if you can bypass the major issue by applying as undeclared, you should proceed with caution. As an undeclared major, you may lose access to major-specific perks, such as classes, mentors, internships, and extracurriculars, and you can often take longer to complete your degree. 

Next Steps: Do’s and Don’ts

Now that you know the different types of majors and how they impact admission, you need to figure out the best strategy to get into the college you want for your major and what to do regarding your major once you’re accepted. 

No matter what college you want to go to or how competitive your major is, the best approach—the one that will earn you acceptance to the college and major of your dreams—is to be authentic and demonstrate commitment to your interests and goals. You can get started early as an underclassman at your high school by choosing courses, activities, internships, and part-time or summer jobs that relate to the future major and career you want to pursue. A letter of recommendation from one of the supervisors of these classes or activities also goes a long way. 

If you’re an upperclassman who has neglected to curate a set of academic and extracurricular work that is focused on a particular area of interest or has a more eclectic resume on purpose because of an array of diverse interests, then another approach is to reverse engineer a major. Meaning, think about majors you might want to study and then pick the one that is more strongly reflected in your high school work or consider whether you’d like to double major. What you don’t want to do is to come across as directionless.

You also don’t want to take the chance of applying with a major you’re less than enthused about with the hope of changing majors later. Why? Because changing majors once you’re accepted can be complicated and challenging depending on the university and the major. Changing majors within your existing college (e.g. from Secondary Education to Elementary Education within the College of Education) is often easier than changing majors between colleges (e.g. from Education to Engineering), especially if you’re dealing with larger, public universities and competitive majors.

Bottom Line

All things considered, the best strategy when it comes to choosing a major for college admissions purposes is to choose what fits you best and not what you think is going to increase your chances of admission. Why? It’s complicated: with so many different schools with different demographics and policies, it’s hard to know what majors are competitive at each school, and it can be difficult to change majors depending on what you want to study and where you are studying it. More importantly, most colleges either don’t expect you to declare a major in your application or don’t factor it into their decisions, and most would prefer that the classes and extracurriculars you participate in during your time in high school relate to your major. 

In short, gaming the system when it comes to your major is risky and inauthentic. Instead, impress with an application that includes good grades and test scores as well as meticulously chosen and meaningful extracurriculars that showcase your strengths and your interests. To help you, A+ Test Prep and Tutoring offers academic tutoring on a range of subjects, executive function coaching, college essay help, and test prep.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Director Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at


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