Students are usually asked to indicate a major or academic area of interest on their college applications. In some cases, you simply select an option from a drop-down list. In others, you might be asked to write a short essay about your preferred area of study and/or academic interest(s). It can be difficult to know the best way to respond, especially if you’re undecided. But even if you have a good idea of what you want to study, you still want to think carefully about how to present your academic interests to the colleges you apply to.
No matter what major you’re interested in, make sure it’s actually offered at the colleges you’re applying to. If you mention an interest in data science, but a college doesn’t offer it, the college may question whether you’re a good fit for their school.
At most colleges, it’s (almost always) okay to be undecided or not know what you want to study. However, even if you’re undecided, that doesn’t mean you have no academic interests at all. If asked to write a short essay about your major of choice, you can write about a couple of your interests, even if you haven’t decided on one major. If you don’t know exactly where you want your educational journey to go, think about this essay as answering the question of where you might want it to begin. That way, colleges will see that even though you’re undecided, you’re still academically motivated.
That said, some colleges admit students by academic program and require that applicants declare a major. If you’re applying to a school that admits by major, bear in mind that admission to certain majors may be more competitive. Typically, this applies to majors that are a unique specialty, particularly popular, or in an area of strength at that school. You can contact each admissions office to find out if the major you’re applying to falls into one of these categories.
You’ll also want to make sure that your chosen major fits with the rest of your application. In order to support your interest in a certain major, colleges might expect you to have taken advanced coursework and/or pursued extracurricular activities in that field. If you haven’t had the opportunity to take advanced courses or pursue specialized activities, you should at least be able to clearly articulate your reasons for pursuing your chosen major.
Whether you’re completely undecided, set on a major, or deliberating between a few (or even many) options, you should have a couple of academic interests in mind when applying to college. Admissions officers know and expect that most students will change their minds about their major. But even if you’re undecided, you still need to show that you’re engaged in the learning process and can contribute to the academic life of the college.