Does Your Teen Know How to Pick a Major on College Applications?

Does Your Teen Know How to Pick a Major on College Applications?

Colleges don’t expect your teen to know exactly what he wants to do with his life by the time he is a high school senior. They do, however, expect that he has a general sense of direction when he applies. The purpose of college is to get exposure to a wide range of fields and to also develop a set of skills that your teen will be able to use in the working world. Many students agonize over which intended major to select on the application itself; some hoping that this will make a difference between an acceptance and a denial.

What does your teen’s major choice tell the admissions office?
Colleges want to know about your teen’s interests and aspirations for a few reasons. The first is somewhat selfish, they want to be certain they can provide the right resources to students across interests. Most schools want a well-balanced incoming class with a diversity of goals.

Secondly, admissions officers are trying to get to know your teen better and do this by getting a sense of what he has so far accomplished in life and what he hopes to accomplish in the future. This does not mean every activity in high school needs to revolve around his intended major. However, your teen should show an interest through extra scholarly study, clubs and extra-curricular activities.

For certain universities, the college your teen chooses can impact his chances of admissions.
Within a large university, there are several colleges, for example, Colleges of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Performing Arts, College of Business. Each college will then house more specific majors. If your teen applies to a specific college within the university, the university will simply review his application in the context of that college. If he is not admitted to that college, he will not be admitted to the university.

This is true for many, but not all, business programs and a few engineering programs. If your teen is applying to these type of majors, he must decide what is his priority – the school or the major. If he is having a tough time deciding, reading college reviews from current students will help. Go online to the school’s website and begin a correspondence with matriculating students.

Picking a less popular major does not improve your chances of getting in.
This where it also gets tricky. Many students have asked if putting down some random, less popular and less rigorous major will help gain admittance into the university with the plan of switching into a more difficult major once enrolled. The chances of being able to do so is slim to none in some cases. Also, remember, the application has to make sense.

If there is no indication of an interest in the major chosen on the application, admission officials are going to wonder if your teen is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. If your teen truly wants to study business, engineering or other selective subjects, make certain the application supports that interest and that your teen has the experiences to back it up.

Remember, your teen isn’t stuck in the major picked on the applications.
Colleges are aware that your teen might change his major once he is there, but with a strong application they will have faith that he will continue to create and achieve his goals successfully. Some universities may even ask your teen for his intended major but will also consider him for an alternate major or an undecided option because they believe he is a strong fit for the university.

Sometimes there just isn’t enough space to admit your teen initially into the first choice major. At many of these schools, your teen should be able to get into his desired major but after the first semester/quarter or year there. And other universities will ask him about his interests without tying him down to a specific major until he is nearing the end of sophomore year in college. This is the point where colleges will ask him to select a major.

If you have any other questions about selecting a college, or the admissions process, feel free to contact me through my website at or call me at 760.877.7200. I’d love to answer your questions!

Andrea (Andi) Frimmer, M. Ed.
Excerpted from Purvi S. Mody, co-owner of Insight Education, blog post on Student

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