Parents ask us all the time about whether their child needs to select a major before applying to college. While some schools don’t mind – or even prefer undeclared applicants – others strongly suggest that students apply with an intended major.

Take Cornell, for example. Even if a student is applying to the College of Arts and Sciences, the admissions office wants the student to choose a department within the College. Cornell prefers students who are ready to dive into their areas of study and who have researched specific program offerings and faculty before applying.

On the other hand, schools such as Brown and the University of Rochester are not as concerned with an applicant’s declared major. Both offer an “open curriculum” and encourage students to explore their options in their first and second year of college before deciding.

Let’s take a closer look at a few majors your child might consider and how they could be reviewed by colleges and specific types of programs.

Engineering – When students apply to Engineering programs, admissions officers want to be sure they can keep up with the department’s rigorous math and science curriculum. The evaluation process is more data-driven than the regular admissions evaluation, focusing much more closely on the student’s SAT or ACT scores, typically preferring students who have strong Math II and/or science SAT Subject Test scores, and an A in high school Calculus.

Business – Similarly, Business School applicants are held to a higher standard with test scores, especially with math. Admission officers like to see evidence of business experience, such as a part-time job, significant leadership in a school club, founding a non-profit organization, or developing and selling an app.

When a student starts working with us early in high school, we have time to explore together: time to learn more about what matters to them, time to administer personality assessments and evaluate the student’s strengths, and time to explore specific schools and majors so we can help find the “best fit” colleges.

Sarah started working with us in her sophomore year, and her parents wanted her to pursue engineering. After her personality assessment, we discovered that she had an inclination toward technology and the sciences. But we also learned that Sarah had a strong aptitude for communications and creative writing. What a unique combination! We explored her major options further and found that legal studies, business, tech and communications were all areas where she could be successful.

Over the next few years of high school, Sarah interned at a tech start-up business, developed a strong voice as a writer for her school newspaper and won several poetry competitions – she embraced all of her strengths. Sarah is now double majoring in English and Computer Science at UC Davis and she couldn’t be happier.

If you would like to discuss how we could help your child find a major (or two) that would be right for them (or the possibility of applying undeclared), schedule a free consultation now.