Do You Need to Know Your Major When Applying to College?

Harvard University snow

It’s a legitimate college admissions question: do you need to know what you want to major in BEFORE applying to college?

It’s a question many high school seniors have on their mind this time of year as college admissions deadlines approach, especially if you’re a student applying to some of the most competitive Ivy League Colleges.

But, how strongly do you really need to know  what you want to major in and/or possibly do for a living in the future while you’re still just a senior in high school?  After all, isn’t that what college is all about?  Exploring?  Exposing yourself to all kinds of different academic fields, intellectual interests, ideas, people and possibilities?

What if you really don’t know what you might want to do for a living down the road, or even next week?!  In other words, what if you’re working on your college admission essays and applications, and you really have no idea at all what you’re interested in!

Let’s say you’re an excellent student, you have strong grades, strong SAT / ACT scores, great extracurriculars, your teachers love you, you’re taking a ton of AP classes, and you express yourself well in writing (as an Ivy League college admissions consultant, let me tell you that writing well is extremely important for your college admission essays!!!)

So, now that it’s time to apply to college, and especially if you have your heart set on the Ivy League, is not knowing your potential major really going to be a serious problem?

My answer, again as a professional college admissions consultant, a Harvard graduate and a former Harvard admissions interviewer who has been doing this for many, many years, is this:  YES.

Sorry to disappoint you.

Colleges like to see some kind of direction in students – students with FOCUS.  Especially when talking about the more competitive college admissions you find with the Ivy League.

The strongest college applicants are those who know what they’re interested in and at least have a strong idea about the path they want to pursue.

Think of someone who has known they wanted to be a doctor since they were five, a classical musician who has been practicing the violin their whole life, or a high school student who has always been actively inventing things and working on the latest technology, who excels in science and math and has always known SHE has always wanted to be an engineer!

Focus is attractive, and in your college applications and your common app, demonstrating focus, drive, and excitement about SOMETHING  is one of the best things you can do.

Now, everyone understands that interests change and people grow intellectually, especially young people, when exposed to all of the new and interesting ideas and experiences they will encounter their first college year.

When talking about straight college admissions facts and advice though, again – as a professional college admissions consultant who specializes in the Ivy League college admission process – I will say that the stronger college applicants are those that have both a passion that’s reflected in their particular interests, and an intense drive that – even if it changes – at least sets them off in a very  focused direction.

This allows the student to speak with conviction and confidence in their college applications and interviews and at least start to make a case for what they *might* want to do after college, even if it all changes down the road.

So, what should you do if you want to get into the Ivy League and have a successful college admissions process this year?  It is always better to present yourself as someone who has focus and drive and confidence than someone who is all over the place and unsure of who they are and where they’re going, at least when you’re filling out your college applications.

You will come across much stronger to the admissions office if you pick something = some area of interest that you have a real interest IN, and build your Ivy League admission essays and common app around that idea.

Doing this really shows a level of confidence, and confidence is what college admissions officers really like.

Then, once you have your stated idea for your major, make sure it fits with the rest of your application.

Do your extracurriculars fit with your interest?  Does your summer work experience?  What about your achievements and awards?

The strongest Ivy League college applications are those that present a solid and unified story.

Again, college admissions officers and college admissions consultants (at least the good ones) know that many high school seniors don’t have any idea what they want to do.

Even if you’re undecided though, your strongest bet in terms of applying to an extremely competitive college is to pick something and make a case for it, even if you change your mind down the road.

You also might like to take a look at this article here: Do Your Extracurriculars Make for a Great College Application?

Want even more free help and advice applying to college? I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer and Harvard graduate, and currently run one of the top college admissions consulting firms in the U.S.: Contact me today for a free evaluation: (646) 276-7042  * * and get into the school of your dreams!

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