Many college applications require students to decide on a particular program, college, or major before submitting their application. Sometimes this is a binding choice, automatically signing you up for the program once you enroll, and sometimes it’s just a soft commitment to an area of interest, so the university can see where your interests lie. Being thoughtful and strategic about this factor of your application can help your chances of admission, and help you be enrolled in what you’re interested in once you attend the school. Here are some tips for making this decision, and what to look out for.
Not all programs are four years long.
Many undergraduate programs, especially ones with a shortened-term graduate degree, aren’t meant to be four years long. Sometimes, programs ask that you spend time completing internships or gaining work experience (such as at the University of Waterloo). Many BS/MD programs exist as well, allowing students to matriculate directly to a medical education program after undergrad. One example of this is at Drexel University. If you opt for one of these programs, which are generally very selective, you must be prepared to commit to that time frame and be sure that this is the field you’re interested in.
When in doubt, look for an arts and sciences option.
At most schools, there is a large undergraduate college under “letters and sciences”, “arts and sciences” or a similar name. If you’re not sure about what to major in, applying to this college within your school is the best bet. Don’t be fooled by the name, there are a wide variety of majors covered under this umbrella term. Most natural sciences, math-related fields, social sciences, and liberal arts programs are under this school, which covers nearly everything.
Take note of subtle differences.
Many degree programs will have very similar names, but potentially significant differences in the content covered, depending on the school. One example of this is the Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (EECS) and Computer Science majors at UC Berkeley. They cover the same technical content, but have different core courses. I am majoring in EECS in the College of Engineering at Berkeley, so please feel free to schedule a College and Career Coaching Call with me if you want to hear more about my decision to major in EECS over Computer Science. On the other hand, at the University of Michigan, the LSA Computer Science Major and the College of Engineering Computer Engineering major are not similar.
There are no “pre-med” or “pre-law” degree programs.
Interested in medical or law school? You may be looking for a degree program that is common among applicants applying to these graduate schools, such as biology for pre-med or political science for pre-law, but know that you don’t have to actually do any specific major to be an eligible applicant. You can major in anything that interests you, and as long as you are building the relevant skills and prerequisites somehow, you can still be a competitive applicant.
Prianka is a Consultant on the Study Hall College Consulting Team. Prianka is currently a junior at UC Berkeley where she is majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Berkeley's College of Engineering. For more college application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.