Major Questions: When Do You Need to Choose Your College Major?

This blog post is provided by the Unigo Expert Network, a group of top education experts from across the U.S. answering questions submitted by students and parents about college admissions and succeeding after high school. To have your questions answered visit

“I don't know what I want to major in yet, can that hurt my application? When do I need to pick a major by and how important is choosing the right major for my career?” – Alex R., Lakewood, NJ

75% of Students Change Their Majors During First Semester! Francine Block, President, American College Admissions Consultants

A, B, C, or D? What do I want to be when I grow up? A good time to begin your exploration is the summer between 11th and 12th grades. Try and find a short, relatively inexpensive summer program where you can explore engineering options, the difference with business majors, or all of the opportunities hidden within that broad major of communications. Colleges say that 3/4 of students change their majors first semester and 1/2 will do so at least once more before they graduate. College is the time to explore and try subject areas you may never have experienced before. Most schools will not make you declare your major until spring of your second year; exceptions to this often are engineering, architecture and, for some schools, business.

This Is Not Europe; You Don’t Have to Know What You Plan to Study Danny Reynolds, Director of College Counseling, Palmer Trinity School

Fortunately, at most good liberal arts colleges you do not have at choose a major until second semester of your sophomore year. Take classes and explore your passions. It is fine if you are undecided, and you are not disadvantaged in the admissions process. Even after you declare a major, it is likely you will not work in that field. My Georgetown roommate was a Spanish major with an interest in biology. He was accepted and graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School without being a pre-med or science major.

Most College Students Change Majors One, Two, or Three Times! Marjorie Shaevitz, Author and Founder, admission POSSIBLE

Don’t worry; many, if not most, high school seniors don’t know in what they want to major. Truth is, except for a few fields such as architecture and engineering, colleges don’t usually ask students to declare a major until their junior years. Use your four years in college to explore what content, activities, and possible careers really grab you, taking advantage of counseling and career centers on campus to help. If you want to identify a major, base it on what high school courses and topics interest you the most, but try to stay away from oversubscribed, very popular majors.

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