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Will Applying to An Unpopular Major Boost Your Admission Odds?

CCEdit_TorreyCCEdit_Torrey Editor Posts: 162 Editor
Find out whether your chances of acceptance are higher at schools where your major isn't popular: https://www.collegeconfidential.com/articles/will-an-application-to-an-unpopular-major-boost-acceptance-odds/

Replies to: Will Applying to An Unpopular Major Boost Your Admission Odds?

  • PublisherPublisher Registered User Posts: 5,893 Senior Member
    edited February 9
    Yes, but helpful if one has demonstrated interest in that area.

    My experience in this area is only from the highest ranked national universities. And the info. came directly from decision makers. And in all instances the applicant was advised to apply binding ED or other restrictive early action.
  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 Registered User Posts: 4,147 Senior Member
    And don't apply thinking it will be easy to switch to another major. At some schools, that is very difficult.
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 23,363 Forum Champion
    edited February 9
    Unless you apply to a school that accepts by major, admissions officers are well aware of the fact that people can apply for one major and change once they are at the college. I've heard a number of college admission officers (including some from top tier colleges) say that they don't pay close attention to intended major in the admission process since about half of the applicants apply undecided and about 50% of those coming in with a designated major end up switching it while they are at college. There could be an exception if a student has a long standing and strong demonstrated history of interest/aptitude (perhaps through ECs, research, classes etc.) in some obscure major.

    Keep in mind that any ploy students come up with to try to get an edge in admissions, college adcoms have seen thousands of times over. IMO a person's time would be better spent searching out a group of reach, match, and safety schools based on your academic stats that appear affordable and that he/she would be happy to attend than trying to seek out an obscure/unpopular major.

    Also agree with @momofsenior1 -- in colleges that do accept by major it can be very difficult to switch from an unpopular major into a popular major.

    (Note I could not access the article in the first post so these are general comments.)

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 73,638 Senior Member
    edited February 9
    Yes, the article leaves out the very important point that if it is easier to get admitted to a less popular major in frosh admission, more popular majors are more likely to have secondary admission processes to switch to after enrolling.

    For example, if you really want to study computer science, you may notice that it is easier to get into UIUC as a comparative and world literature or art history major or as general studies undeclared than as a computer science major. However, if you enroll as such, then you will find that changing into the computer science major requires a competitive admission process, where the minimum needed to apply is a 3.67 college GPA and A- or higher in two computer science courses (meeting these GPA and grades does not guarantee admission): https://cs.illinois.edu/admissions/undergraduate/transfer-students

    The article says that a less popular major "might be a small plus for a borderline candidate". In reality, the difference can be quite large. For example, SJSU publishes past admission thresholds (based on an eligibility index calculated by GPA * 800 + SAT_RW + SAT_M) at http://www.sjsu.edu/admissions/impaction/impactionresultsfreshmen/ . Compare computer science versus materials engineering, or animation and illustration versus any (other) art major.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 73,638 Senior Member
    edited February 9
    happy1 wrote:
    (Note I could not access the article in the first post so these are general comments.)

    Yes, the usual bug where it does not load on non-Chrome/Chromium browsers. And sometimes not even on Chrome/Chromium browsers without refreshing after failing the first time.
  • razor2023razor2023 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    In theory I think it might be a good idea. Take all of the UC schools for example: CS is the most popular major and they have a limited number of slots for these. In theory you should be able to sign up for physics or chemistry and then switch to engineering later. The schools are well aware of this attempt to play the system...best bet is to just apply to what you would like to do and see where the cards fall. It is extremely competitive to get enrolled in CS at UCSD, but even more difficult (see above) to switch to CS once you get enrolled. My son did apply CS to three UC schools, and even with his awesome credentials he probably won't get an acceptance letter.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 20,193 Senior Member
    I think the article has the process backwards. It's not a matter of looking to figure out what majors are "unpopular" at a given college... and then choosing to apply for that major.

    Rather -- if a student has a passion or interest that results in significant strengths in a specific, less common area -- then it can be a good strategy to look for a college that has a well-established but under-enrolled department for that major.

    So the point isn't to game the process. The point is for students with less common strengths to identify colleges that will be most likely to appreciate those strengths.
  • yearstogoyearstogo Registered User Posts: 574 Member
    I believe this strategy is exactly what Solomon Consulting does and boasts of great results in doing so.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 30,857 Senior Member
    edited February 13
    Similar recent thread https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/university-pennsylvania/2125532-will-choosing-a-specific-department-or-major-improve-your-chances.html

    A lot depends on the college and the tier. Of course, they can look at major, even if they don't admit to a particular program or School of XX. The higher the tier, the more it matters to be on your game, not just state some underenrolled dept. Not just wish on a star.

    And don't forget less popular majors are often less staffed, have less room for new students, have no set plans to add profs or course sections. They may be happy to get just a few new qualified majors. You need to match. And adcoms are savvy enough to screen.

    I think the kids who want to game this need to rethink. Some consultant would need to be working on building the app from 9th on. And every class they tell a kid to take to fake out looking like, say, a great candidate for Germanic Studies, is another class missed in the real interest area. Same for ECs.

    I'd rather see kids know how to build for their true interests than pretend, just to get into some prestige name.
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