Applying Undecided

Hi! I have been talking with people about whether my son should apply to colleges as an undecided major. He is interested in engineering and computer science, but these are competitive fields for certain schools. I never thought we wouldn’t share his major, but I can see how this might be challenging from an admissions standpoint and might pigeonhole him. Any advice on this? Should we ignore what people are suggesting? We are very new to this process and would welcome any thoughts.

At many colleges, a student may apply for direct admission to an engineering or computer science major, or to engineering undeclared / first year engineering (who have higher priority to declare an engineering major later compared to general undeclared students). This may mean higher admission selectivity at colleges at the selectivity level of many state flagships.

At these colleges, a student who applies and is admitted as general undeclared will have to face another admission process in order to get into an engineering or computer science major, because those majors are filled to capacity with direct admit students (sometimes with some spaces reserved for external transfers).

Note that this is not unique to engineering or computer science majors, since other majors could be more popular than department capacity at some schools (e.g. nursing, business).


Two thoughts immediately come to mind. One, not all colleges admit by major so depending on the schools he is considering, it may not matter. You would have to research schools individually and see. The second, is some schools not only admit by major, but admit by specific colleges (School of Engineering vs School of Arts & Sciences). It may be nearly impossible to transfer into a School of Engineering at some highly competitive colleges. At others, it may be nearly impossible to declare a major that is impacted or otherwise very fully enrolled. You need to look at schools on a case by case basis to get the best information for your specific school list.

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As others have noted, applying undecided when you know you want engineering or CS is not going to work at schools that admit by college or major. Many schools close the popular majors to students outside the major, not just for declaring the major later, but even from taking the pre-reqs.

For schools that don’t admit by major, there isn’t anything to be gained by applying undecided.

Thank you. This is really helpful. I was very unsure about this approach and now I understand why.