Do I have to declare a major when transferring into sophomore year?

Hi. I’m planning to transfer from UK to the US next year. Here’s a thread about my background

My main reason for transfer is that I don’t like my major and want to try everything before deciding on a new one. I’m trying to see if there’s a chance that could work for me.

Because the UK system is such that your major is basically declared in high school and there’s no minor or electives or whatsoever. I hear in the US students don’t declare major until junior year but I’m not sure how things work for transfers. Some colleges require transfer applicants to choose a specific faculty and others don’t say. So if I get in as a sophomore, would it be possible to hold off declaring a major for a year?

I appreciate any information or advice. Thanks.

" I hear in the US students don’t declare major until junior year."

I do not believe this is correct. The latest I know of is second semester sophomore year. For engineering and CS, it’s typically even sooner.

It’s also very school dependent. Some schools admit by major or college within the university, others do not.

@momofsenior1 Thanks for the reply. So with the universities that do not, is it possible that I’d still have a semester to study whatever I like and then make up my mind?

CommonApp says to consider this when writing the essay: “What problems do you want to research or solve with your intended major and degree?” and then I read a few transfer essay examples that seem to have clear intentions of their majors. Does that mean I’d be at a disadvantage to say I’m undeclared and want to change major?

Any information or advice is appreciated! thank you.

First contact your target schools to get your answers but most that I am familiar with you need to declare as stated by end of your sophomore year not the start of your junior year or in your junior year. At that point you are starting to work on your major. Yes, transferring as a junior has some disadvantages if you don’t know what you want to do.

For the essay, what do you think you want to do? Write on that. No one’s holding you to that once your accepted.

@Knowsstuff Thanks. so it’s probably a good thing to write about an intended major right? but I have no idea what I want to do and I think that’s kind of the point as to why I want to transfer. I’m after a more flexible education and maybe liberal arts if I eventually can’t decide. Would the admission officers buy into that? I’m worried an essay like that might show a lack of commitment.

I would talk to the school before writing it. They are there to help you. It can be on self discovery and what you intend to do once there and what you bring to the table.

Like @Knowsstuff said, I thought about focusing my essay on self discovery and my pursuing a liberal education. Kinda like saying my plan is that I have no plans…Then I wrote to Cornell and got this in reply:

“as we review applications, the most important factors we will consider include:
Ability to articulate interest in a particular program at Cornell (essay)”.

And ASU says they require transfer applicants to choose a major. Same goes for Johns Hopkins.

I think that basically means I’m screwed, seeing as my reason for transferring doesn’t even stand.

What I don’t understand is, if most students only declare their major at the end of sophomore year, why is it that transfer students are required to declare at the start? Is it a test for commitment? Does it go for all/most schools in the US?

You may have better luck not having to declare a major at an LAC over a research university. Reach out to a few and see if you get a different response.

So most college programs are planned 4 year programs. So at some point you need to commit to a major. No one said you couldn’t change your mind but could be adding another semester or year to your studies. This adds a lot more money to what your paying. Many don’t want to do this. As mentioned a LAC will be more forgiving. You can always play the game with Cornell also. It is suggested at many schools to go through their program guide and see what interests you. Now you have part of a theme of why your applying there. Plus it shows you did some research.

My daughter was a junior transfer as well. She had to narrow down and pick a major and in her case a minor. At some point you need to solidify the educational track your on. There is only so much time and classes in the next two years to take and graduate on time. Her first two years is no different where she took them. Most schools junior year your working towards your major.

If your thinking more of a 5-6 year plan to get your 4 year degree then let the schools know that. I am sure many schools have programs for that

FWIW, “Ability to articulate interest in a particular program…” is not the same as declaring a major.

My D2 transferred in the middle of sophomore year- to Cornell- and her ultimate major was not the major she expected to pursue at the time of application.

But the requirements and practices of the different colleges there are not identical. While all will be interested in your plans, so far as they indicate whether the university is the right fit for you, some of its colleges require majors to be specified at time of application (even for freshman applicants) and others don’t.

@monydad did she change her major later on? or was it not officially declared until the end of sophomore year?

if “a particular program” is a major, what is it? thanks to you I realize what I’m really trying to figure out is, if I do not have a particular major in mind and my plan is kind of to try everything, how likely are the universities going to be “the right fit” for me?

because I’m rather unfamiliar with the US university system. it is not that common for international students to transfer and dive right into sophomore year without having the freshman core curriculum etc. under their belt. so I’m genuinely confused as to what kinds of course requirements I’d have to complete or how much flexibility I could have as an international transfer student in the sophomore year.

I’d truly appreciate any insight and/or advice. thanks again.

As noted above, required courses are going to vary greatly school to school. Look up the four year plan of study for a major you would consider and the graduation requirements for the schools on your list. You will also want to see what courses you will get credit for.

Generally speaking the selective US schools want to hear from prospective transfers why their present school isn’t able to meet their educational goals. I think it’s fair for you to say that you want a more well rounded liberal arts education.

US schools are also concerned with their 4 year graduation rates so they do care about students being able to get through their requirements both for graduation and their major.

Lastly, with covid this year, admissions may look very different for transfer students. No one really knows. Be sure you have less selective schools on your list if transferring is important to you.

re #11:
She did not change her major. Her major was not declared until some time during her second semester sophomore year. I don’t know exactly when during the semester that happened (maybe mid-semester ??), or how long she could have pushed it, but I do recall that it wasn’t immediately.

At the time of application, and the time of enrollment for that matter, she expected to pursue a (related but somewhat) different major. I don’t know if she was asked to specify a (non-binding) expectation in her application, but in any event it was implicit in her coursework to that point. It was used as a basis for her initial advisor assignment. But did not bind her to anything at all.

It is common at US universities, particularly the arts & sciences colleges within these universities, that majors are selected during second semester sophomore year. However, the requirements for major declaration at US universities, and even colleges within those universities, are not all the same. Nor are the other requirements, eg distribution requirements. You have to check each one you are applying to.
As I mentioned, even at the various colleges within Cornell university the requirements and major selection timing are not all the same. Some of its colleges require major selection at time of application. As I mentioned before.

This information should be available at the individual college’s webpages, but if you can’t find it there that you can/should actually ask the admissions people.

Importantly, aside from college requirements, there are also major requirements, which are likewise not standardized.
As a practical matter, if you are coming in 2nd semester sophomore year, the range of majors you can complete without extending your graduation date may be somewhat limited in any event. For example, if you’ve been taking all english and philosophy classes to that point, it may be difficult to decide to declare a physics major if you haven’t taken the prerequisite introductory physics sequence by that time. A lot of the classes my daughter took earlier “counted” towards her ultimately selected major. Which frankly is partly why she chose it, vs. the major she initially contemplated. Completion of the originally-anticipated major would have required her to take more courses in areas of lesser interest to her than others she preferred to take. As it turned out.

Some examples may help. Some schools have multiple divisions that would make it necessary to apply to a specific faculty, such as Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, UMichigan and UPennsylvania. Other colleges offer notably flexible curricula that would allow you to choose your courses and major with few restrictions even after enrollment, such as Smith, Brown, Hamilton, Amherst and Grinnell. This distinction applies to both transfer and first-year applicants.

However, as noted above, some majors commonly have prerequisite sequences that need to be started early in order to be able to declare the major and graduate on schedule.