Major affecting admission


Would applying to a said university as a major that isn’t the best in ranks and not very popular make it easier to get into?(UC’s and privates)

It entirely depends on the university. At some schools, admission does not consider possible major even slightly and undergraduates do not formally declare their majors for several semesters.

It does help in some cases, but only if you have a demonstrable interest and background in the subject. For example, I’ve seen Classics majors exceed their expected admissions rates, but they’ve had genuine interest and demonstrable experience with Greek and Latin. (They’ve also consistently changed their majors once admitted–I don’t know a single former student who ended up with a Classics degree. Whether that means they were deliberately misleading or not is an open question, but their applications didn’t look misleading: they were able to credibly position themselves as Classics majors because they’d done significant work in relevant areas.)

Alright, thanks @marvin100 and @TopTier !

For universities often what matters more than the “proposed” major is the college within the university to which you apply. There isn’t a universal division of a university into colleges. So if the university has a college of arts and sciences and a college of engineering you apply to one or the other. You can start off as undeclared and declare your major after a year or two. Or you can start off as declared, and possibly change majors within the college. But changing colleges within the university may be difficult.

However, if a given major is more selective for frosh admission, there may be another admission process to enter or change to it after enrolling.

Totally. Imagine this:

Person A is applying for mech engineering which is known to be the college’s pride and gathers students with 2100+ SATs.
Person B is applying for psychology, which isn’t really the college’s forte and gathers students with 1900+ GPAs.

Also, in many unis, you have a better chance of getting into Computer Science BA program rather than Computer Science BS or Software Engineering programs.

The less difficult, less popular majors aren’t necessarily going to give you an advantage. An issue for admissions is whether your academic background and interests match your choice of major. You could apply for a psychology major, for example, trying to gain an advantage with admissions, but if AP Psych was offered at your HS and you didn’t take it, and/or if you can’t point to a particular interest in people/human behavior, it doesn’t show much interest in the subject. Similarly, if it’s clear by your transcript and your ECs that you have an interest in science, it probably won’t do you much good trying to backdoor UCLA or UCB by applying to sociology.

I’ve seen students develop an interest in business/economics in their second term of senior year (usually worried about employability), without taking AP Econ or Calc, even though it was available, then they want to apply to an economics major at a fairly competitive school. It’s better in that case to seek admission to Arts/Science based on academic strength, then if admitted, switch majors later on (like the Classics students in @marvin100’s story). But as @fogcity said, if you want to change majors between schools/colleges, that can be a problem.

It’s always a reasonable strategy to declare interest in a subject of academic strength, especially if you can highlight it with your ECs or essays.

At Berkeley, intended major does not change selectivity for students applying to the College of Letters and Science, which includes sociology and most of the science majors. Selectivity differs if applying to a different division, like the College of Engineering or College or Chemistry, and by major within the College of Engineering.

Some universities admit by major, and how hard it is to get in to, say, CS in Engineering at UIUC will be very different from how hard it is to get in to, say, Comp Lit there. However, almost none of the private elites do, though some admit by college. And as @TopTier mentioned, at some universities, what major you put down will make zero difference.

To add on to what @PurpleTitan‌ wrote, that doesn’t mean you can backdoor your way in and change to CS. I believe it will be as competitive to change to a major like that from within the college as it would be to get into it from the beginning.

Right, at a school like UIUC (or CMU), transferring in to CS is quite difficult At the universities that don’t admit by major, it may be easier (at least for some of them).

Beware, at some schools (or divisions) which do not admit by major, declaring a popular (relative to capacity) major after entering as an undeclared student may require a high GPA or competitive admission.

If this is really a concern, go to each school’s web site and check the procedures for declaring or changing to the majors of interest.

I’ve heard multiple admission officers say that they pay no attention to the incoming major as part of the admission process because about half of the applicants apply undecided and of those who apply with the major, half of them end up switching during the course of their college years. It might be a bit different if you had a significant ECs, research etc. related to this unusual major but that is unlikely. In general colleges are wise to the concept that an applicant can put in an unusual major to appear more attractive to the school and then change while he/she arrives on campus.

That said, if you want a specific school (ex. business, engineering, nursing etc.) it is important to apply to that program.

Another classics anecdote @Marvin100: Back in the day, I knew a guy who applied to Princeton as some kind of science major, as he was interested in pre-med. Princeton told him that they would accept him if he agreed to major in classics. He said no thanks and was not admitted.

The adcom is not stupid. Also, many students graduated with a major different from they initially intended. If you are not admitted directly into a specific program, they care less what you put down as major. Some students do apply to an easier school within the same university hoping for transfer in sophomore year though.

I don’t believe that story from green678 about an admission to Princeton being contingent on being a Classics major but maybe that kid made up a story to say he “could” have gotten in but didn’t but it was his choice. In schools where you declare your major after several semesters the admissions office has ready data to see the poor correlation between what is written on an application and what kids ultimately choose as a major. What high school significantly exposes a kid to Anthropology or Astronomy and I should hope that kids develop and explore academic interests after the application is submitted. The above example of UIUC CS vs.Comp Lit would show a difference in selectivity because that school makes it very difficult to change majors so it can effectively admit by major. I know of a kid at UIUC in the CS department who was given a hard time even switching a subspecialty focus within the CS department.