Smart Q & A: Is it Better to Apply “Undecided” or Declare a Major?

Smart Q & A is a new service on SmartCollegeVisit where readers submit a question related to college visits or the college admissions process and we’ll have an expert advisor provide an answer. To kick things off, Christina McIntyre, associate director for University Honors at Virginia Tech, founder of BecomeAlum, and president of Innovative Academic Solutions, answers questions related to academic planning. What’s your question? You ask the smart questions and we’ll provide the answers. You’re invited to submit your questions using the comment form below or post them to our Facebook Page. Answers will be published in a post on this blog.

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: Is it better to apply “undecided” or declare a major and change it later?

ANSWER: This is a great question and the answer will likely vary from one school to another. However, it’s an appropriate question to ask during a campus visit. I would recommend asking whether you should declare a major when visiting a variety of offices on the same campus to see if there is a consistent or varying message. The answer may even vary within a given university when it comes to specific programs.

In general if you are truly undecided starting university under this category is the best place to be. You are sending a clear signal “I’m searching for who I want to become.” Often times colleges and universities will have specific classes, workshops or other opportunities for undecided students that can help you explore a variety of fields as well as work through honest self-evaluation that will help you to truly identify an area of study that compliments your passion and where you can find fulfillment.

If you are certain you want to declare a major and enter a specific program (i.e. Architecture) but are concerned that you wouldn’t be admitted because it may have higher standards than applying as “undecided” then, you really should ask the admissions representative “How many students move from “undecided” (or another major) to Architecture after they are a student here?”

As you compare schools, look closely at which schools have restricted majors and what are the qualifications to get into the majors. You may notice differences between universities. Keep in mind that the majority of college students change their major at least once. Declaring yourself as undecided should not be a stigma. This is an important decision that is worthy of investing your time and energy. In most cases students who declare they are undecided are more honest (with themselves) than their peers.


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Related: Should I apply undecided?