Many students enter college as undeclared majors. Learn what it means to be undeclared and whether it’s OK to apply to college undecided.
- A large number of students enter college undeclared.
- Using your first year of college to explore majors can be beneficial if you are undecided.
- Only declare a major when you know for sure that it is the area you want to pursue.
- Declaring a major by your sophomore year can help you establish your degree plan.
Many students apply to college undecided, meaning they have not yet decided on or declared a major. If the university accepts you, you will be admitted as an undeclared major.
Some students may also be listed as undeclared if they have not yet been admitted to the program of their intended major. An estimated 20-50% of students enter college undeclared, and around 75% of students change their major at least once in their college career.
Ready to start your journey?
What Is an Undeclared Student?
An undeclared student has been accepted by a university but has not decided on or declared a major. There are many reasons why a person chooses to be undeclared — from wanting to explore options to waiting to seek admission into a particular college or program.
It is meant to be a temporary status that will ultimately change when you pick a major. There are some benefits to starting as an undeclared student:
When to Apply to College as an Undecided Major
Here are some things to consider when determining if you should apply to college as an undecided major or if you should go ahead and declare.
You Are Truly Undecided
One of the most common reasons students apply undecided is because they are truly unsure of what they want to study in college. Instead of just picking a major only to go through the trouble of changing it later, many use their undeclared status as a way to explore different fields.
To assist in choosing the right major for you, many colleges offer career centers that can help you learn about various careers and the type of majors needed to enter those fields.
You Want to Give Yourself Time to Decide
By choosing to be undeclared, you can give yourself time to decide on your major. Some students enter college without knowing what they want to study. And that is OK.
Deciding to be undeclared can prevent you from wasting time and money on classes in a major that you are unsure of. Giving yourself a semester or two to decide before you declare gives you a chance to explore other potential majors as you earn some of your general education credits.
You Need to Boost Your Academic Profile
Some students choose to be undeclared for strategic reasons. It can help you start with a clean academic slate when applying to a highly competitive program.
If your academic resume or high school GPA is not up to par, entering college as undecided allows you to start fresh your first year in college. This can give you time to raise your GPA and help your chances of getting into a competitive program.
When to Apply to College as a Declared Major
Below are some points to consider when determining if you should proceed with declaring a major.
You Know Exactly What You Want to Study
One of the best reasons to apply to college with a declared major is because you know exactly what you want to study. This is helpful when you have a passion for a particular subject and believe it to be your calling.
This does not necessarily mean you need to declare early though since there may not be an explicit benefit to an early declaration.
For example, if your high school academic record and GPA are weak compared to the typical requirements for entrance into your prospective major, you may want to hold off on declaring to help your chances of being accepted.
Your Major Requires Courses in Your First Year
Another reason to apply to college as declared is if your prospective major requires courses that need to be taken in your first year in order to graduate on time.
Additionally, sometimes certain classes are available only at certain times of the year, so declaring early can help you plan and provide yourself with more opportunities to register for these coveted classes.
Your Major Offers Perks That Make It Beneficial to Declare Early
An additional perk to declaring early is that you may be able to apply for department-specific scholarships and grants if they offer them.
This can be helpful if you need additional aid beyond what was awarded in your financial aid package. Depending on the program and college, you may also have access to specific housing set aside for those in your major.
This is a benefit since it will help you network and make friends who are pursuing similar fields. One of the final perks of declaring early is that you will learn about professional development opportunities and organizations on campus that support your area of study.
When Do You Have to Declare a College Major?
Most students are encouraged to choose and declare their major by the end of their sophomore year in college. This is so they can get their degree plan approved and graduate on time. A degree plan is an official document that stipulates all the coursework required to be awarded your degree in your declared major.
This is beneficial to students because sometimes requirements for a major can change year to year. If you have an officially approved degree plan, however, you will likely not have to take courses that have been added once your degree plan is in effect.
Is It Bad to Apply to College as an Undeclared Major?
Even though many students do apply to college declared to a specific major, it is OK to apply as undeclared. Generally speaking, in your first year in college, you take general education courses like English, history, and math — the basics — to get your prerequisites out of the way.
Before you declare your major, you should take time to research its specific course requirements and what your career options will be once you graduate with that degree. Most colleges have career centers that can help you in selecting career paths.
Frequently Asked Questions About Being Undeclared
Applying to college as an undeclared major generally does not hurt your chances of getting into college. It can help you if you do not meet the initial GPA prerequisites for a specific department or a coveted program.
Where it may hurt you is if you are trying to obtain program-specific scholarships in your first year of college. Failing to declare your major in engineering, for example, can make you ineligible for program-specific scholarships.
The estimated national average of students who enter college without declaring their major is 20-50%. Approximately 75% of undergraduate students change their major at least once before they graduate. So if you are not sure exactly what you want to major in, know you are not alone!
One option that some students who are undecided consider is taking a gap year — a year off from college while you figure out what you want to major in and pursue as a career.
A gap year may help you combat academic burnout. However, for some, it can be difficult to jump back into college after taking a year off. They often get caught up in working and find it difficult to go back to school full time.