Is It Ok If A Student Doesn't Know What To Do In College?

By Danny Ruderman


It is absolutely OK.

Most students have no idea what they want to do in college, and that’s why colleges don’t require most students to declare their major until the end of sophomore year. They want you to explore in the first 2 years to figure out what is it that you want to do.

Now I can hear some of you out there, “But my friends all seem to know what they want to do!” Nah, you know what, they think they know what they want to do, but if you talk to many adults, they are not doing what they actually majored in. I majored in Human Biology. Wait, what? Exactly. So, you probably gonna change your mind and that’s ok. At this point, it’s alright that you don’t know. In fact, it’s also ok to put “undecided” or “undeclared” in your application.

Now, again I hear you out there thinking things like “I heard that if you put down a very specific major, it can help you get in.”

Well the answer is Yes and No to that.

For example, if you’re interested in economics, and you put that in your application, you should understand that economics is usually one of the most popular majors in any college. So listing it as your major preference in itself probably isn’t going to help you get in. Now, if you’ve taken AP Micro and Macro Econ, scored really well on the AP tests, read Freakonomics, and have this amazing economics background that you can point to as to why you love a specific college’s economics program, then sure, it can definitely help you.

But let’s say you want to put down that you wanted a major in forestry because you know that nobody goes into that major and you’ve hear it’s a backdoor into a college. Well, the truth of the matter is that you can’t just put forestry if you don’t have forestry experience. These admission officers can detect BS a mile away, so don’t try to game the system. As you will hear in many of my videos, it’s all about being authentic. If you really do want to be a doctor and you love all sciences and you wanted to go in Human biology, that’s authentic--that makes sense. Or I have a student who actually loves linguistics, and he’s making an app for it--it’s kind of like a Boggle app--to teach word derivations. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but he’s really into languages and how they came about, so he can justify his linguistics choice. The truth is that linguistics is not the most popular major in most schools and it might help him get in. But at the end of the day, you need to be true to yourself. If you don’t know what you want to study, just put undecided or undeclared. When you write your “Why I want to go to this school essay,” you can write about your interests by saying something like, “I’m interested in computer science and psychology, but I don’t really know what I want yet.” That’s fine. You don’t need to take what you write in your “Why” essay and list it as a major on the application. You’re just talking about what you might be interested in.

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