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Articles / Applying to College / Does major affect chances?

May 3, 2002

Does major affect chances?

Question: Does the major you declare on an application for admission affect your acceptance? Are there fewer openings for engineering majors and does that mean you need higher test scores if you apply to the engineering school?


Sometimes declaring a major can have an effect on application success. For example, if you put "pre-med" on your Johns Hopkins application, you're more than likely going to jump into a more competitive pool than you would if you put "liberal arts." That's because Hopkins is known primarily for its pre-med program (among other area, to be sure) and attracts lots of applicants for that major.


Same thing for engineering. At most universities, the engineering school requires an extra level of selectivity. This extra level usually requires, as you note, more competitive test scores, stronger grades in science and math, and special emphasis in these area on recommendations.

Usually, you'll have to make some kind of direct statement about your desire to gain entrance to the engineering school on your application, whereas in the case of a pre-med-seeking applicant, s/he might indicate a less-competitive area and then change majors once admitted. There can be some strategies involved, so it does pay to do research before you begin to structure your application.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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