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Articles / Applying to College / How Do I Write Essays About My Major/Career Goals When I'm Undecided?

Oct. 22, 2019

How Do I Write Essays About My Major/Career Goals When I'm Undecided?

How Do I Write Essays About My Major/Career Goals When I'm Undecided?

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I am applying as an undecided major to a few schools and all of them have said (at tours or open houses) that they don't look down upon undecided applicants during admissions. However, four of these schools have supplemental essays that ask about my career goals or why I'm applying to a specific department at that school. I don't know. That's why I'm undecided. How do I answer these?


Sometimes "The Dean" worries that, despite what you've learned on tours and in information sessions, selecting "Undecided" as a major may send a subliminal message to admission committees that suggests, "I'm really not all that interested in anything," when, in fact, you're actually interested in everything, yet just not ready to narrow down a choice.

So the essays that await you will afford the perfect opportunity to show admission officials that you do indeed have multiple passions. Try to have some fun with these essays. For instance, you could take a whimsical approach; something like this:

On Mondays I'm an orthopedic surgeon, wearing a starched white lab coat with my name stitched on the pocket, helping young athletes recover from injuries -- just as a doctor once helped me when I tore my rotator cuff in a volleyball game.

On Tuesdays I'm an environmental journalist, exploring the decline of the sea turtle population that I learned about when I spent last summer volunteering in coastal South Carolina ...

On Wednesdays I'm an English teacher, inspiring skeptical high school sophomores to actually love poetry and to write their own ...

Your final paragraph or two (depending on the essay word limits) would explain that you have many interests that you want to explore before choosing an academic concentration or a career goal, and then you can get specific and point out which departments and actual classes at the college in question will allow you to pursue these varied areas.

The objective of your essay will be to enable the admission folks to appreciate you as an enthusiastic student with many facets rather than someone who might just be heading to college for the football tailgates and buffet breakfasts. ;-)

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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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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