If your high school curriculum is anything like mine was, (and based on my knowledge of hundreds of high schools, I can guess that it is somewhat similar!), then you have somewhat limited options in what you can study. The math progression: geometry, algebra, maybe advanced algebra, calculus, toss in statistics as an elective. Science: biology, chemistry, physics, perhaps environmental science. History: European history, US history, government. And so on. My curriculum was fairly prescribed and gave little flexibility to make choices from grade 9-12.
Getting to college opened up options to me academically that I didn’t know existed! It was exciting, it was freeing, it was overwhelming. And I’m willing to bet that that will be your experience as well. And to give you a sense of that, just hop on over to our majors/minors page to see what I’m talking about.
Now how does this relate to the college application?
We as admissions officers get really excited about applicants discovering their academic options once they get to campus, and we spend time while reading applications and in committee meetings imagining you here on The Hill—collaborating with professors, diving into a research project, declaring a major. And one way that we can imagine you here is through your own listing of your academic interests on The Common Application. You have three slots to pick out the majors that are most appealing to you AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME. It is not binding, those choices don’t lock you in. The application just asks you to pick three fields of study from a drop-down menu that interest you. We know you might change your mind on campus, (everyone technically starts off undecided when they arrive on campus anyway), but we like to know what is appealing to you as a high school senior. So when we turn to that application page to learn about your academic interests, you can imagine that it would be a tad disappointing to see:
We get it—you’re undecided! You haven’t decided (or maybe just don’t know) what you want to study in college. And that’s totally okay! And actually, that can be a great way to start college because you’re more open to the possibilities. So while we are excited that you are open to the possibilities, this is a missed opportunity to help us learn more about you! As we are trying to get to know you and your interests in the application, “Undecided” x3 doesn’t do much for us. It really doesn’t give us any inkling of your academic passions, and it’s much more difficult for us to imagine you here on campus in the classrooms.
As you fill out this portion of the application, you may not have a clear answer or two. But really reflect. Surely something has sparked your academic interest in high school, even just a unit in one of your classes. And although you may not quite be ready to declare a major in that subject, perhaps you want to explore it more as a possible field of study. So list it! Maybe you read an interesting article that led you to a 2 hour internet deep dive into related topics. List it! Or maybe you’ve just always felt drawn to a field but haven’t yet had the chance to do anything related. List it! You can still be very much undecided about where you’ll land in college, but your initial responses can help us get a more full picture of who you are as a student.
So please help us get to know you by listing out three academic areas that appeal to you. Don’t let any space in the application go to waste.
Now it’s time for me to go decide what to get for lunch.