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How to Use Your Potential Major to Guide the College Search

Many factors go into finding the right college, from location to scholarships to sports. Where does your major fit in? Here's how it impacts your search.

Many factors go into finding the right college, and they vary from person to person. Some students look for the overall academic rigor, the amount of scholarship money offered, or even the sports available. But what about your college major? Though plenty of students find their college first and decide on their major later, using your major as your guide in finding the right college for you can be extremely powerful.

How your major impacts your college search

Your college major can influence your college search in a variety of ways. For instance, if you start your search already knowing exactly what you want to major in, then you’ll only look at colleges that offer that specific major. Depending on how common or uncommon your major is, this can narrow your choices significantly—sometimes by thousands of schools.

But what if you’re interested in a popular major? When I conducted my college search, I knew I wanted to major in English (which is about as broad a list of schools as it can be). I Googled “colleges with best English programs” or “top 10 colleges with best English department” to start narrowing down my options. If you’re planning to major in a similarly common major—for instance, practically every university has English, Business, and Communication programs—then you need to dig a little deeper and get specific in what you want from a specific program. For me, whether or not a university had specifically a Publishing program was important, and I was able to greatly narrow my list to my top three colleges by searching for schools that offered them.

Related: Top Tips for the College Search When You're Pursuing an Atypical Major

How to determine program quality

Start by researching the quality of the academic programs at the schools you’re considering, including what kind of reputation (and accreditation) it has, what kind of minors and concentrations are available, how easily graduates find jobs in their field, and what those jobs are. You can also see if the colleges get consistently and nationally ranked for your major program (but make sure to take college rankings with a grain of salt!). Finally, take a look at the length of the program and an outline of the curriculum. Will you have time to pursue a second major or minor or opportunities to study abroad? Also be sure to dig deep into the opportunities each program and campus can provide, like internships, research with faculty, and even related extracurriculars.

How applying undecided can still guide you

Even if you’re applying to college undecided on a major, majors will still influence your college search. When searching for colleges as an undecided student, look for schools that offer a variety of majors for you to choose from when the time is right—this means you’ll have time to take some classes and get a better feel for what you want before committing to a field. In case you ever need to change your major, those wide variety of options will still be available to you. Many colleges even allow students to design their own majors or independent study. If you have many interests and passions you’re still exploring, then these are schools you should be looking into.

Related: How to Choose Your Major and Explore All Your Options  

Finding a college that feels right for you and your goals is already hard enough with the many factors you need to consider, so why not make it easier? Using your potential major as a tool in your college search will quickly help you narrow your list. While you may not have considered your major to be a big influence on your college choice before, you might discover it’s one of the most important keys to a bright future.

You can easily find colleges and universities with the majors and fields you’re interested in using our College Search tool!

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About Leah Pierre

Leah Pierre is a CollegeXpress student writer who loves to read and write (and has an unhealthy obsession with TV shows)! When not doing any of these, Leah's favorite thing to do is spend time with friends and family.


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