Choosing Colleges 101: Don’t forget to research

Did you know that the simple choice of your intended major could have big consequences for your university application success?

Of course, I always recommend that students avoid choosing intended majors like Business Management or Economics. Why? Because they’re so popular already, choosing those majors is not a positive factor in your application. The question then, is how can you turn your intended major choice into a positive factor?

You have to remember that choosing an intended major does not mean you absolutely must retain that major in school. It’s only an “intended” major. You don’t even have to make your final decision until your junior year. What you choose as an intended major only gives the admissions committee another little taste of who you are as a person. Why not make that taste really flavorful?

For example, if you are a students who is extremely interested in studying anthropology, and particular the growth of minority cultures in China, it might be easier for you to get accepted. How? You’d start by emailing the head of the anthropology department. Tell them that you’re a hopeful Chinese anthropological scholar, and you’d like to know how many such majors are there at the school.

If your school has placed a strong focus on that department, or they’ve received a lot of money in the recent past, then you’ll be a very attractive candidate! That’s true even if your grades and test scores aren’t 100% perfect.

Now, that doesn’t mean for you to lie about studying a major you’re not interested in, just because Harvard has raised a lot of money for their Chinese studies department. But what if you’re applying to a liberal arts college that’s traditionally not strong in sciences, or maybe a state school that wants to improve its profile in chemistry? If you’re deciding whether to write “Business” or “Chemistry” as your intended major, definitely choose chemistry.

I’ve found that niche majors like anthropology, comparative literature, or linguistics are often very positive factors on undergraduate applications. That’s even more true for Chinese students than it is for others. Why? Chinese students have that reputation for only choosing hard science or business majors. Why not be the one unique student in your school or city who wants to study art history or dance? It very well might be the choice that gets you accepted.

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