A common concern we hear students ask is, “does it matter what major I choose when I apply for college?” The short answer is yes, but it's not as important as you may think.
Too often students believe that choosing an obscure major such as Planetary Sciences could help boost the likelihood of admission. However, unless you have a demonstrated track record of interest in planetary sciences or whatever major you choose, doing so will not help you. In fact, your choosing a major without evidence of demonstrated interest may even hurt you — college admissions officers have been reading applications for years and they are not going to be fooled by a trick a large number of students attempt to do every year.
In order to pick the best option as your intended major, a general guideline should be as follows:
Is there a specific area on your resume or experiences that you have particular demonstrated depth? For instance, if you have Congressional internships, ran for student council, and have volunteered for campaigns, then choosing a government or public policy major would be a good fit since you have shown passion for this subject. This consideration is the most important.
If you are stuck between two or more different majors that you have equal amount of demonstrated passion, you should do research into the competitiveness of each program. Perhaps, your one passion may be relatively strong for one major but relatively weak for another. For example, if you have equal strengths in business and chemistry and are applying to the University of Pennsylvania, perhaps choosing chemistry may be slightly beneficial to your application since the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is very competitive to get into.
Relax — intended major is not binding and is not as important in the admissions process as you may think. Colleges know that the majority of students change from their intended major when they enroll. According to the National Center for Education Statistic, approximately 80% of students in the United States change their major at least once.
At the end of the day, the most important question admissions officers are trying to find answers to is who you are. You must make your application believable and convincing to admissions officers, and doing so means you must send a cohesive statement across your essays, intended major, and activities.