Of course, we all know that most college applications will ask us to declare a major or, at the very least, select academic areas that we’re currently interested in. If that were the only information colleges had, they’d of course be missing out on a lot of potentially really helpful information: how our interest in this field started, what exactly we like about, what our plans are for the future, etc. That’s why many schools will ask for Why Major essays – they want to hear the deeper story behind our choice of major.
Here are two examples:
Think about an academic subject that inspires you. Describe how you have furthered this interest inside and/or outside of the classroom. (UC System)
Students at Yale have time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? (Yale University)
How to Approach Why Major Essays
First, consider what drew you to this field. Was it a childhood experience? A novel? A television show? Something you witnessed at home?
Once this field was on your radar, when did you start to become more interested in it? In other words, when did this field go from “Okay, this is kind of cool” to “Wow, this is so awesome, I absolutely want to major in this”? Sometimes, one event really catapults our interest in something. But not always. Sometimes it’s a slow progression or series of events.
Once you were drawn into this field, how did you pursue it? Think of a few of the most notable ways and, for each, write down its significance: what you learned, how it caused you to become even more interested in the subject, how it changed your thinking or goals, etc.
Finally, gesture toward the future. Even if you don’t have a crystal clear vision of what you want to do in this field in the future, think about an area or two within this field that, at least right now, sound cool enough to pursue in the future.
A Few Pitfalls to Avoid
- Don’t dwell on childhood too much. You’d be surprised how many engineering essays start off with that lego set my parents gave me when I was a kid and how many computer science essays start off with childhood memories of a Raspberry Pi.
- Avoid generalizations, exaggerations, and cliches like “Ever since I was five years old, I knew I wanted to be an astrophysicist” or “Growing up, I was always surrounded by technology.”
- You want to tell some kind of story that traces your development within this field, but if you included every single detail, it’d probably be pretty boring (and you’d likely run out of words really fast). Give us the “greatest hits” version of your story.