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    How To Write The "Why Major" Essay (Updated)

    4 Minutes Read


    “Why do you want to study your chosen major?" is one of the most common supplemental essay prompts. It's a fair question and one that you should be able to answer in an authentic and engaging essay.

    Seemingly straightforward, this question can take many different forms. 

    Examples of "Why Major" Essay Prompts

    Brown University

    Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about an academic interest (or interests) that excites you, and how you might use the Open Curriculum to pursue it. (250 words)

    Bucknell University

    Please explain your interest in your first-choice major/undecided status and your second-choice major, should you opt to list one. (250 words)

    Carnegie Mellon University

    Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time – what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study? (300 words)

    Yale University

    Tell us about a topic or idea that excites you and is related to one or more academic areas you selected above. Why are you drawn to it? (200 words)


    Your Objectives

    What should you aim to accomplish with your essay? You should:

    • Describe how you developed your academic interest(s). How did you get to where you are now? What were your motivations?
    • Tie your background and/or experiences to your current interests and pursuits.
    • Explain how that particular college will help you delve deeper into your academic interest and prepare you for the future.
    • Explain how you will contribute to that particular institution’s community while enrolled and after graduating.


    How to Write the “Why Major” Essay

    1. Identify stories that illustrate how you developed an interest in the academic discipline.

    Anecdotes are an important part of any essay you write for your college applications (and really any personal essay). They serve to draw your reader in, helping them get to know you through your experiences, and bring color to your narrative. In the case of the “why major” essay, anecdotes allow you to create an arc. You’ll show the reader how you first became interested in a discipline and bring them to the present day, building your interest with stories that offer insight into your passion for the subject.

    For example, if you’re an aspiring software engineer and plan on majoring in computer science in college, you might describe your first time using a computer and what that interaction was like, or a challenge you encountered and overcame while designing an app from scratch. You should also offer a look into your experiences along the way — potentially when you realized you could not only use a machine but change the way it communicates with you and others through coding.

    2. Explore how these incidents helped you develop a passion for the subject and lock onto an impactful mission you'd like to accomplish.

    Connect these stories to the why of your narrative — how did these individual experiences become integral to your story and lead you to where you are today? In other words, articulate that “aha” moment. There doesn’t have to be a singular experience that made you realize this was what you wanted to do with your life; instead, you can paint a picture of how these moments together lead you to this point. In the example above, for instance, you might tie your first experience with a computer to your development in the courses you chose to take and then impetus behind your recent coding project.

    In addition, connect your experience to your ultimate mission - why are you going to college? Who will you be able to positively impact with the knowledge and experience your education will give you?
    For example, if one of your experiences was as a coding tutor, and during that you realized that not all children have access to computer science tutors, your mission might be to create an app that provides simple and accessible lessons to children who have limited access to the internet, perhaps in a format they can download and then use offline to conserve the cost of data.

    3. Explain how attending X school will help you delve even deeper into the topic.

    Finally, explain what it is about the school that will help you explore your academic passion. While this is a “why major” and not a “why us” essay, you still need to weave in your excitement about this school in particular. Every admissions committee wants a student who believes that their institution is the way to achieve their goals. In order to do that, you might discuss how the program that interests you is particularly unique to that school, a faculty member you’d like to study with, a course that excites you, or something else you can’t easily find at another college.


    What Not to Say
    1. Don’t write about a major or class the school doesn’t offer to undergraduates.

    This is a no-brainer: if the school doesn’t offer, say, journalism, don’t talk about how excited you are to pursue that major. Instead, you might discuss how their English program will prepare you for a career in journalism. Similarly, don’t mention graduate-level course offerings as there may not be an opportunity for you to actually take the course as an undergraduate.

    2. Don’t regurgitate your resume.

    While it’s fine to mention activities that are related to your chosen major, you should focus on how they helped shape your journey rather than describing the activities themselves. This is what the activities section is for. Your essay should be the behind the scenes story.

    3. Avoid mentioning superficial reasons.

    For instance, don’t say you want to be a doctor because it’s a prestigious job or that you want a high-earning potential. Your reasons need to go deeper than that (and deeper than I want to help people)! 


    What If You’re Undecided?

    You don’t have to have a major chosen in order to write this essay. Most colleges accept students who are undecided, unless they’re applying to a specific school or program that requires you to declare your major before matriculating.

    If you’re undecided, there are a couple of ways to approach this essay. It’s a good idea to use a mix of these strategies.

    • Mention 2-3 of your top interests and correlating experiences, connecting them to one another if possible.
    • Describe how you expect X school to help you hone your areas of interest further and why this is the best place to do it.
    • Explain why you’re undecided.
    • Write about a few different courses that inspire you and explain why.
    • Reflect back to your ultimate mission and how there may be many possible routes to get there and that you’d like to explore the options before deciding.

    Now that you have a better understanding of the "Why Major" essay, read the 5 Steps to ACE your Personal Statement. Already did that? Learn more about the self-paced Write Your Way Into College course.  

    Want more information about how we work with students through the entire admissions process?  Get in touch with us.

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