Admit This

Navigating College Majors

For those of you high school seniors who haven't applied to all your colleges yet, and for you high school juniors who are looking ahead to next fall's application season, here's a valuable Web site to help you with your strategizing and possible admissions chances improvement.

College Navigator falls under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences and National Center for Education Statistics, if you can remember all that.

Although you'll find a lot of really cool features about College Navigator just by experimenting with its various features, the one aspect I'd like to emphasize here is its ability to show you which specific majors at specific schools may fall into the "underrepresented" category. These are the areas for which colleges may be seeking candidates. So why could this be important for you?

For starters, colleges may be willing to ease up on their overall admission selection standards if they know that you're interested in a major where they're looking to increase participation. Here's an example:

If you go to the Navigator's home page, you'll see a "Name of School" box just under the College Navigator logo (upper-left of page). Let's use New York University (NYU) as our example school.

Okay. Type in "New York University," skip down, and click "Show Results." You'll then get a page listing schools that have some kind of New York connection. Click on New York University.

You'll then get a page that has a brief profile of NYU, along with a Google map to help you locate it. Skip down and click on "Programs/Majors." This will expand that heading and drop down the helpful information you need.

Scan down over the list of "Completions 2007-2008," under the "Bachelor" degree column. What do those numbers mean?

In brief, you're looking to see which general areas of study are lightly populated with graduates. For example, we can see that the major of African-American/Black Studies had only two graduates in 2008. Business Administration and Management, General had zero, as did International Business/Trade/Commerce. These two majors fall under the Business, management, marketing, and related support services department.

In the department of Communication, journalism, and related programs, the Radio and Television option also had no graduates. Under Education, we see that Education/Teaching Individuals - Speech or Language Impairments had only one graduate. However, Elementary Education and Teaching had 40 graduates. And so on . . .

Getting the picture?

Unless you are absolutely certain (most applicants aren't absolutely certain) about what major you want to study in college, you may be able to engineer an increase in your admission chances by noting a preference for one of these lightly represented programs, when you fill out your applications.

There is no law that says you have to commit to that major once you're accepted. In fact, the majority of incoming first-year college students change majors at least once during their undergraduate years, sometimes more than once. So, don't be concerned that this little strategy is unethical. If you're the least bit uncertain about your path through a college's offerings, think about letting College Navagator be your guide.


Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.