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How to Write a “Why This Major” Essay

What do you want to major in and why? The “why this major” topic is one of the most common supplemental essay prompts used by colleges. It helps schools understand your academic interests, intellectual passions, and what you plan to do professionally. In this guide, we’ll talk about how you can write a stellar “Why this Major” essay. 

Also see: Overview of common scholarship essay prompts

Tips for writing the “Why this Major” essay

There’s no standard formula for writing a good “Why this Major” essay, but an effective one usually addresses the following three questions: 

  1. How did you become interested in this major? 
  2. What do you hope to accomplish by majoring in this subject? 
  3. Why is this school a good fit for pursuing this major? 

Let’s discuss how you can effectively answer each of these questions and put together a well-rounded essay. 

Also read: How to pick a major

1. Share your origin story

The first objective is to explain how your interest in the major developed in the first place. One way to do this is by telling a story. To put things in Marvel terms, think of your academic passion as your superpower and how you discovered this interest as your origin story. Of course, you don’t actually have to picture yourself as a superhero. But it helps to tell a good story. 

Anecdotes bring color to your narrative and help the reader get to know you better. If you’re an aspiring English major, you might describe how you fell in love with books as a child. Or if you plan on pursuing an engineering degree, perhaps you describe your fascination with technology and how it shaped you from a young age. Ultimately, your goal is to connect your background to your current interest. 

While it can be engaging to share a brief story at the beginning of your essay, just make sure your anecdote is relevant and free of unnecessary details. Don’t get carried away and share your entire life story. Additionally, you don’t have to point to a singular experience that made you realize you wanted to pursue this major. Instead, you can paint a picture of how certain moments throughout your life led you to this point. 

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

2. Outline your goals

The next step is to describe your vision for the future. You should outline your college goals and your career goals, and how majoring in a certain field will help you achieve them. Think of your education as a tool you can use to craft your future. What are you trying to build, and why is your major the right tool for the job? The English major, for instance, may explain that their field of study can help them hone their writing skills and launch their career as an author. Or the engineering major might describe how they want to get a job as an environmental engineer and address problems such as waste disposal and water pollution. 

You don’t (and probably shouldn’t) focus exclusively on your career goals, though. If you’re not sure what kind of job you want after graduation, that’s totally okay. Instead, focus on what you hope to accomplish during your college years. What do you hope to learn by pursuing this major? What projects do you want to produce? Do you have plans to perform research in this field? Your answers to these questions will demonstrate your passion for your major and your motivation behind choosing it. 

Also see: How to write a 250 word essay

3. Explain your school choice 

Finally, you should mention why this particular school is a good fit for pursuing your major. While this doesn’t have to be a big part of your essay, you should still weave in your excitement about the school. Colleges want students who believe that their institution is the right path to achieving their goals. Try to go beyond superficial answers like “this college is ranked highly for this major”. Get specific and discuss unique aspects of the program, courses that interest you, or faculty members you’d like to work with. 

Related: How to choose a college

What if I’m undecided? 

If you’re unsure of your major, try to pick 1-3 potential fields of study and describe how you feel about them. Why are you interested in these subjects, and how do they relate to your potential career goals? Explain why you haven’t settled on a particular major yet. And if you can, describe how your various interests connect with each other. You’re essentially writing the same type of essay described above, but acknowledging that you don’t know what you want to major in. Colleges understand that and actually expect many of their incoming students to be undecided. That’s why it’s still possible to write the “Why this Major” essay even when your academic interests aren’t set in stone. 

Read more: Is it bad to apply to college as an undeclared major?

Example essay prompts

Although it’s a fairly straightforward question, it can take many forms. Here’s a few examples of how different colleges phrase the “Why this Major” essay prompt: 

Yale University: Students at Yale have plenty of 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? Please indicate up to three from the list provided. Why do these areas appeal to you? (100 words)

Purdue University: Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected. (100 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)

University of Pennsylvania: How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? Please respond considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected. (300-450 words)

Key takeaways 

Remember that an effective “Why this Major” essay accomplishes three main objectives: 

  1. Ties your background to your current interest in the major
  2. Connects your interest in the major to your goals for the future 
  3. Explains how the school in question is a good fit 

By touching on these three areas, your essay will have a complete narrative arc. Happy writing!