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    How to Write a “Why This Major” Essay

    By Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: November 13th, 2023
    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 choose 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. (100 words)

    Purdue University: Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected. (250 words)

    North Carolina State University: Explain why you selected the academic program(s) above and why you are interested in studying these at NC State.

    Brown University: Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to explore broadly while also diving deeply into their academic pursuits. Tell us about any academic interests that excite you, and how you might pursue them at Brown. (200-250 words) 

    Georgia Tech: Why do you want to study your chosen major specifically at Georgia Tech? 

    Top tips for how to write a “why this major” essay 

    Make it personal! 

    No matter what major you choose, it is meaningful to detail a true representation of your passion. Be authentic and use storytelling to emphasize your love for your intended major! Try to write about a time in your life when you realized what your passions were. 

    Also see: Supplemental essays: how important are they? 

    Be specific! 

    When you are writing about your major or the school, you be as specific as possible! Try to avoid broad statements that do not reveal much about your interests. Rather, be specific about certain aspects of your life and journey to discovering what you want to major in. Additionally, when detailing the school mention specific classes, professors and buildings that can help you achieve your career goals. 

    Research! 

    One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of the “why this major” essay is the tie back to the school itself. It’s important to detail why the school itself is a perfect fit for pursuing your major interests. In order to successfully write about why the school is a good fit for you need to adequately research the institution. You can do this by scrolling through the school’s social media pages and their website. 

    Related: How to write a great supplemental essay

    Mistakes to avoid in your “why this major” essay

    Repeating the website

    Do not just parrot the school website! Rather, take the information from the website and turn it into your own words. Be sure to describe how you will take advantage of the resources available rather than just stating them. 

    Choosing the wrong major

    Do not feel pressured to just write about a random major! If you are undecided, then write about that! Or, if you want to pick a less popular major to stand out from the rest of applicants, this can end in an inauthentic and boring essay. Rather, choose a major that genuinely aligns with your interests, even if it may be a more “basic” option. Ultimately, admissions officers just want to get a good idea of who you are and why you want to study what you want to study.

    Choosing too many majors

    If you are someone who is interested in multiple topics, this may not be the best outlet to detail all of your passions. Rather, try to stick to 1 or 2 majors you want to pursue. If you do not assert a strong opinion or passion on 1 major it can lead to a broad and hard-to-follow response which may cause you to seem apathetic. So, dive in! Submerge yourself into one major and make sure your excitement shines through. You can always consider mentioning how another interest could become a minor or double major. 

    Also see: Should you double major or minor? 

    Final thoughts

    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! 

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    Frequently asked questions about writing a “why this major” essay

    Should I mention my career goals in the “why this major” essay?

    Yes! Be sure to discuss how your chosen major will help you achieve your goals and why it is important to you. Admissions committees want to see that your major choice is a stepping stone to your future success.

    How can I make my essay stand out?

    Be genuine in your response! Additionally, try to use descriptive storytelling rather than stating why you want to major in this subject. Add your own flair to your response and essay will stand out. 

    Is it ok to use the same “why this major” essay for multiple colleges?

    Yes and no. If you are given a similar “why this major” for multiple colleges, it can be extremely beneficial and time-efficient to reuse the essay. However, it is important that you are tweaking these responses to cater towards the specific school itself. You do not want to sound broad in your response because you want to demonstrate to the college that you have done your research and want to attend their institution!  Keep reading to learn more about using the same essay for multiple college apps.

    What are some common mistakes to avoid?

    Avoid being too generic or relying heavily on cliches. Rather, aim to make your essay personal and focused on your passion for the major.

    How can I demonstrate my dedication to the major if I haven’t taken relevant courses yet?

      If you haven’t had any experience within your major, mention your enthusiasm to take these classes in the future! Additionally, you can detail any projects or extracurricular activities that show your commitment.

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