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10 Great Essay Writing Tips

how to write a major essay

Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.

Prepare to Answer the Question

Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.

how to write a major essay

Plan Your Essay

Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.

Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable

You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.

how to write a major essay

View It as a Conversation

Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.

how to write a major essay

Provide the Context in the Introduction

If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.

how to write a major essay

Explain What Needs to be Explained

Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.

how to write a major essay

Answer All the Questions

After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.

how to write a major essay

Stay Focused as You Write

Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.

how to write a major essay

Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread

When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.

how to write a major essay

Avoid Filling the Page with Words

A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.


how to write a major essay

How to Write the "Why this Major" College Essay

Why this major college essay

How to Write the Why Major Essay TABLE OF CONTENTS

Three “why major” essay examples.

Why Electrical Engineering?

Why Gender and Sexuality Studies?

Why neuroscience.

Tons of colleges require a supplemental essay that essentially asks, “Why do you want to major in what you want to major in?”

Two quick tips:

1. It’s worth spending some time on these essays to make sure your answer complements your personal statement. What do I mean? If your personal statement is all about business and your “Why Major” college essay is all about dance, admissions readers might be like, “Whaaaat?” So make sure they make sense together. Also,

2. Just because you pick a major for this essay, it doesn’t mean you 100% can’t change it later. In many cases, you can. (Important: This varies from school to school, so if you’re unsure, find out.) It can help to choose a major as a placeholder, though, as it makes this essay a LOT easier to write.

Okay, let’s check out some “Why this College Major” prompts:

What does a “Why this College Major” essay look like?

Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated earlier in this application? (You may share with us a skill or concept that you found challenging and rewarding to learn, or any experiences beyond coursework that may have broadened your interest.)

Or this: 

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? 

In short: Why do you want to study what you want to study?

A Brief, Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your “Why this Major” Essay

Step #1: Imagine a mini-movie of the moments that led you to your interest and create a simple, bullet point outline:

Why Biology?

Elementary school: Getting my first dinosaur toy and reading dinosaur books

Middle school: Visiting museums, seeing water under a microscope

High school: Doing online research, getting internship where we analyzed brainwaves and dissected a stingray

Step #2: Put your moments (aka the “scenes” of your mini-movie) in chronological order, as it’ll help you see how your interests developed. It also makes it easier to write transitions.

Pro Tip: If you’re writing a shorter essay (e.g., 100-150 words), try writing one scene per sentence. If you’re writing a medium-length (e.g., 250-300 word) essay, try one scene per short paragraph.

Step #3: Decide if you want to include a specific thesis that explicitly states your central argument—in this case what you want to study and why. This thesis can come at the beginning, middle, or end of your essay.

My decision to major in Electrical Engineering was inspired by my desire to improve security through technology. When I lived in Mexico, my father’s restaurant security system lacked the ability to protect our property from robbers, who would break in multiple times a year. Thanks to the influence of my cousin, who now studies Autonomous Systems, I developed an interest in electrical engineering. I am inspired to not only improve my father’s security system, but contributing to security innovations for larger companies and perhaps, one day, national security. (89 words)

Thesis: I want to improve security through technology

Robbers broke into dad’s restaurant

Cousin taught me about Autonomous Systems

In the future: work with large companies or on national security

Here’s a medium-length example with the thesis at the end:

My interest in Gender and Sexuality Studies was sparked in my eighth grade Civics class when we studied topics pertaining to sexual equality. I went into the class knowing I believed women had a right to make choices for their own bodies and that view remained the same, but I discovered the complexity of abortion debates. I challenged myself by thinking about the disparity between actual and potential personhood and the moral rights of unconscious lives. If pregnancy had the same consequences for men as it does women, how might the debate be different? Would this debate even exist?  A year later, I shadowed an OB/GYN at a nearby hospital. On my first shift, I watched an incarcerated woman receive a post-partum exam after giving birth in her cell toilet with just Advil, and the issues discussed in Civics suddenly became urgent and real. My school projects have often focused on reproductive rights. I’ve spent numerous hours delving into summaries of Supreme Court cases on abortion and contraception, and am even known as the “Tampon Fairy” at school because I frequently restock the school bathrooms with tampons and condoms.   I’m interested in exploring how Gender and Sexuality Studies connect to Public Health and Reproductive Biology, as well as Public Policy and Law. The interdisciplinary nature of this major will allow me to investigate many other areas of study and create a more nuanced understanding of how this particular field interacts with our world and society. (246 words)

Why Gender and Sexuality Studies:

Eighth grade Civics class conversations

Shadowing OB/GYN at a nearby hospital and seeing woman receive post-partum exam

Being the school “tampon fairy” (restocking school bathrooms with tampons and condoms)

School projects on reproductive rights

Thesis: name my major and briefly say why

You can also use a hook to grab your reader’s attention. Here’s a medium-length example that does this:

Imagine all the stars in the universe. The brain has a thousand times the number of synapses, making neurological errors a near certainty. I learned this fact firsthand as a 14 year-old, when I suffered from sleepless nights because of an uncomfortable, indescribable feeling in my leg. It took months of appointments and tests to be told it was a condition called cortical dysplasia. Even after the diagnosis, there is no cure. I am lucky. My condition does not severely affect my quality of life. However, I know this is not the case for everyone. After this experience, I took AP Biology and attended a neuroscience program, which reinforced the subject as my future calling. One of the most impactful lectures discussed the plight of healthcare in developing nations. Newborns with extreme neurological deficits are common, but finding treatments is not. Without prenatal care, this is becoming a growing epidemic, leaving millions of children helpless. With a degree in neuroscience, I will gain a strong understanding of neural tube development and neuronal migration in infants. I will then become a neurologist, specializing in pediatric care. I hope to work for humanitarian organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, in Africa, where HIV and polio are rampant, as are numerous other diseases.  Imagine the stars once more. From across the world, I will look at the same stars in the future, as I help children secure the ability to not only look at the stars, but do much more. (247 words)


Why Neuroscience:

Hook: Connect number of stars to number of connections in brain (and maybe mention cortical dysplasia)

AP Bio + neuroscience program: learning about healthcare in developing nations

Thesis: say why neuroscience (get specific) and what I’ll do with degree

Return to opening (stars) and look to future

What to Do If You’re Unsure of Your Major or Choosing “Undecided” on Your Application

Even if you’re unsure of your major, you might still research and select 1-3 areas of interest and describe how you became interested in each. If possible, say how the different fields connect. 

Fun fact: Two of the essay examples on this page were written by students who weren’t totally certain of their major. But you won’t be able to guess which ones they are.

How to Write Your “Why Major” Essay Using a Thematic Thread

The example below establishes in the first paragraph a thematic thread: storytelling . The second paragraph then explains how her particular major would take her storytelling to the next level.  Take a look:

Why Literary Arts or Modern Culture and Media?

My whole life, storytelling has shaped me. When I lived in London, my parents would read me The Lion King every night until I’d memorized the whole book. In elementary school, I would curl up in my bed, warm lamplight making my room golden, listening to my dad bring to life classics like Wilderness Champion and Tom Sawyer . Later, I found audio storytelling, laughing hysterically at Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me on the car ride to school and connecting to a radio network of humanity through This American Life . It wasn’t long before I got hooked on visual narratives, mesmerized by the cinematic intensity of Whiplash and the whimsical world of Moonrise Kingdom , alternate realities I could explore as if they were my own. By high school, I was creating my own array of stories through satirical school newspaper articles, analysis of mise-en-scene in film class, podcasting, and my own locally-broadcasted radio series. A concentration in the Literary Arts or Modern Culture and Media is the next step in my life of storytelling. The dynamic world of connection and vulnerability a well-told story can create is what continues to fascinate me. At Brown, I would explore how engaging narratives have been told in the past and can be innovated in the future through new digital platforms. Whether researching radio’s historical impact on public opinion during World War II or the Vietnam War, developing screenplays, producing my own documentary or learning from Writers-In-Residence, I hope to pioneer networks of connection. (250 words)

Part 1: Establish “storytelling” as thematic thread

Mom and dad reading me The Lion King before bed

Dad reading me Wilderness Champion and Tom Sawyer

Audio storytelling: Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me , This American Life

Visual storytelling: Whiplash, Moonrise Kingdom

Creating my own stories: school newspaper articles, film class analysis, podcasting, local radio series

Part 2: Why Literary Arts or Modern Culture and Media

Next step in my journey

Values: connection and vulnerability

Explore history of storytelling (past) + digital platforms (future)

Ways I might do this: studying impact of radio during wars, writing screenplays, producing a documentary, or learning from Writers-In-Residence

End on the theme of “connection,” to tie things together

What if a school asks you to describe your interest in several possible majors?

If writing a short (100-150 word) essay, perhaps describe one interest per sentence. If writing a medium-length (200-250 word) essay, try describing one interest per paragraph.

Here’s a short example, written by a student who listed on his application the following areas of interest: Computer Science and Mathematics; Computer Science and Psychology; Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Having attended college Physics classes every Saturday for a year, I’ve embraced the wisdom from centuries-old mathematics and the vast potential of computers, a realization I can honor by pursuing Computer Science and Mathematics. Much of my interest in AI lies in its basis in the human brain, which I can pursue in a Psychology concentration. And Electrical Engineering allows me to connect the virtual world with the physical, as I currently do in robotics. Yale will fuel my interdisciplinary interests that stem from my curiosity about connections between the materials and systems in the world around me. (98 words)

Final note: While this may feel pretty straightforward, that’s okay. Prioritize content over poetry when writing a short “Why Major” essay.




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how to write a major essay

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how to write a major essay

How to Write the “Why this Major” College Essay + Example

←Tips for Writing a Stand Out Community Service Essay

How to Write the “Why This Major” Essay If You’re Undecided→

The “Why This Major?” essay is a common prompt that nearly every college applicant will have to answer. In this post, we’ll be going over the purpose of this essay, examples of real prompts, sample responses, and expert tips for writing your own essay. If one of the colleges on your list asks you to respond to this prompt, you’ll be well-prepared after reading this post.

What is the “Why This Major” Essay?

In the college admissions process, you’ll need to submit two main types of essays: the personal statement and supplemental essays. The personal statement is your main application essay that goes to every school you apply to. The goal of this essay is to share more about who you are and your development.

On the other hand, s upplemental essays only go to specific schools, and each school requests their own essays. The goal of these essays is to showcase your fit with the school. Common prompts include “ Why This College? ”, “ Describe an Extracurricular ,” and “Why This Major?”.

As a supplemental essay, the “Why This Major?” prompt asks you to explain your interest in your intended major. Colleges want to understand your academic background, what your intellectual passions are, and what you plan to do professionally. It’s also meant to gauge your academic fit with the college, as you should also cover the school-specific resources that will help you achieve your goals. This prompt should actually be considered “Why This Major at This School?”.

Examples of “Why This Major?” Essay Prompts

Before we dive in, let’s first take a look at some real-life examples of these prompts.

For example, Yale requests that students write a supplemental essay based on the following prompt:

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 or fewer).

Similarly, Purdue asks applicants to write 100 words in response to the below statement:

“Briefly discuss your reasons for pursuing the major you have selected.”

Another top college, Carnegie Mellon requires students to discuss the evolution of their proposed field of study in 300 words:

“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?”

Finally, UPenn asks students to craft a slightly longer essay (300-450 words) explaining how they chose their major:

“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.”

“Why This Major?” Essay Example

To give you a better idea of what these essays should actually look like, here’s an example of a response to the “Why This Major?” prompt.

Prompt: If you are applying to the Pratt School of Engineering as a first year applicant, please discuss why you want to study engineering and why you would like to study at Duke (250 words).

One Christmas morning, when I was nine, I opened a snap circuit set from my grandmother. Although I had always loved math and science, I didn’t realize my passion for engineering until I spent the rest of winter break creating different circuits to power various lights, alarms, and sensors. Even after I outgrew the toy, I kept the set in my bedroom at home and knew I wanted to study engineering. Later, in a high school biology class, I learned that engineering didn’t only apply to circuits, but also to medical devices that could improve people’s quality of life. Biomedical engineering allows me to pursue my academic passions and help people at the same time.

Just as biology and engineering interact in biomedical engineering, I am fascinated by interdisciplinary research in my chosen career path. Duke offers unmatched resources, such as DUhatch and The Foundry, that will enrich my engineering education and help me practice creative problem-solving skills. The emphasis on entrepreneurship within these resources will also help me to make a helpful product. Duke’s Bass Connections program also interests me; I firmly believe that the most creative and necessary problem-solving comes by bringing people together from different backgrounds. Through this program, I can use my engineering education to solve complicated societal problems such as creating sustainable surgical tools for low-income countries. Along the way, I can learn alongside experts in the field. Duke’s openness and collaborative culture span across its academic disciplines, making Duke the best place for me to grow both as an engineer and as a social advocate.

This student does a great job of sharing how their interest in biomedical engineering developed. They begin the essay with an anecdote, which is more engaging and personal than simply stating “I want to study X major because…” The student also details how Duke specifically can help them achieve their goal of being an engineer and social advocate. It’s clear they’ve done their research, as they’re able to name resources at Duke, such as DUhatch, The Foundry, and the Bass Connections program.

Tips for Writing the “Why This Major?” Essay

Answering the “Why This Major?” essay prompt may seem like a difficult task. However, there are tips to help simplify the process and ensure your response addresses the question fully and effectively. Here are three steps for writing a standout essay about your major of choice:

1. Share how your academic interest developed. 

The first step in crafting an effective “Why This Major?” essay example is explaining your emotional resonance with the subject, and your background in it. While you might be tempted to write about your passion for the subject in flowery language, it’s better to share specific experiences that show how your interest developed. You should cover both the coursework that you’ve done and any relevant extracurricular experiences. If you have space, you can also add in the specific subtopics that interest you within the major (i.e. analyzing gender relations or racism within the broader topic of sociology).

You might also consider sharing a short anecdote related to your interest in the major. This is especially effective at the beginning of the essay, as telling a story will draw in the reader while providing context for your academic interest. For example, if you’re interested in attending Yale University to study English, you could start your essay by describing a childhood ritual in which you and your dad went to the library every Saturday. 

While anecdotes are effective components of a college essay, students should choose what details to include with care. The most impactful essays tell a story, so you should refrain from listing all of your extracurricular activities that relate to your chosen major. This is not a resume! Instead, find ways of connecting your initial anecdote with your desire to pursue your major. For example, perhaps your early experiences at the library led you to get a job at a local bookstore and organize author readings for the community.

2. Detail your reasoning and goals. 

It’s not enough to express your passion for a particular subject. You also want to describe your goals and explain how majoring in a field will help you achieve them. Perhaps your early experiences with authors inspired you to start a novel. You can further explain how majoring in English will enable you to study the great works of literature, thereby providing you with the background and foundation needed to find success as a writer. 

3. Explain your school choice. 

Finally, a “Why This Major?” essay should reveal how the college in question will help you achieve your goals. Your reasons should extend beyond “the college is highly ranked for this major,” and should dive into the curriculum, teaching methodology, and specific classes or resources.

For example, if you’re passionate about becoming a writer one day, take time to explain how Yale’s English program will set you on the road to success. Perhaps you’re interested in studying British greats through the famed Yale in London study abroad program. Or, maybe you plan on pursuing the Writing Concentration as a senior to further your creative writing skills. You could also mention a desire to take a particular course, study with a certain professor, or work on the school newspaper. Just be careful not to “name-drop” professors ⁠— only mention a specific faculty member if their work is actually highly-relevant to your interests. Otherwise, your interest will look disingenuous.

What to Do If You’re Undecided

Just because you haven’t decided on a concentration doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to writing the “Why This Major?” essay. If you’re still undecided, you can opt to write about 1-3 potential majors, while detailing how the school can help you meet your goals. For best results, include personal anecdotes about a few academic subjects or courses that have inspired you, and share some potential career paths stemming from them. For more tips, see our post on how to write the “Why this major?” essay if you’re undecided .

Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.

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how to write a major essay

Dr. Leslie Tucker

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How to Write a Unique and Memorable “Why This Major” Essay

Discover how to use impactful stories and create a “why this major” essay you’ll be proud of

how to write a major essay

The closer you get to your high school graduation, the more often people will ask you, “What are you going to study in college?” And colleges themselves are no exception. 

Many college and scholarship applications will ask you to write a “why this major” essay. Out of all the different courses of study you could choose, why are you deciding to be a (fill in the blank) major?

Maybe you’re confident in your college major choice , or maybe not. Either way, it can be difficult or frustrating to articulate your reasoning in an impactful college application essay. 

What do colleges want to learn from your “why this major” essay? What should you write about? If you’re choosing a popular major, how can you make your essay stand out? And how should you write the “why this major” essay if you’re undecided?

I promise you, once you adopt the right perspective for the “why this major” essay, you’ll find it’s surprisingly easy to write. 

Keep reading to discover how to approach and write a stand-out “why this major” essay—with minimal stress and maximized impact.

What is the purpose of the “why this major” essay

You might be wondering, why do college admissions officers care about your reasons for choosing a college major? And it’s a good question. If you understand what they’re trying to learn, you can write the perfect “why this major” essay.

So here’s why this specific college application essay is important to colleges. They want to know you’re thoughtfully considering and exploring your major options —using strong self-awareness, logic, and reasoning.

A “why this major” essay consisting of “my teacher told me to become a lawyer” doesn’t show much self-awareness or career exploration. 

In fact, a student with that response is likely to struggle when they realize how hard a law career is. They might even drop out of school, which is the last thing colleges want. So a weak “why this major” essay can actually be a red flag to college admissions officers.

On the other hand, colleges will be impressed if what you share in your “why this major” essay aligns with their institutional values. For instance, some colleges value social justice, some global connectedness, and still others scientific innovation.

So when you write your “why this major” essay, colleges will look at your reasoning and assess if you’re a good fit for their community and academic values.  

Here are a few examples of the “why this major” essay prompt:

The Common App

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Georgia Institute of Technology

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

University of Pennsylvania

How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania?

how to write a major essay

How to pick the best stories for your “why this major” essay

Your “why this major” essay should follow a specific structure, which is what makes writing it rather straightforward. All you need to do is include a few brief stories or anecdotes that illustrate highlights of your career exploration process.

Let’s get to brainstorming those stories. You’ll want to sit down at your computer and ask yourself a set of three questions. 

1. What was the first time you encountered this subject or career field?

If it’s a common career and you don’t recall your first encounter with it, zero in on when you first had the idea that you could pursue this career for yourself. 

2. How did you explore this career?

Write down whatever you did to learn about this career option. For instance, maybe you did some research online, took a specialized class at school, watched a few Youtube videos, or talked to someone in that field. You’ll want to pick one or two of the most meaningful activities from this list to include in your essay.

As a side note, if you haven’t done anything to explore your intended career yet, it’s not too late! Squeeze in some meaningful exploration before you come back to finish your “why this major” essay.

3. What was your “aha” moment when you decided this career is right for you?

What were you doing or learning when you became ready to commit to pursuing this career? What was the connection or realization? For instance, maybe you realized medicine is the perfect combination of science and helping people, so you decided to become a doctor.

Once you’ve identified your stories, you have the outline of your “why this major” essay. Not too hard, right?

What if I’m undecided about my college major?

It’s okay if you’re not ready to commit to a college major just yet. You’re not alone if you submit your applications with an undecided college major . But it can be a bit more tricky to write your “why this major” essay.

So if this is your situation, take a modified approach. Describe two or three areas of interest and why you’re considering them as possible career directions. Once again, you can use anecdotes of how you discovered and explored those options.

Then, you’ll want to discuss how you plan to explore your interests and potential careers while you’re in college. This will show admissions officers that you’re actively trying to determine your career direction.

how to write a major essay

How to write an impressive “why this major” essay

After selecting the right stories during your brainstorming session, you’re ready to weave them together into a cohesive narrative. Basically, you’re creating a new story—the story of your career exploration and decision-making.

To make this narrative extra memorable, bring your readers right into the action. Try to begin your “why this major” essay with a hook. Here’s an example.

My hand trembled slightly as I poured my chemical solution into the beaker. I had just witnessed most of my classmates fail to achieve the right reaction, but I desperately hoped I would succeed.

As I watched the liquid bubble and turn the right shade of blue, I thought to myself, “Am I actually good at this?”

Isn’t that essay introduction much more engaging than, “I first thought about becoming a chemist in chemistry class”? 

You’ll also notice this essay excerpt was vivid and illustrative—always a good college application essay tactic. 

Here are a few more dos and don’t for writing your “why this major” essay.

Don’t give a report about the major or career you’ve chosen. Your application readers don’t want to learn about the field of engineering. They want to learn about you!

Do create a clear thesis about what you want to study and why. You can include it in the beginning, middle, or end of your essay—wherever it fits best.

Don’t say, “I’m not sure what I want to study.” As I mentioned, share a few major options that interest you if you haven’t decided on a single one just yet.

Do think about the personal qualities you’re communicating through your stories. Do they demonstrate your problem-solving skills, determination, or natural curiosity?

Don’t write about a major the college doesn’t have. Make sure to do your research. If they don’t have your ideal major, find the closest one and explain how it can help you reach your dream career.

Do get specific about how the college can help you achieve your career goals. You might touch briefly on how you plan to make the most of their academic departments or campus resources. 

Above everything, remember that you’re sharing an important story about yourself. Make it as interesting and unique as you are!

Final thoughts about the “why this major” essay

Many students enjoy writing their “why this major” essays because it reminds them of why they’re so excited to study their chosen subject field. I hope working on this college application essay has the same effect on you!

After all, if you use the approach, brainstorming method, and writing tips I shared, creating a memorable “why this major” essay should be a breeze.

I’d love to hear from you! What stories are you planning to include in your “why this major” essay? Where are you feeling stuck? Drop a comment below to share.

how to write a major essay

Dr. Leslie Tucker College Consultant

how to write a major essay

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How to Write a Strong “Why Major” Essay | 2022-23

Brad Schiller

Brad Schiller

There’s a reason colleges ask why you’ve chosen your proposed major. It’s not to torture you. And it’s definitely not because they want to hear you muse philosophically about Math or whatever it is. 

Colleges ask “Why Major” to see how your academic (and extracurricular) interests match up with a particular field of study . In particular, the college wants to know if you’re likely to be an academic success in that subject at their school or in a particular program at that school. 

As college essay coaches , we know that if you write your Why Major answer with those goals in mind, you’ll boost your admissions chances. Even better, though this essay often scares students, if you follow our 3 steps below, it’s actually one of the easier ones to write. 

This article will show you exactly how to get it done. (We also have a guide on how to write every kind of supplemental essay .) 

Step 1: Brainstorm your academic interests 

Don’t stint time grokking with what your academic interests really are. This isn’t a Pixar movie — you don’t have just one, clearly defined passion that’s the throughline of your life. Your interests are emerging and they may be messy. You need to spend the time to figure them out.

The easiest way to brainstorm — has actually created a “Why Major” module in its free set of brainstorming tools. (You do need to create an account . Then it’s right there in our Dashboard.) 

The other way to brainstorm — if you want to do it on your own, here is a list of questions you should try to answer, whether in a word doc or on paper.

As you brainstorm, plan to come back to these questions a few times, giving yourself at least one break. And get another person’s opinion for an outside perspective (ex: your parents, a teacher, or an essay coach .) You’ll benefit from a little extra time thinking deeply on these issues. 

By the end, you should have the material to tell a strong story about why you’re genuinely interested in and have an aptitude for the major you’ve chosen. This will help reassure your reader that you’ll succeed majoring in this subject at their school. 

For example, your answers might be — 

A few things to note on these example answers:

Step 2: Research the school’s opportunities for your areas of study 

Sometimes, the prompt is specifically asking “Why this major at this school .” Cornell is one example. In that case, you need to show what your passion for this topic will look like on their campus. As with the “Why Us” essay , this involves researching the school and its programs. 

Even if the prompt doesn’t specifically ask about their campus, it’s a good idea to do some of this research. It shows your level of preparation and how seriously you’re taking this interest by investigating what’s out there. Also, it’s a fun and relatively easy task, so why not?

Try to answer these questions:

Again, the two example sentences above would be fine for an essay as-is. No need to make them fancier than what’s above: just plunk them together and you would have a great essay paragraph.

Also again, it’s basically impossible to decide which bullet answers which of the questions above — the questions’ only job is to get you dreaming about you, pursuing your favorite academic topic at this beautiful campus. 

Step 3: Put the 2 pieces together straightforwardly 

Often this essay tends to have a short word count. Therefore, you’re likely to be cutting a lot of the great brainstorming and research you’ve done. That’s okay because it means that what you’ll keep is only the very most compelling parts.

Focus now on the best specific, concrete examples of things you’ve done that prove success in the field. Then, briefly give specific, concrete examples of how you’ll engage with this field on campus by mentioning a class you might take, a professor you might study with, or a research opportunity you would like to pursue.

With your limited space, don’t worry about fine language or painting a vivid picture. Be as straightforward as you can. As we wrote above, the example sentences provided are plain and simple, but would work great for the Why Major essay. 

Finally: Get feedback 

Last but not least, seek out a second opinion from someone who understands what colleges are looking for in essays . You want to make sure what you’ve written is not only grammatically correct but, more importantly, that it shows off your potential to the fullest extent. 

More articles on’s admissions-boosting methods:

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how to write a major essay

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Writing the “Why This Major” Supplemental Essay


Many selective colleges use supplemental essay prompts as an opportunity to learn more about your specific areas of academic interest. Here are a few examples:

Example 1: 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)

Example 2: Carnegie Mellon University 

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

Example 3: University of Southern California

Describe how you plan to pursue your academic interests at USC. Please feel free to address your first and second choice major selections. (250 words)

Example 4: Tufts University 

It’s cool to love learning. What excites your intellectual curiosity? (150-200 words.)

While each prompt is slightly different, they share a similar focus. What are your intellectual interests? What specific college major interests you most and why? How did this interest develop? 

In some cases, colleges are factoring your choice of major into an admissions decision. In other cases, they may just be using this question as an avenue to learn more about  you. 

Consider these two brief examples:

Option A:   “I’ve always known that I wanted to help people, so my goal is to major in elementary education. I’ve selected this major because I hope to become a first-grade teacher.”

Option B: “ It was at the age of seven that I discovered my true calling in life when I invented a one-person game, which I lovingly named ‘School.’ In this game, I would line up my dolls and stuffed animals and teach them lessons, going so far as to attend to behavior modifications and provide individual academic support; after all, they were the students, and I was the teacher. Although I’m quite sure that my dolls grew tired of this childish game, my desire to lead a classroom has never wavered in the years that have elapsed since. It is for this reason that elementary education is my first choice of major.” 

Which writing gives you more insight into the applicant? Which is more memorable? Option A doesn’t tell us much about the reader, while Option B shares a vivid personal story and connects that directly with an area of academic interest.  

Here’s a little brainstorming strategy: 

Before you begin writing the “Why This Major” essay, briefly jot down words, ideas, or phrases in response to the following questions:

What are your strongest academic interests? (List as many as feel applicable.)

How did these interests develop? (So, you want to major in psychology? What is the origin of this interest? This origin story might be a rather ordinary series of life events or a major “aha” moment. Interests develop in all sorts of ways!)

How would this specific university contribute to your academic interests? If you want to major in marketing, that’s a great start, but there are hundreds of colleges that offer a marketing degree. Why study marketing at the University of Southern California? Do your research. Jot down the names of specific courses that are unique to the institution and not offered elsewhere. Learn more about the professors, their research, and any publications they’ve recently contributed to. Learn more about student-led organizations that correlate with your academic interests, such as the Consulting Club or Marketing Student Ambassadors.

What are your career interests and professional goals? How would this major help you work toward your goals? News flash: it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life! College is a great place to figure that out. However, if you do have career aspirations or other professional goals that link to your intended major, this is a great place to share them.

Let’s look at an example of a “Why This Major” essay, from a student who was accepted to Tufts University:

Music inspires my interest in engineering. Whenever I play with an ensemble, our common purpose is to decipher the complex emotions that underlie a piece of music, recreate those emotions with our instruments, and transfer them to the audience. This process of collective interpretation fills me with joy, but it also renders me desperately curious as to why music is so profoundly stirring.

The answer is simple: the laws of nature. To understand music theory is to understand acoustics, resonance, material science, and fluid dynamics. Engineering explains how various natural phenomena combine to create beauty. The interdisciplinary approach to education provided at the Tufts School of Engineering mirrors my personal approach to understanding the world.

Jumbo engineers enjoy a balanced education that emphasizes research while providing extraordinary liberal arts instruction. As such, Tufts alumni are better equipped to compete and lead in the modern global community. The flexibility of the engineering program will leave me ample time to explore my other passions, so I can pursue a BS in engineering in tandem with another major or minor in another area of interest. The School of Engineering also offers ABET-Accredited BS degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, should I choose to narrow my focus.

As a founding member and four-year president of the Edgemont Robotics Club, I would feel at home in the collaborative and competitive atmosphere of the Tufts Robotics Club. I hope to help bring home the fifth consecutive win at the Trinity College Fire Fighting Robot Contest!

Why did this essay work? 

· The writer gives us insight into who they are as an individual, drawing a unique connection between musical talents and intellectual interest in engineering. 

· The writer helps us understand how their academic interests developed.

· The writer shows us specifically how Tufts can contribute to their academic interests.

This all sounds great, but I have no idea what I want to major in! How should I respond to this prompt?

Feeling undecided about your intended major is normal. Many colleges allow students to enter as an “undecided major,” and many students who declare a major during the application process end up changing along the way. The important aspect of this writing supplement is  not  actually that you’re certain about your future major, but rather that you  have  academic interests and can articulate them. If you are unable to convey any interest in learning, college admissions officers may wonder why you’re applying to college in the first place. 

The “Why This Major” supplemental essay is the perfect opportunity to showcase your intellectual interests while adding a narrative about your personal journey that may be missing in other aspects of your application.

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Topher began working at Stanford University’s Career Planning & Placement Center in 1998. His career spans 30 years. At Santa Clara University, he managed Bay Area, Los Angeles and Texas territories where he recruited, evaluated, and admitted athletes, freshman, and transfer applicants. At Ohlone College in Fremont, he served as Interim Director of Admission and Records. Since 2011, he has worked in test prep and college consulting, providing guidance to families preparing their children for college.

Topher sees applicants as they are, then inspires and motivates them to step up and into their potential. His clients have enjoyed extraordinary success at institutions ranging from selective Ivies to renowned public universities.

Writing the “Why Us” Supplemental Essay

Writing on the topic of identity, diversity, belonging, & community.

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Virtual College Counselors

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How to Write a "Why This Major?" Essay in 4 Easy Steps!

how to write a major essay

In the world of writing supplemental college essays, two topics are particularly frustrating for students. At Virtual College Counselors, we call these two prompts the "Why College" and "Why Major" supplemental essays. Here are a couple of specific examples for each of these prompts:

"Why College"

Many students apply to the College of Charleston based on our location, size, reputation and the beauty of our campus (temperate year-round weather also comes up frequently). While these are all important considerations in choosing a college, why is the College of Charleston a particularly good match for you? - College of Charleston

Please describe why you are interested in attending Tulane University. - Tulane University

"Why Major"

Please share a bit more about your academic interests. What do you hope to study at CU Boulder? What has inspired your interests in this area? Or if you are undecided, what area(s) of study are you considering? Think about your prior/current coursework, extracurricular activities, work/volunteer experiences, future goals, or anything else that has shaped your interests. - University of Colorado Boulder

What academic areas are you interested in exploring in college? - Elon University

For this blog post, we're going to be focusing on the "Why Major" essay.

Table of Contents

Why a "Why Major" Essay?

The "why major" formula, other relevant blog posts.

I want to start this section with a brief quote from a blog written by our (awesome) intern:

" When you start applying to college, people will ask you what you want to do, what you want to major in, and where you want to be in four years. I don’t know whose idea it was to ask a 17-year-old such deep questions on a nearly daily basis. Some teenagers know exactly where they want to be, how they’re going to do it, and how to articulate it all back to an aunt they see every two years, but most don’t. Most teenagers have no idea what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Some of the most brilliant students I know still have no idea, and that needs to be okay . "

Why do I love this quote? Because no truer synopsis can be found of how most students respond when asked what they want to study. It's also a valid point. These students have been molded by our education system to keep their minds open: exposure to multiple foreign languages, taking five different core subjects instead of focusing on one specialization, etc. For the vast majority of students, this is the first time that same education system that made them think broadly will require them to narrow their prospects. It's only natural that a typical high schooler's response would have a vague combination of confusion, loss, and betrayal.

Well, let me assuage your fears by telling you that most students don't know what they want to major in and a large percentage of students will end up changing their major at least once. Don't think about the "Why Major" essay as an attempt to gaze into a crystal ball and predict the rest of your career, much less where you'll be in the next four years. Instead, think about what you're interested in now and let that be the guiding force. To be fair, some colleges will have very rigid academic structures and it can be very difficult to change majors even to related fields. That being said, many schools won't require a student to know their major upon admission and will have mechanism that allows students to change their major down the line. Some schools don't require a student to declare a major until the end of their second year and others might not have majors at all. The takeaway here is that the "Why Major" essay is not binding for most applications and students need to remember that as they develop their responses.

As a high school junior beginning the college search, I was convinced that I wanted to study Psychology. One semester later, I was dead set on pursuing a major in Japanese. Fast forward to the summer after high school graduation and I knew Sociology/Anthropology was the route for me. It wasn't until my first semester at college that I began to focus on my would-be major: International Studies-History. Even then, I remember several nights of anxiety and self-reflection about my choice of major and the fear of what that might mean for the future. I'm here to tell you that your major is important, but it is not the end all be all of decisions you will make. Take some time to poll the adults in your life and ask them a couple questions:

"What did you want to be when you grew up?"

"What was your favorite subject in high school?"

"Did you feel certain about your major when you started college?"

"Do you use your college major professionally?"

So, let's tie this back to the topic at hand: "Why a 'Why Major' Essay?" A "Why Major" essay serves as an opportunity for students to demonstrate their intellectual interests/curiosities and how they've engaged with those ideas. No one is asking you to predict the future or embellish your academic experiences (and if they are, you shouldn't attend that college). Be honest and authentic in your response, even if that means you're undecided in your major choice. Here are four steps to help you write your response in a way that provides all the nourishing information admission officers are looking for while remaining true to yourself and your interests.

In our "Why College" blog post, we mentioned that many students don't have a highly detailed or personal story about why they are interested in a college. While that is totally fine for the "Why College" essay, you'll need to provide a bit more insight for a "Why Major" response. Similar to a "Why College" response, any admission officer operating in good faith realizes that not every student is going to have a life-changing reason for wanting to major in a subject. Students are going to be expected to take some time and reflect on why they've chosen a subject and what that might mean for their time on a college campus. This is where the "Why Major" Formula comes in!

With this exercise, any student can create authentic, compelling, and easily repeatable responses to the "Why Major" prompt by answering four questions.

Step 1: How Did You Discover this Academic Interest?

The first and most important step of this response is actually answering the prompt, and more specifically, answering the "why?" What are some academic subjects you enjoy and why do you enjoy them? Even if you're unsure about majoring in that academic subject, fields of study that you enjoy are going to be the best place to start. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What is my favorite academic subject?

Is there a subject I am particularly good at?

If I could substitute my least favorite academic class with another of my favorite academic class, would I?

What is a topic that I find myself losing time learning about?

If I could create an academic class not offered at my school, what would it be?

After we have some academic subjects in mind, we can shift our thinking from "what subjects do I enjoy" to "why do I enjoy these subjects." This is where we can really start to uncover material for your response to the prompt. Once again, this response is less about predicting your future and more about demonstrating your intellectual curiosity and ability to explain it to other people. Once you have a subject in mind, start diving deeper into why you enjoy it. I'm going to offer a personal example from high school Sawyer:

Step 1 Example: High School Sawyer

Two of my favorite subjects are History and English (literature analysis preferred over grammar)

Is there a subject you are particularly good at?

I would echo my first response.

If you could substitute your least favorite academic class with another of your favorite academic class, would you?

In a heartbeat! Goodbye Math and hello to another History course. In particular, I'd love to look at the history of regions outside of the U.S.A. and Europe. Alternatively, I'd love to dive deeply into a specific historical element of modern culture, such as war portrayed in modern films.

What is a topic that you find yourself losing time learning about?

Anything about the history, culture, language, politics, etc. of Japan, Korea, and China.

If you could create an academic class not offered at your school, what would it be?

My high school did not offer many courses outside of the standard core courses and some electives. As a high schooler, I would have loved to have had an opportunity to learn an additional foreign language aside from French and Spanish. I also would have loved to see more pop culture-focused courses like History of World War 2 through Film or Philosophy through Graphic Novels .

If I had to choose a major from the answers to these questions, what would it be?

Some sort of History.

Why History?

I love discovering how we got to where we are. I'm interested in learning about the origins of systems and how those origins still impact us today.

I love telling stories, and few stories inspire as much awe as true stories. If you don't believe me, look at how many movies are marketed as "Based on a True Story." Let's take it a step further and look at one of my favorite pop culture influencers: The 1999 found footage film the Blair Witch Project. The actors played themselves, handouts were produced about them being missing persons, an amateur website was created, and there was even a partnered mockumentary with the Sci-fi Channel about the fictional legend of the Blair Witch and the three film students who went missing. That is an example of the power that stories grounded in reality have.

I enjoy creative writing, which includes a fair amount of worldbuilding. History provides fantastic insight and examples that can inspire the creation of fictional worlds grounded in reality.

I'm a big fan of "What if..." culture. What if George Washington hadn't stepped down as President? What if Japan hadn't bombed Pearl Harbor? What if the Cold War was no longer cold? What if 9/11 could have been avoided? What would our world look like today? I could happily spend all day discussing how the theoretical alteration of past events would impact our current reality.

I hold in high respect the concept that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. In science, we emphasize the scientific method as a way to observe, hypothesize, test, and draw conclusions for the next iteration. I hold a similar view with the study of history as a chance to observe, hypothesize, test, and draw conclusions for the next iteration of humanity.

Step 2: How Have You Pursued this Interest Outside of the Classroom?

One of the best ways to make your case for being interested in a major is through engagement and experience in a related field. Let's take a second and talk about one of the most popular majors across the country: Biology. Specifically, let's take a look at Biology majors who are following a Pre-Med track. Ask any admission counselor and they'll tell you plenty of tales about students who are determined to follow a pre-med track, and then go to medical school after graduation. Ask those same admission counselors about what happens next, and they'll probably talk about how many of those students choose another major by their second semester.

To be clear, I don't think that changing your major is a bad thing. In fact, if it were up to me, I would make every non-specialized college start their students as undecided. Nonetheless, this presents an interesting problem for many admission counselors in this country. At many schools, there are a limited number of seats for students to attend their school or a specific program they offer. So, if an admission counselor only has one spot in a pre-med program left and there are two applicants, what will make the difference? If an applicant can demonstrate that they have spent time in a medical setting through volunteering, job shadowing, or internships, then they have established themselves as a much safer choice for the college. After all, that student who has already spent time in a medical environment is much more likely to continue their academic and professional journey down that path.

Sure, this all sounds great in theory, but in reality, not every student has the opportunity to be immersed in a professional setting of their choosing. So how can students without professional opportunities or connections demonstrate their interest outside of the classroom? Here are a few suggestions that are applicable to the vast majority of high school students:

Volunteering :

You might not be able to land an internship or shadowing opportunity, but volunteering opportunities tend to be more plentiful. Even if the experience you have might not sound as glamorous, any experience in an interested subject is a major boon to the college application.

Multimedia Engagement :

Between podcasts, books, and documentaries (to name a few), there are a multitude of ways to engage with a subject that can fit a student’s financial constraints or busy schedule. Thanks to the widespread and rapid growth of the internet and technology, the barrier to finding and engaging with an interesting subject has never been lower.

Online Learning :

Thanks to technology, students can engage with several online learning platforms to expand or augment their high school education. One of the greatest benefits of this path is the flexibility offered to students. Many courses can be started at any time and are self-paced, allowing students to engage with the content as their schedule allows. Last, but certainly not least, many opportunities are reasonably priced, and some may even be completely free of charge.

Step 3: Why this Major at this College?

I’ll be the first to admit that not every school is going to having a compelling reason to study any particular major at their school. I took a lot of History courses in college and loved all of them. That being said, I was reading, analyzing, and synthesizing materials from books, articles, and primary sources. The tutelage of and conversations with my professors might have been unique, but a large part of my classroom learning experience would have remained the same elsewhere. The bottom line is that much of the classroom learning at college can be replicated across the board.

This isn’t to say that all classroom learning experiences in higher education are identical. Some colleges are going to offer very unique opportunities or majors for students. If you find a unique major, program, or academic emphasis, then it is worthwhile to include this in your response.

But what if you find a great college and can’t find anything unique or compelling about your major of interest? Well, I have two thoughts that might help you out:

Sometimes you might have to broaden your view in order to talk about why you're interested in a major at a specific college. What I mean is that you can start to look at departmental specialties or outcomes to see what how other students have fared at this college. You can also extrapolate some of your "Why College” talking points and apply them to your major. For example, if you are interested in a theater program, then the location of a school might play a large role in opportunities available outside of the classroom. Are you interested in marine biology? If so, then talk about the school’s proximity to an aquarium, zoo, wildlife preserve, or large body of water.

The good news is that not every prompt will specifically ask you why you are interested in a particular major at their college. If you can find compelling reasons, that’s awesome and I encourage you to include them regardless of the prompt’s phrasing. If the prompt doesn’t specifically ask you this question and you can’t find any compelling reasons, then focus on the other pieces of your response.

Step 4: What Are Some of Your Long-Term Goals?

The last piece of your response should be focused on your long-term goals . This doesn’t mean that you should know what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. Spoiler alert: very few people (even fewer students) know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives. As I said at the beginning of this blog, not knowing what to do with the rest of your life is normal and healthy . I am quite certain that I don’t have a functioning crystal ball, and neither does an admission officer, parent, or student.

While it’s okay to not know your future, it is not okay to not think about your future. Nothing you forecast about your future is binding and no one is going to rightly scold you for growing and changing as a person, academic, or professional. What is expected is that you are at least thinking about the future and assessing who you want to be, where you want to go, and how you will interact and engage with the world. Between kindergarten and 12th grade, I wanted to be a paleontologist, chef, actor, psychologist, FBI special agent, and member of the State Department (in that order). I am none of those things professionally (even if I still love fossils, bake excessively, and have been called dramatic on many occasions). The important part of the journey wasn’t becoming any of those things, it was thinking about what I was passionate about and how I could interact with the world. That’s what admissions officers are looking for, not a 100% guarantee of your future career for the remainder of your life. Be excited to learn and grow while keeping an open mind about the opportunities life will put along your path.

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how to write a major essay

With all my support,

Sawyer Earwood

Independent College Counselor

Co-Founder of Virtual College Counselors

[email protected]

how to write a major essay

Princeton College Consulting

how to write a major essay

how to write a major essay

how to write a major essay

How To Write The "Why Major" Essay

“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 straight forward, 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

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)

Your Objectives

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

How to Write the “Why Major” Essay

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. 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.

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.

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 the school doesn’t offer.

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.

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.

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.

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 next   Write Your Way Into College   cohort.  

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How to Answer the Why Major Essay: Tips for Success

Padya Paramita

September 27, 2022

how to write a major essay

There are certain common patterns in supplemental essay questions that you might recognize across different colleges. One of these is the why major essay . Colleges want to know why you’re passionate about the specific field you have indicated in wanting to study. To help guide you through the different types of the why major essay colleges ask, I’ve outlined some example prompts, tips for answering them, and included a couple of sample essays that can help you get the hang of this prompt.

Examples of the Why Major Essay

For prompts such as these, you must prioritize clarity and precision when explaining your interest and background that make you a strong candidate for your intended major, as well as detailed knowledge of the school and its programs. Some example why major essay questions are:

University of Illinois: Please provide an essay that explains why you chose your intended program of study. What interests you the most about this major? Please be specific - those evaluating these essays are highly interested in your response. If Undecided, what areas of study do you look forward to studying in college? [50-500 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 [Max. 250 words]

How to Answer the Why Major Essay

Start with an idea or a problem that you find most compelling within your intended field to show your unique approach to the discipline. Use your response to explain your academic interest—not your major. Your major should be determined by your interest, instead of your interest by your major. Connect your past experiences and academic activities to your interest. How did your intellectual curiosity develop out of your activities? Identify which major or program would best help you explore your interest before sitting down to write the essay and then explain why.

The Why School + Why Major

Sometimes, supplemental essay prompts may combine the “why school” and “why major” essay questions . An example of this is:

University of Michigan: Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests? [Required for all applicants; 550 word limit]

For prompts such as these, you must divide your essay into two parts. Admissions officers don’t just want to know why you’re applying to the university generally; they expect you to go into greater detail about the campus(es), school, and major you’ve picked. Think about what makes you excited to attend college on the campus you’re applying to. But, don’t just fixate on the location, because your main focus should be explaining why the particular university is the best institution to pursue your interests and goals, rather than the campus setting. Then dive into the major. Think about specific resources that are available within your chosen department that you can’t find elsewhere.

Notice that this type of essay should mainly cover academics. A university’s clubs and student organizations may make it an alluring place for you, but the question explicitly asks about your choice of study. Look through the website and think about what you can write that won’t be common in other students’ essays. Is there a professor whose research resonates with you? Would a particular psychology or sociology class perfectly fit in with your 10-year plan? Remember that admissions officers are trying to figure out why you’d make the most of your experience on campus. So, talk elaborately about how you would take advantage of the facilities and give them a sense of the ways in which you’d make a valuable addition to the classroom.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Answering the Why Major Essay

A Sample Why Major Essay

How you want to explore your academic interest at usc.

To explore questions of how predominantly male-programmed technology may perpetuate the gap in professional fields for women and minorities, I am eager to research under the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society and work on innovations that bridge together the gap in professional worlds. Finding support in the WiSE program, I look forward to bonding with women peers and mentors in STEM fields that have the same goal of increasing access in general.

I am further intrigued by the implications of cultural institutions of gender on the global language of business, drawing from my enlightening internship in China where I found myself subconsciously acting more demurely to fit in with the rooted Confucian society. Taking courses such as Women and Gender in China: Past and Present (EALC 375), I discover the automatic connotations and consequences being a woman has in different societies, knowledge I will keep closely as I pursue the Global Leadership Program in hopes of revisiting my reflections from my internship and building off of them.

From my experiences creating service programs in FBLA, I anticipate exploring social entrepreneurship under The Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab to tackle my concerns of access for women and minorities. From my experience tutoring low-income children on school subjects, I know that even the smallest impact makes a difference, and I am eager to tutor promising children in the TRIO Upward Bound Math-Science programs. To sum, from my experience at USC, I know how to translate classroom education into community and global engagement.

Hopefully, you’ve gained an insight into how to succeed with the why major essay ! Make sure you not only talk about what interests you about the subject because sometimes prompts might ask you why you might want to study the subject at their school specifically. Don’t rush either. Leave plenty of time for editing and, hopefully, you’ll write a captivating response. Good luck!

Tags : supplemental essay tips , how to choose a major , why major essay , why major

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How to Write a “Why This Major” Essay

how to write a 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: 

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: 

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

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