Undecided in Admissions

A piece out this week in Psychology Today highlights the beauty of the liberal arts curriculum.

Not sure what you want to do with your life or even what you wish to study while in college? Thinking about writing “undecided” when asked your intended major on college applications? A piece out in Psychology Today by Daborah J. Cohan entitled “Why Undecided Is a Great College Major” shines a light on how it’s quite common for college students not to know what they wish to study — and to even change their minds multiple times during their college years. The piece also correctly focuses on how being undecided can lead students to explore fields they may never have even known about before. And the liberal arts curriculum, which is the curriculum at the vast majority of our nation’s elite universities, essentially helps facilitate this exploration.

The Liberal Arts Curriculum Allows Students to Explore

As Cohan writes in her piece, “Many students who already think they know what they want to major in wind up with a certain tunnel vision that doesn’t always serve them well in college and beyond. In their race to get their credentials to secure a job, they move through the college experience, checking things off the list. I have had more students like this than, truthfully, I would like. They’re busy checking off classes toward obtaining a prized piece of paper with no real attention paid to anything else about what college can be and what it can offer. And I see many students who enter college dead-set on one program, thinking that their lives will be over if they don’t, for example, gain entry in our nursing program. The reality is most won’t, and they will need to find alternative plans of study.”

But in Admissions, Undecided Can Hurt Big Time

In principle, we absolutely agree with Cohan. The liberal arts curriculum allows students to explore, to figure out the field they’re most interested in studying. But where Cohan goes wrong is in the admissions process. Students applying to highly selective colleges should not articulate they’re undecided. That would fly in the face of showcasing to admissions officers how they’re going to change the world in one super specific, often small way — which is a big part of Ivy Coach’s secret sauce and a big reason why our students so often earn admission to their dream schools. We always tell them early on in high school that when they get to college, they can change their mind. They can major in just about anything they’d like since they have that flexibility within a liberal arts curriculum. But when they’re applying, they’d be doing their applications a disservice to articulate that they’re undecided. Heck, it’s also why we’ll always suggest economics to a student interested in business. Because if they’re interested in business, they might very well be interested in economics and, this way, they’re not pigeonholed in a business school that may be harder to get into in the first place.

 
 

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