Does Your Undergraduate Major Matter for Graduate School?

When you’re an undergrad, it seems that every decision you make will impact the future of your career path. This makes choosing your major an even more nerve-wracking process than it should be.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Can a degree in English really keep me from going to medical school?”

The collective answer is “not really.” According to Indiana University, most graduate school programs accept candidates from 15 to 20 different majors each year.

Here are some factors to consider in choosing a major that will help prepare you for your future applications to graduate programs.

Choose something you’re good at.

Your major should be something that reflects both your interests and a subject that is important to you. Choose a field in which you’ll distinguish yourself, as this will open doors to internships, professional connections and leadership opportunities. Such experiences will make your grad school application stand out from the rest. You perform best when you are passionate about what you’re doing, so choose your major accordingly.

If a program favored by a certain major, they’d require it.

Don’t choose a major just because you believe it will look good to an admissions committee. Especially in recent years, grad programs generally don’t screen for any major in particular as they work through the applicant pool.

Admissions committees always consider your major as they look over your application; however, they do so in order to help them determine your skill set. Your best bet is to choose a major in which you can get a high GPA while balancing other commitments during your time as an undergrad.

The best major for you has flexibility.

The key to success during your college career is balance, especially with regard to planning your class schedule. You should choose a major with flexible requirements so that you can fit in any prerequisite courses that your graduate program of choice may have without overloading yourself. If you choose just one major, you can build the most robust, all-encompassing resume possible. By dedicating less time to required coursework, you can allocate more time to gathering relevant experience.

Think about developing soft skills rather than a major “title.”

What will you really get out of your major of choice? Graduate programs choose applicants that have skills such as communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking. As you choose your major, think about how you can develop these and other leadership skills throughout your undergraduate career. This will provide you with great qualities to showcase in your application.

Don’t overextend yourself.

As an undergraduate, admissions committees at graduate schools expect that you’ve been involved in a variety of activities. Internships, volunteering, and research opportunities are expected of you during your college years. Choosing a single major rather than a double degree or several minors leaves you with more time for these types of opportunities. A high GPA and a wide variety of experiences are more impressive to an admissions committee than multiple degrees.

Building your network is just as important as doing well in your classes.

Your college years are a great time to make connections, both in your field of choice and in your department. You have opportunities to interact with other students in your classes, professors through research opportunities and professionals at your internships.

Building and maintaining these relationships helps you to prepare for your career as you learn to navigate professional relationships. Many of these connections are also excellent options to write letters of recommendation to accompany your grad school applications.
Although it can’t hurt to choose a major that correlates to your grad school path, you can have just as much success applying to grad school with an unrelated Bachelor’s degree. If your experience and qualifications are the right fit for a program, you’ll be accepted regardless of your major.

The most important thing to remember is to gain experience, build meaningful connections and prepare yourself for your career.

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