What Does Undeclared Mean on a College Application?

Sometimes students are cautious about applying to a school undeclared or undecided because they are not really sure what it means by doing so and what impact it has on their acceptance chances. Checking undeclared or undecided on a college application simply means that you are not sure what you want to major in. “Undeclared” is not a specific major, it is just a notation that you have not yet decided which area of study you want to pursue. And, that is perfectly OK. I have probably said it a million times, but 80% of students change their major at least once in college. So, it’s OK to be undecided. Somewhere along the way, you will make a decision. Think of “undeclared” as a placeholder. You are applying without a specific degree in mind.

Does Applying Undeclared Mean Different Things at Different Schools?

Generally, everyone says “applying to college” but there is a difference between colleges and universities. And that difference impacts how you apply. When applying to a university, you may actually apply to a specific college within the university, such as the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Nursing or the School of Engineering. Typically when you apply to a specific college within a university, the school will ask you to select a major or an area of interest, and some programs may require that you do. Most colleges do not have separate colleges within the institution. And those smaller, private colleges tend to offer exploration time before a student even has to declare a major.

While you don’t need to declare a major for a specific college or school, just know that applying undeclared is not held against you in the application process. I would say for the most part my undecided students do just fine – and there’s a lot of them! But, some schools may limit your ability to move from undeclared into a specific major or program because they require students to start that program their freshman year or transferring may have specific minimum requirements and GPA in order to do so. Be sure to understand any major restrictions at the colleges to which you are applying before you check that undeclared box.

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