Does Your Choice of Academic Concentration Affect Your Chance of Admission?

To all of those students who try to “game” the college admission process, one of the most controversial strategies is to choose your area of anticipated academic concentration in order to maximize your chance of admission. In other words, students choose academic interests based on what they think the school wants to see. If a school needs more math majors, the popular thinking is that you should apply as a math major regardless of your true interest or talent. The question is, “Is this a valid strategy?”

Whether or not choosing academic concentration is a valid admission strategy depends on a number of factors. There is no simple answer to this question. For example, at some colleges choice of major or academic interest can affect admission. If a large number of applications come in for a university’s business school or department, then competition is naturally fiercer for that school or department within that university. Would it make more sense for you to apply as a math major to Duke, for example, then to apply to Duke as a business major? The answer, as it turns out, is yes, with a big HOWEVER. However, no one aspect of an application is independent of another. And if you don’t think colleges know all the tricks that students try to pull in order to gain admission, well you had better think again!

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you decide to apply to University of Chicago and indicate that your preferred academic program is History, instead of your real interest which is computer science, simply because you feel you have a better chance of admission. You are probably correct that fewer students are applying with interest in history than in engineering. However, the University of Chicago admissions team is going to look at your application and see if it supports your indicated area of academic interest. If it is not, your application will be blackballed; in other words, they will see through your charade and realize you were just trying to game the system.  Case closed. You do not get in!

It is true that colleges try to recruit a balanced class. HOWEVER, they also understand that at least 60% of students change their mind once they get into college, so they do not use your anticipated area of academic focus as a true barometer. That being said, a “perfect candidate” for computer science will have less chance of admission than a “perfect candidate” for mathematics at schools that feature both majors.

If all this seems confusing, that is because gaming the system is not the right way, or the best way, to get into your dream school. The best way to earn admission to a competitive college is to be a great candidate, to have a strong academic record, great test scores, excellent recommendations, strong extracurricular activities, excellent communication skills, excellent interview skills, excellent writing skills, and to be an overall good person interested in the well-being of our planet and all the people who live on it.  Then, you truly deserve to be in one of the best colleges in America!

Neil Chyten

NC Global Education


1-833-888-6232 (Chinese)

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