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Should I go to a school that doesn’t offer the major I want?

If your top-choice university doesn't offer the major you want to study, you may be asking yourself what to do.

Finding the right U.S. college or university involves weighing many factors, including cost, location and campus size. Another important factor to consider is a school’s academic programs. Many students find that their desired majors or areas of study are not offered by their top-choice universities. What should you do if you love a school’s campus, location, and financial aid package, but the major you want to study isn’t offered? You may ask yourself, “Should I go to a school that doesn’t offer the major I want?” We’ve put together some tips to help you decide what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

Consider alternative majors

If your top-choice university doesn’t offer the major you’re thinking of studying, first consider alternative majors that the school does offer. It is not uncommon for different schools to offer similar majors with different names. For example, a school might not offer a neuroscience major, but it may offer cognitive science or biopsychology.

Sometimes, these programs vary slightly in terms of courses offered, but other times they vary in name only. Research which majors are offered, and see whether any alternative areas of study appeal to you. If you are willing to be flexible, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover something new!

Design your own major

Many universities afford students the opportunity to design their own majors. Such programs have different names at different schools; Independent Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, and Individualized Studies are some common ones.

These programs usually have strict requirements and are not available to all students. For example, many schools require students to meet a minimum GPA threshold and to receive professors’ recommendations. Students also may have to work with an advisor to develop a proposal, which may require approval from a dean.

Students can meet with their advisers to design their own majors at some schools.

Some schools that allow students to design their own majors are Adelphi UniversityUniversity of Central Florida, and Florida International University.

Although designing a major requires some extra work, there are benefits. Students who design their own major enjoy increased flexibility and the opportunity to explore classes across multiple academic departments.

Go in undeclared

If your top-choice school doesn’t offer your desired major, another option is to enter school without declaring a major right away.

Many schools do not require students to declare majors until the end of their first or second year. There is no reason to rush yourself into declaring a major early on.

Many students place too much emphasis on declaring a specific major. In reality, your major may not be as important as you initially think. Some students pick a major because they think it will help them land a certain job or get into graduate school. For example, you might think that you need to major in business if you want to go to business school, or you might think that you need to study biology to get into medical school. This is not true. For instance, plenty of students study liberal arts and go into STEM fields. Your undergraduate major is a good starting point for your career, but very few careers require a specific undergraduate major. Entering college undeclared can afford you with greater flexibility and the opportunity to explore your interests.

Another reason to enter college undeclared is because it provides you with the opportunity to explore your interests. Students often change their majors several times before finally settling on one. As a student in high school, you may think you want to declare one major, but then you realize that it is not the best choice for you. You might take a few classes and decide that the major you originally wanted is not as great as you thought. Perhaps your interests change and you discover a new passion. It is a good thing to keep an open mind and be willing to try new majors.

Choose a different school

If you are absolutely sure you want to study a specific major, and a school doesn’t offer it or a comparable major, perhaps that school is not the best fit for you. In this case, you should consider other universities. You can check out our list of International-Friendly Universities to help you find a school that does offer the major you want.