The choice of a college major can often have an influence on the choice of a college. However, its important to make sure that the admissions process at each school on your list allows your student to have a fair chance at being accepted to both.

More than other colleges, large state universities have given names such as “capped,” “impacted,” “limited access,” and “restricted access” to majors that accept incoming freshmen, transfer students, or both. Sometimes, this information will be posted on the school’s admission page, along with any additional requirements, including higher grades and test scores, for acceptance into the major. But other times it might not, although the correct information might be in the university’s online course catalog. These practices give larger schools a bad name, but they are a consequence of limited resources, too few faculty or facilities to admit everyone who wants to study a popular subject.

While admissions officers are helpful, when asked, they also put responsibility on prospective students to know the requirements to get into their intended college major. Make sure that you check out the academic department information on their Web site and/or the catalog to get the correct information. Also make sure that your student is in a position to fulfill all of the admissions requirements for the major before the first day of college classes.

If your student is applying to the major directly from high school, consult your school counselor and your admission contact at each college to make sure that the high school courses and curriculum have been accepted before. If your student is transferring from a community college there could be an agreement between that school and the four-year college to accept specific courses, especially into majors such as Engineering and the health professions. However, while these agreements might list specifics, the four-year school may still limit the number of transfers into the major. They might raise the minimum GPA requirement when there are too many applicants who want in.

Some schools will offer “second choice” admissions. They allow those denied admission to their major to choose another, or take some preparatory classes to be admitted to the major later. Sometimes this practice will make the acceptance rates appear higher, attracting more applications from prospective students. I usually advise against taking a “second choice” offer when someone is seriously set on a college major that has limited or restricted access, especially when another school has offered an easier pathway into that major.

It’s quite tempting to choose a college based on considerations other than academics. That works fine for prospective students who are unsure about their exact college major, but have a few ideas of what it might be, all of which their chosen school can satisfy. But it does not work as well when a prospective student is considering a degree program such as business, engineering or the health professions where many required classes must be taken in sequence while access to the major is always difficult.

Need help considering college majors or making college lists? Contact me at or call me at 609-406-0062.

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