Writing the “Why Major” Essay: Reflecting On Your Past and Envisioning Your Future
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Writing the “Why Major” Essay: Reflecting On Your Past and Envisioning Your Future

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Writing the “Why Major” Essay: Reflecting On Your Past and Envisioning Your Future
Bex Ehrmann

    Many schools require students to write the “Why Major” essay. In this essay, you will articulate your motivation for pursuing a specific course of study and leave the reader with an understanding of the ways you can contribute to the school’s program. Whether you’re a future English major or an aspiring engineer, you’ll need to convey your passion and drive.

    Let’s start by taking a look at some Why Major essay prompts:
    • “Explain your interest in the major you selected and describe how you have recently explored or developed this interest, inside and/or outside the classroom. You may also explain how this major relates to your future career goals.” (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 300-400 words)
    • “Most Pomona students enter the College undecided about a major, or they change their minds about their prospective major by the time they graduate. Certainly we aren’t going to hold you to any of the choices you’ve made above. But please tell us why you’ve chosen the academic programs (or Undecided!) that you have listed.” (Pomona College, 250 words)
    • “What are your principal areas of academic interest? What are your career goals?” (University of Maryland – Baltimore County, 25-250 words)
    • “Most students choose their intended major or area of study based on a passion or inspiration that’s developed over time – what passion or inspiration led you to choose this area of study?” (Carnegie Mellon, 200 words)

    Each one of these prompts invites you to reflect on your past experiences and look ahead to the future. So before you begin writing, it’s helpful to spend some time reflecting. What are your motivations and aspirations? Can you think of your “origin” story within your field of interest? Perhaps you developed a passion for engineering after competing in Pinewood Derby. Or maybe you became interested in performance studies after getting hooked on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Think about the moment that sparked your interest, a moment that is unique to you, and you’ll have the start of a compelling Why Major essay.

    From there, you’ll want to show the reader how you fanned that first little spark into a flame. Keep in mind that most schools already require an activities list or résumé. You don’t need to summarize every relevant experience. Your essay will be much stronger if you focus on those that made a big impact on you. For example, if you are interested in majoring in journalism, you’ll be better off describing how writing a meaningful article for your school newspaper affected your goals than listing all the community events you’ve covered.

    Lastly, you’ll want to explain how you hope to further your knowledge in college. What are you especially curious about? Are there any skills you’ll need to acquire in order to pursue the career you dream of? The more specific you can be to the specific school’s major program, the better!

    While this article provides an overview of how to write a “Why Major” essay, you may find that the schools you’re applying to have stringent word limits. If you’re not able to hit on all these points, prioritize the experiences that best exhibit your passions and ambitions. If you’re applying as an undeclared student, you can focus on the experiences that have most excited your passion for learning. You will also want to discuss the majors you’re considering and demonstrate your intellectual curiosity.

    If you want more help getting started, you can sign up to use Prompt’s “Why Major” content module. This module is available to everyone, regardless of whether you plan to use our editing services or not. There, you’ll have access to additional brainstorming questions to help you develop a personal and engaging essay. After brainstorming, you’ll be able to view the prompts for the schools on your list and outline each of your essays. 

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