back to Admissions Advice
06/27/2020 at 09:22PM[edited]

Will applying to a certain major affect my chancing in a university?

Hi! I am a Latino female interested in majoring in Astrophysics and Economics/Mathematical Economics. I'm determined to do a double major, but I know that several universities ask you to select one specific college or specific major when applying through the Common App.

For Tier 1 universities like Harvard, UPenn, Cornell, and Caltech, how would my chancing change if I applied for Astrophysics or Economics/Mathematical Economics?

After changing my intended major in College Vine from Economics to Applied Mathematics (because this is one of the ways to study Mathematical Economics) or to Astronomy and Astrophysics, my chancing jumped A LOT for universities like Cornell (37% to 70%) and Harvard (12% to 29%). Could this be a mistake?

NewYou earn karma when your answer is accepted or upvoted.

3 answers

06/28/2020 at 03:43PM

Personally I would not apply with a certain major JUST to “scheme” your way into a school or to bolster your chances, since then you really will have to either 1) significantly alter your course curriculum (which is messy) once you’re in college to make sure you get the required credits for your ACTUAL major and can graduate, and 2) will need to have a profile that is built around that in high school so you really need to decide NOW.

Considering that you want to double major this is a somewhat different circumstance but this just goes for anyone. Your major needs to be backed up with years of experience in extracurriculars, personal growth/involvement in organizations, thoughtful teacher recs, etc… so if you pick something “easy” or “less common” that doesn’t align with your profile you’re actually screwing yourself over.

I think that you need to focus on the major that you have the strongest profile in as of now (the one that your extracurriculars align most strongly with), not the one you have the “best chance” with. To be quite honest scheming your major will not double your chances at a school; that seems incredibly unrealistic to me. Since you really need to put thoughtful consideration, if you haven’t decided yet or don’t have a profile that screams one specific major to you, sit down and take some time to think about which one you enjoy more.

I will be honest Physics and Econ are still two common majors (STEM/Business) so really neither one will give you a huge advantage. You need to pick the major or create your profile to align with one another so you have a cohesive profile that shows you are committed, dedicated, and that you have extensive experience in what you want to apply as.

Accepted Answer
[🎤 AUTHOR]@RaTe06/28/2020 at 08:16PM

Thank you for replying. It's not for "scheming;" since I plan to do a double major, then really I am applying to work on both during my degree, no lies involved. As for the extracurriculars, I have some community service, some research in astrophysics, and not much in economics. It's actually a problem I've faced... Can you think of any ways to tailor new extracurriculars towards Mathematical Economics?

[🎤 AUTHOR]@RaTe06/28/2020 at 08:18PM

Sorry for the spamming, but from your response, I also felt like you were very familiar with what the process looks like after applying. Do you know how class selection works, or if the university automatically places you in classes? Do you know how this works for double majoring (eg. are you supposed to say you plan to double major before applying)? Thank you again, @crsgo0422!

@crsgo042206/28/2020 at 08:25PM

hi! i actually have no idea how class selection works but i know for most elite colleges you spend almost your entire year doing required classes based on the “school” (i.e. the college (lib arts), the school of business, school of engineering, etc etc) so for you i would assume you would need to spend twice as long. i really don’t know what double majoring is like at any school so you should write to an admissions officer or email someone at the college to ask about required classes specificall

@crsgo042206/28/2020 at 08:26PM

(2/3) y. i don’t know if you can apply as a double major. my recommendation is apply as an astrophysicist major, OR an econ major. pick one; it will be very very difficult for you to develop a world-class/compelling major TWICE versus only having to do it for one subject. math econ i am not familiar but you can join mathletes, an econ team if your school has one (if it doesn’t, see if you can start one), take ap econ (both micro and macro), take stats accounting or business classes, and join

@crsgo042206/28/2020 at 08:28PM

(3/3) the econ/finance club if your school has one (again, if it doesn’t try to start it). also see if you can start your own business or work for a local small business and work your way up to a leadership position such as a co-manager.

hope this helped, and please do choose the “accept answer” button which helps give me feedback!!

06/29/2020 at 10:49PM

The chancing jump you're seeing is likely the boost in chancing that women applying to STEM majors receive which is a significant boost at universities like the ones you're mentioning. It is quite real and reflected in the data that CV uses. Econ is a social science and won't provide that boost, but Applied Math, Astro, or any other STEM major will boost your chances in that way.

Another consideration here is whether the two majors you want are actually offered in the same college. For instance, if Astrophysics is only offered through a College of Engineering and Econ/Mathematical Econ is only offered through Arts & Sciences or Business, you likely would not be able to double major in them. You'd have to do a longer and more complex dual degree program. If they're in the same college, I would choose a major that fits your high school profile well (because your choice on the application is not binding), that is in the correct undergraduate college for the majors you ultimately want, and that fits under STEM so you can take advantage of that boost.

06/28/2020 at 04:49AM


The reason this may have occurred is because for several of these top schools which you're looking at, economics is an incredibly common major. Since it's such a popular pursuit at these traditional colleges, it's significantly more difficult to get in for in economics program. Therefore, your chances would be significantly higher in the other major you were thinking of.

Hope this helps! Best.