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How to Write a Narrative Around the ‘Why Major’ Application Essay

Pick a key moment early in your interest

Keep it simple, but demonstrate your interest with details.

“When I was 10, my dad took me to watch a launch at Cape Canaveral. Until then, my only interest was in MCU movies and basketball, but when I watched the Space Shuttle soaring into the twilight skies under the explosive thrust of over a million pounds of fuel, I was transfixed. Right then, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: build spacecraft.”

Expand your narrative

How did you explore this interest? If you have limited space – and you will – you’ll need to keep this relatively short, so speed up your timeline by citing other key moments in the development of your interest.

“As soon as I got home, I started watching NASA videos. When I heard about Space Camp, I begged my parents to send me to Huntsville, Alabama until they finally gave in. By the time I reached middle school, I had outgrown solid-fuel Estes rockets and had turned my bedroom into what my mom called ‘a missile factory.’ ”

Expand again, but add an academic/research angle

It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, mind you. You needn’t have spent summers at MIT or Harvard, but you should be able to articulate and point to classes you took, projects you worked on, mentors that you sought out, or even self-directed research that broadened your specific interest into its field. This is what separates an academic interest from a casual interest.

“In high school, I spent my lunches with our Ms. Smith, our AP Physics teacher, who had worked at Boeing after studying mechanical engineering at Columbia. I had no idea that there was a college major for my passion. She lent me all of her old textbooks and I was hooked.”

Look to the future

This is where you tie your major to your career, dream, next step… in other words, your future.

“In pursuing a mechanical engineering major, I will be one step closer to …”

End your narrative with an appropriate flourish, if you’re comfortable with it:

If you developed a motif along the way, by all means, end with it. Either way, don’t just leave the reader hanging.

“I want to work as an innovator in my field, ideally as an engineer for NASA on their Martian habitat project. Although I may never walk on the moon like Neil Armstrong, I would love to aid in advancements that serve human progress, knowing that humanity’s biggest leaps have always started with one small step.”

Parting thoughts…

While there are lots of ways to write a “why major” essay, a simple narrative can show a trajectory that demonstrates progressive exploration, intellectual maturity and curiosity, and an actual passion for a field.

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t rip the prose from these examples and copy and paste things in: it’s bad form, lazy, and will lead to unpleasant outcomes.

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