How to Pick Your UT Austin Secondary Major

Table of Contents

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

Many students in Texas apply to UT Austin every year, content in the knowledge of their first choice major. When it comes to picking their secondary major though, confusion often ensues. How do secondary majors work? How much does your choice matter? Is there an optimal strategy for picking a secondary major?

In this article, we’ll explore how this choice impacts your admission to UT Austin, what it means for you, and how to pick the optimal secondary major. We know college admissions can be confusing, and hope that by explaining this small piece, we can give you one fewer thing to worry about. Let’s jump in!

It Mostly Doesn’t Matter

Surprise! It turns out that the second choice major does not impact admissions decisions 90% of the time for UT Austin. Generally speaking, either you are admitted into your first choice major, or you aren’t. There are a few circumstances where the second choice major does matter, but for the most part it isn’t considered at all.

So why do they ask?

You may rightly ask this question, after all, why bother asking for information if you aren’t going to use it? There are two answers. The first, and less satisfying, is bureaucratic inertia. The larger, older, and more established an organization is, the harder it is for anyone to change any aspect of the organization in any way, even if the change is an improvement, unless forced to do so by external circumstances. 

There was a time when the secondary major was an important part of UT Austin’s application process. Each applicant would be considered for their first choice major, and if not admitted their application would be shuffled over to their second choice option to be considered again. Then, if again they weren’t admitted, automatically admitted students would be admitted into Liberal Arts. 

Now, students who are automatically admitted generally only have their application considered for their first choice major, and if not selected for that, have their application immediately sent for consideration at the College of Liberal Arts. In spite of this change, reality has still not caught up with the application.

The second reason is that there are a small number of circumstances where a second choice major is still important and considered. Because of this, they make all students fill out a second choice major, whether or not it is relevant to them.

When it Matters

The first thing to note is that the second major only matters for automatically admitted students in most cases. We will specify when this is not true on a case-by-case basis, but generally speaking, if you are out-of-state, or an in-state student who does not qualify for automatic admission, a second choice major matters less. 


This is the largest and most notable exception. Cockrell admits by major, not just by school, so you are considered based on your qualifications as an engineer as a whole, and on your capability for your desired major within engineering. 

When applying to study engineering, you should have both your first and second choice majors within Cockrell, for whichever majors your background best positions you for. This will maximize your chances of gaining admission to the college in some capacity. This is true for out of state and non-automatic admits as well.

Honors Programs

For several honors programs, you need both the first and second choice major option in order to apply. This is notable for the combined business-computer science program, but is true of others as well. Generally, if you are applying to multiple honors programs, first and second choice majors matter more. 

The reason for this is that honors program admissions are handled entirely separately from regular admissions. This is different for different programs of course; you must gain admission to McCombs College of Business to be considered for business honors, but generally honors admissions are a separate track, and they have their own policies. 

This is true for all students applying to honors programs, as there is no such thing as “automatically admitted” when applying to these programs. Your grades and class rank do still matter, but unlike UT Austin as a whole, you cannot qualify for automatic admission through them.

Second Major Strategy

This only applies to students who are automatically admitted, though out-of-state students and non-automatic admits may apply it if they wish. This strategy is based on how UT Austin deals with automatic admits during admissions. 

For students who are automatically admitted, they are first considered for their first choice major, and examined for fitness. At UT Austin, admission is generally determined by school alone (with engineering being a notable exception). If they are not accepted into that major, most are sent to Undergraduates Studies (UGS) or the College of Liberal Arts. 

This means that choosing a second-choice major in the same school as your first choice is useless, but choosing one in UGS or Liberal Arts can give you an advantage. You may not end up with the major you want, but you can at least choose where you land. 

As an example, we recommend students who are applying to McCombs for business as their first choice major list Economics in Liberal Arts as their second choice. While this is a very different program, it will offer some of the same opportunities, and is also hard to transfer into once you are in college.

Not all majors have such an easy parallel, but you still can have some say in where you land within Liberal Arts and UGS. 

Should You Attend if You Don’t Get Your 1st Choice?

This is another common question we get from students, and it’s a reasonable one. Is it worth attending UT Austin if they didn’t get their first choice major, but instead ended up in a program they don’t much care for?

This is, of course, highly dependent upon your situation, but we will give some general advice. First, internal transfers between colleges at UT Austin are incredibly difficult, and you should think hard before deciding on this as your plan (we’ll likely cover this specifically in a future article).

You should consider other offers of admission you have received. Will any allow you to immediately begin studying your desired program? What are the costs, both real and opportunity of each? 

There is no shame in going to a safety school; that’s the entire point of having them on your list. You also don’t need to give up your dream school to do so; transferring is always an option.

If, however, UT Engineering or business is your top choice, then internal transfers are marginally easier than external transfers (though both are quite difficult). Therefore, we recommend attending UT Austin and applying for both internal and external transfer simultaneously in these cases. This ensures you will be able to study your chosen field somewhere, even if it isn’t your top choice school. Studying at a college you don’t prefer is still a better alternative than studying a subject you don’t care about.

Final Thoughts

The college application process is often needlessly complicated and convoluted, and UT Auston’s system of second choice majors is simply another part of that. While it does serve a legitimate purpose for some students, for most applicants it is merely a pointless and confusing garnish.

As the complexity of college applications increases, so too does the need for students to have a guide along the way. Just as a guide is needed to find a safe path through a treacherous stretch of terrain, a mentor can guide you through the pitfalls that litter the college application process, waiting to trip up the unwary. If you want to hear how we can help guide you through this process, schedule a free consultation today. We’ve helped hundreds of students get into their top schools, and we’re always happy to hear from you.

Need help with college admissions?

Download our "Guide to Everything," a 90-page PDF that covers everything you need to know about the college admission process.

More To Explore

College Applications

How to get Great Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation tell colleges who you are, and give them an expert perspective on who you are as a person and a scholar. Of


What Should Pre Meds Major In?

What major you should choose is a common concern for students, and even more of one for pre med students, due to the pressures of

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!