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Capacity Constrained: Getting Rejected and Changing My Major

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Washington chapter.

When I first got to UW, I was fully intending to major in psychology as I wanted to become a therapist. But, within my first quarter I realized that while I am passionate about advocating for mental health, it’s not really what I want to do. My FIG leader was majoring in it and he spoke very highly of the program so, I took a class in it. I took LSJ 200 and it was honestly one of the best classes I’ve taken at UW as of yet. I knew that whatever I did as a career I wanted it to revolve around helping people, especially marginalized communities. So, I thought the best way to help people would be to provide legal counsel to those that our justice system has failed.


I decided to intend on majoring in LSJ. So, I took a couple more LSJ classes spring quarter when the pandemic first started and loved the professors and the environment the department provided. I was getting more and more excited about applying and this potentially being my major. I finally applied to the LSJ major last fall quarter and I wasn’t accepted.


When I saw I didn’t get accepted, my heart sank. I was in a work meeting when I opened it (the meeting was a social one okay, and no one really knows me well so, I was bored) and when I saw I didn’t get in I had to blink back some tears. After my work meeting ended I went into my living room and told my sister the news and let myself cry for a couple minutes. I was sad, and I needed to let myself feel it. Afterwards, I questioned why I didn’t get in as I have pretty good grades and so I assumed that it was probably my essay.


This summer was a hard one. I moved out for the first time completely on my own in a new city that I wasn’t familiar with, we were (and still are :/) in the middle of pandemic and  I was still largely dealing with the trauma from my sexual assault earlier in the year. I will not lie, I put off writing my essay to the last minute and, it probably showed. I was disappointed in myself of course as I felt like that was even more of a stab because I consider myself a somewhat mediocre writer and the one thing that prevented me from getting into my first choice of major was my writing.


I decided to set up an appointment with an advisor to find out why I didn’t get in to see if reapplying was even worth it. It turned out that it had been my essay that prevented me from getting accepted. The advisor told me that I should take more LSJ courses and reapply spring 2021. I was even more disheartened. I had taken more courses in the LSJ dept than recommended before even applying to the major and felt like I had followed the prompt at least pretty well. But, there was a clear option after that meeting: to not reapply.


Even before I applied to the LSJ major, I had already set sociology as my backup major as the running joke among students is peers transferring to other universities after not getting accepted into their major. An advisor suggested I choose sociology because of the study’s broad scope of topics and the analytical skills it develops, something my advisor really highlighted to choose in a major if I intended to go to law school. Not only was sociology an interesting topic to me already but, it was also a non-capacity constrained major.

Woman in bed surrounded by laptop and books
Photo by Windows from Unsplash
While I felt like a little bit of a failure for choosing to go for a major that was not as selective as LSJ, I had to remind myself that unlike other universities that just allow for students to declare their major, UW makes students go through a whole other process to apply to their intended field of study. UW has a wide variety of majors; some being capacity constrained. That means only a select amount of the applicants are selected into the major, versus non-capacity constrained majors that admit any student who fits the standard criteria.


During my appointment with an LSJ advisor, they suggested I just reapply after taking more courses stating, “after all, what’s the rush?” Well, there’s not a rush, I would just rather not keep giving money to an institution if I could avoid it. I wouldn’t be able to take any LSJ classes until spring quarter, since I wasn’t able to get into any winter quarter because courses were only open to majors in the department when I registered. This isn’t a stab at the LSJ department at all but rather a stab at the institution as a whole as they have implemented a system that has notoriously delayed student’s graduation plans and changed their intended field of study.


 Even if I do reapply, I’m not guaranteed getting in and since I did a year of running start, which gave me a graduation date a year sooner, I decided to not reapply. Partly because I know if I delay my graduation from anything before Spring 2022, my mom will not be pleased. But, also because I honestly don’t know if my career plans will change. Right now, I’m planning on attending law school after undergrad to work in nonprofits promoting social justice as an attorney. But, that’s what I think I want for myself right now. While I know the scope of what I want do will not change, there’s a chance I might not even need to go to law school. I might choose to instead get a master’s in social work, and a sociology degree could be of better use to me.


Either way, I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason. If I wasn’t accepted into my first choice of major, that’s okay. I’m not giving up, I’m simply leaving my opportunities more open by choosing a slightly broader degree. Plus, after weighing in the pros and cons given the UW’s major system, I’d rather just get a degree in sociology. I would graduate sooner versus waiting to reapply until fall 2022 and potentially delay my graduation. It’s not that I want to hurry up and finish because I want to get to the finish line and keep going, it’s that I want to take advantage of the free year of college I got in high school. 


Social media is filled with people posting the best version of themselves; the perfect version of ourselves we aspire to be 24/7. While it’s of course good to celebrate victories, we should also speak of people’s failures. Sometimes people don’t get into that dream school or their desired program, and that’s okay! But in having social media constantly making us feel as though we are alone in our attempts, we perpetuate the idea that we are failures if we do not succeed every time and this couldn’t be further from the truth.


Like I said, I think everything happens for a reason, so maybe LSJ and I were just not meant to happen and it is what it is. Besides, whatever I study for my undergraduate degree will likely still serve me to go into various other fields for grad school anyway. Ultimately, we all choose our own paths and we all go at our pace. I chose to just try to finish sooner rather than later so I can expand my learning from books to experience before choosing a grad program.

marina martinez

Washington '22

Marina is a senior at the UW and is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Writing. Marina is a Washington native and is passionate about all things social justice, defeating the patriarchy, and writing. In her free time, she loves binge-watching tv shows, scrolling through tik tok, thrift shopping and napping.