Interest-Major Fit

College majors have different academic cultures. Selecting a college major that is rewarding—that provides opportunities to do preferred activities and express one’s values—is an example of interest-major fit. While many students gravitate toward majors that fit their interests, many do not. This has important implications. Evidence is accumulating that the fit between students’ interests and their college major is important in understanding and predicting student outcomes. Research at ACT and elsewhere suggests that if students’ measured interests are similar to the interests of people in their chosen college majors, they will be more likely to:

  • remain in their major
  • persist in college
  • complete a college degree in a timely manner

Interest-major fit clearly benefits both students and the colleges they attend: students engaged in good-fit majors are more likely to stay in college, stay in their major, and finish sooner.

ACT’s Interest-Major Fit score is derived from two data elements that are collected during ACT registration: (1) the student’s ACT Interest Inventory scores and (2) the student’s intended major from a list of 294 college majors.

The Interest-Major Fit score used here measures the strength of the relationship between the student’s profile of ACT Interest Inventory scores and the profile of interests of students in a given major. Interest profiles for majors are based on a national sample of undergraduate students with a declared major and a GPA of at least 2.0. Major was determined in the third year for students in four-year colleges and in the second year for students in two-year colleges.

The Interest-Major Fit score ranges from 0–99, with values of 80 and higher indicating good fit, values between 60 and 79 indicating moderate fit, and values less than 60 indicating poor fit.

An Interest-Major Fit score can be calculated for only 281 of the 294 planned major alternatives. Planned majors for which an Interest-Major Fit score cannot be calculated are indicated by an asterisk on the List of College Majors and Occupational Choices.

Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by ACT Composite Score and Gender, 2013

  • Among the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who selected a planned major at the time of ACT registration, 36% selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests, and 32% selected a major that is a poor fit with their interests.
  • As ACT Composite score increases, so does the percentage of students who selected a major that is a good fit with their interests.
  • With the exception of students scoring in the range of 1–15 on the ACT Composite score scale, there are no appreciable differences in the shares of male and female students who selected a major that is a good fit with their interests.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by ACT Composite Score and Gender, 2013

Graph reads: 25% of females from the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 with an ACT Composite score in the range of 1–15 selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.

ACT Composite
Score Range
FemaleMale
1–1525%29%
16–1933%33%
20–2338%37%
24–2742%42%
28–3244%46%
33–3649%49%

Note: Based on 67% of the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who reported gender, selected a planned major when they registered for the ACT, and completed the ACT Interest Inventory.


Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by Parent Education Level and Gender, 2013

  • As parent education level increases, a greater percentage of students selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.
  • With the exception of students whose parents did not attend college, there are no appreciable gender differences in the share of students who selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.
  • Among those students whose parents did not attend college, a greater percentage of males than females selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by Parent Education Level and Gender, 2013

Graph reads: 38% of males from the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 whose parents earned a bachelor’s degree selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.

Parent Education LevelFemaleMale
No College31%34%
Some College35%36%
Bachelor’s Degree38%38%
Graduate Degree41%41%

Note: Based on 64% of the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who reported gender and parent education level, selected a planned major when they registered for the ACT, and completed the ACT Interest Inventory.


Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by Degree Plans and Gender, 2013

  • Among females, the percentage of students who have a planned major that is a good fit with their interests increases with the students’ degree plans.
  • Among males, students who planned to obtain a bachelor’s degree have the smallest share of students with a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.
  • For students planning to obtain either a bachelor’s or graduate degree, the percentage of ACT-tested students with good Interest-Major Fit is very similar for both males and females.
  • For students planning to obtain less than a bachelor’s degree, a substantially larger share of males than females selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by Degree Plans and Gender, 2013

Graph reads: 25% of females from the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who planned to earn less than a bachelor’s degree selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.

Degree PlansFemaleMale
Less Than Bachelor’s Degree25%39%
Bachelor’s Degree34%33%
Graduate Degree40%41%

Note: Based on 65% of the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who reported gender and degree plans, selected a planned major when they registered for the ACT, and completed the ACT Interest Inventory.


Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by Certainty of Planned Major Choice and Gender, 2013

  • As certainty of planned major choice increases, so does the percentage of students who selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.
  • Regardless of students’ level of certainty about their planned major choice, there are no appreciable gender differences in the share of students who selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by Certainty of Planned Major Choice and Gender, 2013

Graph reads: 39% of males from the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who were very sure of their planned major choice selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.

Certainty of Planned Major ChoiceFemaleMale
Not Sure32%33%
Fairly Sure35%36%
Very Sure38%39%

Note: Based on 67% of the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who reported gender, selected a planned major when they registered for the ACT, indicated their level of certainty of their choice of planned major, and completed the ACT Interest Inventory.


Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by Planned Major Area and Gender, 2013

  • The percentage of students who selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests varies considerably by their planned major area.
  • For both genders, large shares of students with planned majors in the areas of Biological and Physical Sciences; Visual and Performing Arts; and English and Foreign Languages have good Interest-Major Fit.
  • In contrast, relatively smaller shares of males or females with planned majors in the areas of Health Administration and Assisting; Community, Family, and Personal Services; and Area, Ethnic, and Multidisciplinary Studies have good Interest-Major Fit.
Chart showing Percent of ACT-Tested High School Graduates Who Have Good Interest-Major Fit by Planned Major Area and Gender, 2013

Graph reads: 30% of females from the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 in the area of Education selected a planned major that is a good fit with their interests.

Planned MajorFemaleMale
Sciences: Biological and Physical54%58%
Arts: Visual and Performing50%45%
English and Foreign Languages46%41%
Communications45%28%
Business39%37%
Health Sciences and Technologies35%37%
Repair, Production, and Construction32%58%
Philosophy, Religion, and Theology31%27%
Ag. and Natural Resources Conservation31%43%
Engineering31%37%
Education30%21%
Social Sciences and Law28%26%
Architecture24%22%
Computer Science and Mathematics23%30%
Health Administration and Assisting23%23%
Community, Family, and Personal Services23%20%
Engineering Technology and Drafting22%35%
Area, Ethnic, and Multidisciplinary Studies15%11%

Note: Based on 67% of the ACT-tested high school graduating class of 2013 who reported gender, selected a planned major when they registered for the ACT, and completed the ACT Interest Inventory.