Does your second choice major matter?
On Apply Texas, you are offered the options of a first and second choice major. In 98% of cases, UT will only consider your first choice. If you are in the pool for automatic admissions, and you are not selected for your first choice major, you will be given a short list of colleges/schools.
These are typically less selective ones like Liberal Arts, Undergraduate Studies (UGS), Education, or Social Work. If you do not qualify for automatic admission or are an out-of-state or international applicant and not chosen for your first major, you will most likely not gain admission.
Why do they offer a second choice if they don’t consider it?
The second choice is a historical relic. When I was leaving, there were rumblings of getting rid of it. It seems they are phasing it out. When I started at UT in Fall of 2011, we did use both choices.
For every applicant, if they did not receive their first choice, they were “cascaded” into their second choice. If they were competitive enough in that second applicant pool, applicants received their second choice. For those not strong enough for their second choice, they were “cascaded” a third time for consideration in UGS. For all automatically admitted applicants not given their first or second choice, they automatically received UGS. In practice, admissions considered your application a maximum of three times. Even under this system, more than 80% of successful applicants received their first choice.
Back then, I could reasonably and truthfully recommend that an applicant put, say, business or communications as their first choice and natural sciences or nursing as their second. The rule, now, is to craft your application under the assumption that admissions consider you only for your first choice.
A clear exception remains in the Cockrell School of Engineering. For engineering, they make decisions based on your choice of discipline. It is still recommended to select two engineering areas like chemical and petroleum, or mechanical and electrical, and so on.
As a rule, if you receive your second choice major at all, especially if you do not qualify for automatic admission, you got lucky.
Why did the system change?
Following many university-wide reforms related to four-year graduation rates, the admissions process aligned itself accordingly. Now, there is the important component of “fit” into your desired program. UT is only concerned about whether you fit into your first choice major and reviews your resume, essays, and academic record through this prism. They want students who are more likely to graduate on-time and less liable to change their minds when they arrive. Fairness aside, this is how it works.