As with almost every topic associated with college planning these days, the answer to the question of "does my major hurt or help my chances of being admitted" can be frustrating. The answer is, well yes and no. Schools differ based on whether or not the program of study has limited enrollment. Some food for thought is below:
Course Access - Gaming the system by applying to a program that is not in your student's educational interests, so they can transfer into a preferred limited enrollment program later, can be difficult due to course access. For example, if a student applies to the less selective College of Agriculture to transfer into the School of Business, they may not be able to register for the pre-business courses required to transfer.
5th Year Cost - Access to courses can result in a 5th year which can make the in-state cost of attendance pricier than expected and perhaps on par with a private or out-of-state school that allows the student to enroll directly into their preferred program.
Minimum Grade Requirements - Students will need to perform well in their pre-courses to transfer. Added pressure to the already adjusting freshman might hinder the ability to successfully launch.
Alternative Areas of Focus - If a student has the option to select a Plan B major on their application, consider that Plan B major in a program that is not typically limited enrollment. For example:
If limited enrollment Business program - select Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences
If limited enrollment Engineering program - select Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences
Some resources that can help-
The University of Maryland limited enrollment programs as reported in the Common Application
College Kick Start is an excellent resource in which we invest that gathers acceptances by college/majors for schools that report. Click for an example of one of our many school lists and their admit rates based on the programs of study.