Considering Changing Your Major?

College is a time of change, discovery and exploration so it naturally follows that 6 out of every 9 students changes their major at least once.  For some it is easier than others.  For example, if you start out as a psychology major and switch to mechanical engineering mid-way through junior year, you will effectively be starting over.  Changing a major can be expensive and time-consuming so it’s worth weighing carefully but for some it is absolutely the right choice. Struggling through two years of coursework to get to a great career is one thing, but grinning and bearing it through poorly suited coursework to get to a mediocre career is a whole other ball game.  I tortured my upper-class friends in the months before I had to choose my major, ensnaring them with promises of Goldfish crackers and  Red Bull in my room, then plying them for advice on classes and majors.  Some gems that came out of my mouth during this period:

Maybe I should major in politics!  I hate politics and I can figure out exactly why it annoys me so much!

Who wants to sit around and think all day?  How is that useful?  I’d bet philosophy sucks.  You’re a phi major—does it suck?

I know, queen of tact over here.  Luckily my friends are not easily offended. I latched onto Art History early in the semester before I had to decide, sophomore fall.  One calendar week before declaring I saw a movie, Exit Through a Gift Shop that confirmed a nagging feeling in my stomach that I don’t really ‘believe’ in the value of learning to interpret art enough to devote two years of my time to it.  A similar experience can happen with almost any major, whether you realize a year into your pre-med courses that you’re going to be doing A LOT of unexciting memorization of the composition of things you can’t see, to discovering that pre-law comes with a lot of tedious reading and cutthroat competition at every stage in the game.  As much homework as I had put into researching my major, at the last minute I changed.  I consider myself lucky.  What if you don’t realize in time?  What facts should you consider?

  • Change in financial aid: There are specific scholarships and grants offered by colleges and universities for students who are enrolled in specific programs. If students are receiving one of these scholarships and change their major, they run the risk of losing the financial aid or receiving a smaller award.
  • Added time (read: expense) in school, costing in both credit hours and lost earning potential.
  • Unmatched skill set.  Are you struggling to pass the requirements for your major?  Many universities will give you an overall GPA and a departmental GPA that can hurt your resume in your field of choice.
  • Wasted credits.  Can you put those credits not applicable to the major you want to change to towards a minor?
  • Passion for the subject.  Warning flags you should be on the watch for: dreading classes that fulfill your major’s requirements, continually researching other majors, a nagging feeling that you’re not doing what you really want to do.
  • You fell into your major.  Did you pick the major because it was the path of least resistance?  i.e., your English classes came easily to you so you concluded that it would be good to be an English major.  This might not necessarily be the case, and the cause of that nagging feeling that you’re in the wrong major.
  • Career choices.  Are they too narrow?  Are you worried that your major isn’t what your future employers won’t be looking for? Consider that your choice in  major might not have as big an effect on future careers as you think, as the blurb below from Suite101 addresses.

“Before changing your major to increase your career potential,  find out if your major actually is incompatible with your career goals. . . instead of changing your major, you might just need to get someinternships in your field of interest. ” – Suite 101

It may mean some extra work at a busy time in your life, but considering your options carefully and doing some ‘homework’ on the topic can be a real game-changer (thank you election cycle of 2000 for making that a buzz word).  Best of luck and thanks for reading.

I’m reading Hole’s Human Anatomy and Physiology



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