Questions to Ask if You’re Changing Majors

changing majors

The spring semester will be coming to a close sooner than we know it. As finals loom and end of term projects are assigned, many students will begin to wonder if they’re pursuing the wrong dream. If you’re finding your core classes totally useless or experiencing utter success in other subjects, you might be considering whether changing majors is worthwhile. You’re not alone! Upwards of 75% of undergraduates change their major at least once between the time of enrollment and graduation. Before you do anything official, here are some questions to consider before changing majors next fall.

Will I graduate on time?

This definitely varies between students. If you’re changing majors going into your senior year, then you’ll likely have to delay graduation.  If you’re a first or second year student, then chances are you’ll be fine. Should changing your major result in more years of undergraduate schooling, consider taking on a preferred subject as a minor. This compromise allows you to enroll in courses that interest you without the burden of completing as many credits. However, do not make any changes without scheduling an appointment with your advisor. They are your most important tool in deciding if changing majors is the best move.

Does my major have to reflect what I want to do in life?

No, not necessarily! Although some undergraduate professional programs are designed to prepare you for a certain career, i.e. engineering programs, most majors aren’t great predictors of what you’re going to do in life. In fact, studies show that only about 27% of college graduates are in a career directly related to their major. Therefore, your major doesn’t lock you into a certain career path. Regardless, earning a college degree is an investment in your future, so invest wisely.  

But what if I want a career in something totally different? Will employers consider me?

Again, so many graduates have jobs in fields unrelated to their majors. Acquiring experience in the field you want to work in, along with taking related classes, will give you a foot in the door. For example, if you’re an English literature major but aspire to be a business analyst, take classes related to analytics or even consider minoring in it. Additionally, internships are a great way to gain experience in your desired field. By interning, you’ll also interact with professionals who can later serve as excellent contacts for networking. Having experience in your desired career field and a professional network to leverage will create more opportunities than majoring in particular subject.  

Is it okay to change majors because my current one is too hard?

Yes! It’s not a shameful thing to change your major if you’re struggling in your current one. Our success is dependent on so many factors including our passions and general personalities. Just because we’re struggling with something doesn’t make us incompetent or a failure. Additionally, changing majors does not mean you’re giving up. It actually means quite the opposite. It means you’re smart enough to identify areas you excel and struggle in. You’re also brave enough to make a choice that will ultimately make you happier and more successful. Though it can be scary, change often brings opportunity.

What if my parents get mad?

We all have to understand that our parents simply want what they believe is best for us. They want to see us succeed, avoiding the struggles they faced and realizing opportunities they never had. However, parents don’t always know what’s best for us. When talking to your parents about your decision to change majors, tell them all of the reasons why you’re making the decision. Explain why these reasons will be ultimately beneficial. Be honest and be understanding, even if they’re angry. Change is scary for everyone. In the end, it’s your life and your happiness. You will be the one living it each day.

When deciding whether or not to change majors, consider some of the questions listed above and then decide the right course of action. First and foremost, before making any major (pun intended) decisions, consult your advisor and other people who are connected with that field of study. Email professors and other students to make sure you have a good understanding of what to expect. But don’t let it stress you out too much! You can always change it again. Good luck!

The 411 on Graduating with Honors

If you decide that you would like to apply for your department’s honors program, it almost becomes like applying for college all over again.  You’ve been accepted to the school, chosen or applied for a departmental major, and taken many (or all) of the courses required to complete your degree.  However, if you’re like me and want to give that extra boost to your resume, while simultaneously exploring your area of study in your own way, take these guidelines into account.

Start Early

I came into my university knowing I wanted to major in Creative Writing, and that I wanted to write an Honors thesis my senior year.  However, that’s not the case for everyone.  Some students are double or triple-majors (depending on what your school allows) and might not have decided which program they would like to pursue a thesis in, if any.  Sometimes the programs that accept or reject your thesis proposal end up making the decision for you.

However, once you know you might be considering an honors project in at least one of your majors, you should make an appointment with your adviser and/or other faculty members in that department to discuss the application process.  If there is anything you can do as an underclassman to prepare and increase your chances when you apply, this will give you the ability to do so.  Sometimes departments have students begin their theses prior to senior year, so it’s a good idea to make sure you know when the deadlines to apply are.

Have a Good Idea of Your Project

When you meet with faculty members, show them that you’ve been thinking about possible projects.  This will demonstrate your seriousness in actually taking part in their program.  Most of the time the department’s faculty members are the ones who review all of the applications and make the final decision.  Make sure they know you’re serious.

Once You’re in the Program

 Stay focused.  When you’ve been accepted into one or more honors program, you can only choose one.  Also, while you may get class credit for your project, you might not always be sitting in a physical classroom.  Much of your work and research will be done on your own.  It’s important not to forget that you need to be working consistently on your own time.  This way, the bulk of your work won’t culminate at the end of the year.

Check in with Your Thesis Adviser

 Again, don’t wait until March or April when your defense is only weeks away to really get into the guts of your project.  Your thesis supervisor is your number one resource and you should be checking in with them at a consistent pace throughout the year (and the summer before, if applicable).  If you need assistance or have questions, ask them.

Understand the Possible Outcomes

 Cum Laude – Graduation with Honors

Magna Cum Laude – Graduation with High Honors

Summa Cum Laude – Graduation with Highest Honors

Depending on the institution, maintaining a certain GPA will allow you to graduate with honors as well.  However, sometimes for the higher levels, you must complete and successfully defend your thesis.  If you feel that you can take on the responsibility of completing an honors project, I highly recommend it.  It allows you to experiment with the skills you have attained and the subjects you have studied, taking it all to the next level.  Not to mention, it adds a punch to your graduate school and/or job applications.


 The most important element of pursuing an honors project is that it is something that interests you, and something that you think will be beneficial to you and others in the long run.



Choosing A Career: $$$ vs. Happiness

Choosing a career is one of the most important decisions you will make, leaving an indelible mark on who you are as a person and carving out possible futures for you.   We don’t often think of it in terms of real numbers, but your career choice can cost you a few hundred thousand dollars over the course of a lifetime.  What is the cost of choosing passion over high profits and vice versa?

broke monopoly manFirst let’s agree that everything has a cost.  Waking up in the morning costs me $12 on average.  $2 for coffee, $5 on gas, $6 on lunch and a $2.50 energy drink to get me through the afternoon slump.   That’s before I even leave work, so it cost me $12 to work today.  Such is life, and life without a sufficient amount of cash flow is stressful.  Ask Obama’s hair.

Furthermore, we have all heard it 1,000 times, we college students, about how the humanities are “fluffy”, a waste of time, and unmarketable.  We’ve also heard the counterarguments.  Humanities majors can write and think critically and synthesize information.  But let’s get real, most majors that involve following a passion involve a pay cut.  As the education level increases, the less likely it is that it will pay off.  A graduate student of philosophy, for example… need I say more?


On the flip side,  having more money has a cost associated with it as well.  Sometimes it costs you a passion, it will always cost more time, energy and relaxation with your significant other and friends.

I think of the progression I followed from elementary school (obsession with fame, MUST be known by everyone) to high school (huge un-channeled ambition to be a high-powered something) to the money-hungry days of my freshman year in college.  I had to be rich, not filthy rich, I’d settle for something in the millions of dollars in salary a year.  Not too much to ask, right?

Well, it’s not realistic for one, and even middle class wealth isn’t guaranteed anymore by attending college.  A study conducted by Princeton University found that “Although income is widely assumed to be a good measure of well-being, researchers found that its role is less significant than predicted and that people with higher incomes do not necessarily spend more time in more enjoyable ways.”  I think it’s fair to say that some people genuinely enjoy being workaholics, 80 hour work weeks, and pouring their purpose into their work. “Success” and $$ coexist in a 1:1 ratio for some people.  What if you’re not one of them?  Are you paying attention to that little voice in your head?

Is the lap of luxury a fallacy?

For me, I’ve realized that mid-level income is by no means mediocrity.  There is nothing mediocre about my life.  I’m surrounded by family that I love, I go to work every day to a job I enjoy, I feel accomplished when I leave, and I have spare time to hang out with friends, read a book or catch up on my favorite TV shows.

I have time to slow down when I want, time to hear my own thoughts. I smell the roses.  College is a totally crappy time to slow down and think.  What are the things you associate with the word college?  Drinking?  Stress?  Being poor?  It’s not a great time to slow down and think, but determining what makes you happy might be the most important thing you do in your college career.



I’m reading Life-Span Development

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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