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Why It’s Totally Okay To Change Your Major and How To Make The Switch

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

One of the biggest parts of your college experience is choosing what you want to study for the next four years. Choosing a major can be one of the biggest decisions you make in your young adulthood.

However, let’s say you made a decision that you thought was a good idea but now are not exactly too fond of. You feel stuck and cornered, and you feel as though you made an irreversible choice.

Luckily, there is an option to switch your major to something you feel more comfortable studying. Is it worth switching your major? Is it too late to switch? 

The thought of the grass being greener on the other side can be enough to make you wonder and is daunting for students who are afraid to make that leap of faith. What if I do not like the major I decide to switch to? What if I do not expect it to be the way it truly is? What if changing majors is a mistake? 

There are many pitfalls to consider when deciding to switch majors. However, with the proper evaluation, switching majors is definitely not a mistake.

In fact, more than 80% of students decide to switch majors, and of those who do not, more than half of graduates would change their majors if they could go back. Students who do change their major may even do so two or three times in their college career!

The pressure behind switching a major can be enough to prevent you from doing so. By debunking the myths and scares of major switches, you can be informed to make a decision you will be happy with. 

Is it bad to switch your major? 

Absolutely not. Contrary to the belief of someone being too indecisive or unprepared for college if they decide to switch majors, switching your major can actually be a sign of character development.

College is a transformative experience. While you are changing, so are your aspirations and interests. If you have decided that a major switch is for you, then this decision is not of poor judgment. Switching majors may mean that you have gotten more in touch with who you are and what you like to do. 

When originally making a decision on which major you wanted to study, remember you made this decision between the measly ages of 17 and 19 years – years where your brain hasn’t even been fully developed!

Attending college at the start is a great way to expose yourself to outside opportunities in which you may have had a limited view from where you grew up, and this may help you discover what you truly want to do. A major switch is a positive sign of growth development and a positive change in perspective of a pathway.

This time in college is not meant to be a straight road, and you’ll take many different paths before you find the path that is for you. 

What are the cons to switching majors?

Time. And. Money. While universities try to make major switches a simple and easy procedure, it may not always be so.

Depending on when in your college career you switch majors, you may be putting yourself in a position where taking extra semesters is necessary to graduate. Not only will this require extra time out of your life plans but this will also cost extra tuition money.

Having a plan before you switch majors is crucial in the switch process.

If you want the opportunity of graduating with some of your peers, you may want to consider taking summer and winter courses. There are many benefits to taking courses outside of the typical semester load, even more than simply graduating sooner.

You will also want to create a financial plan on how you will afford the extra semesters to graduate with a different major. If you were on scholarship, make sure you check your scholarship requirements, as many scholarships only cover a typical four year curriculum.

Search within and outside of your university for more scholarship options, some which are offered in your new desired career field. Make sure you are also talking to your academic advisor about your career goals, current major, and intentions to switch majors before making the leap.

While this decision is yours, it is not a decision to take lightly and does not need to be made alone. Seeking support and consultation is important.

However, never let these obstacles affect your decision to switch. If you have evaluated yourself enough to know that a major switch is for you, then take the precautionary steps to do so in a safe manner. 

Why should I switch majors?

Being unhappy in your current major is the most common reason and is definitely a reason to switch altogether. Unhappiness in your area of study can stem from a number of different reasons.

Soul searching is crucial when you are trying to evaluate whether or not the major is for you. Oftentimes, people choose their majors based on what makes the people around them happy, whether it be family, friends, coaches, or teachers.

Never force yourself into a major you don’t like. You should keep in mind that it is possible to get into a career that’s different from your major. But, if you aren’t enjoying what you’re learning about, it’s time to shake it up.

Not being happy can stem from academic struggles in your major. If you are struggling in many of your major’s core subjects, (I say this in a helpful way), the major may simply just not sit right with you.

If you are not genuinely curious to learn about common subjects within your major, it is time for a change. While it is not realistic to be excited for every single class, you should still be excited to make advancements in your progress.

If you find yourself always dreading your next class, ask yourself why. Are you studying something that you actually don’t enjoy as much as you thought you would? If so, it’s time to look into other options.

Likewise, finding out your major isn’t a match is more than losing passion for it. If you feel as though you’ve come to a dead end with what you were learning about, then maybe it’s time for that change.

Not enough challenge leads to boredom and boredom leads to a lack of motivation, which is needed to push forward in your learning. The moment you stop pushing yourself, the less progress you will make, and the less you will learn.

Before considering switching majors because of boredom, try and discover a greater calling within that major by taking some extra classes. For example, if you are bored with your psychology major, try taking some forensics classes (more science courses) and consider pursuing forensic psychology.

NEVER pick a job because you think it would make someone else happy, and never pick your major this way either. If you chose your major and ignored your other passions to pursue it, it is time to reflect.

Were you the creative in high school but told you would never make it? Maybe your parents pressured you into getting a degree in business when you were way more passionate about film. If you force yourself to be someone you aren’t, you won’t ever find that balance in your life.

However, it could be the other way around as well. Maybe you picked a major you thought was your match before you found out what your true calling was. Remember: you are never “supposed” to be good at anything. Study something that truly reflects who you are and who you aspire to be.

Here’s an interesting take: internships may determine whether switching majors is for you, too! Internships are pre-work conditions and you can best assess your career in a major you’re pursuing based on your experience with an internship.

When you put what you are learning into practice in the real world, how does it truly make you feel? How good are you at applying your skills to real life opportunities? Getting career experience in your field of study is the best way to assess whether or not what you were studying is the proper fit for you.

If you’ve had internships or other work experience that have left you drained and begging for change, maybe it’s time to try something different. After all, forcing yourself to work a job you do not want to work will decrease your productivity and make your career experience miserable.

From different on-campus jobs to clubs to sports teams and other organizations, attending college is where you will find your niche. You might find your niche so much so that you discover a hidden talent you would rather pursue than your current major.

While I thought my passion was with music, which is my current major, I also developed a great passion for military forces when joining the ROTC program at my university. Due to this exposure, I have now switched career aspirations and would now like to serve after college and am looking to switch majors based on these new revelations.

Maybe you too have discovered something you’ve fallen in love with along the way that you want to make your primary area of study. If that is the case, figure out if it’s a hobby or a career path for you. If it’s a hobby, don’t change your major. If you see it as a potential career for you, make that change!

If you are curious about a certain field, research your university’s options to get a step closer to exploring that field. Immerse yourself in different types of environments and don’t hold yourself back from exploring different options.

Sometimes, you just have to listen to the little voice inside of you that’s hinting at what you should do. If something isn’t feeling ‘right’ with your major, or you feel like you are on the wrong track for your future, don’t just ignore it.

Listen to it and determine if it’s just typical fears and stress or if it’s a legitimate calling to make a major shift in your direction. Even if you can’t exactly pinpoint why, not everything in life needs an explanation.

If your only reason for changing your major is “I want to,” then that’s okay. However, speak about it with your academic advisor. They can often guide you to learn why you do not like your major. Just make sure it is truly because you feel uneasy and not because you are afraid of the commitment to your current major.

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How do I switch majors?

Before switching majors, you should take the time to evaluate why you want to switch to that major. Reflecting and evaluating is the first step to switching your major.

Write out pros and cons of your current major and pros and cons of switching majors. Later, evaluate if the pros of switching a major outweigh the pros of keeping your current one.

If you were unhappy with the way your overall university teaches your major but you have not lost passion for the subject, then perhaps a school to school transfer is more for you. If you like the overall subject but don’t like your specific concentration, then research a different concentration or take up a minor that is more specific to your interests.

Next, choose the major you actually want to pursue. While this may seem like a silly step, oftentimes you want to switch your major but you don’t exactly know what you want to switch it to. If you are not sure which major to pick, it’s time to go back to the basics.

Find activities that are more suited to your interests. Research your university’s opportunities to connect with different organizations on campus such as involvement fairs or career fairs. Reflect on your current hobbies to find your major.

Perhaps the problem is that you do not think your interests can land you into a valid career which could not be more wrong. Perhaps you are interested in baseball. While you may not be able to major in baseball, analyze different aspects of baseball that makes it into the sport you know and love today.

There are people who study the exercise science behind what makes a good baseball player. There are people who go out and referee the games. For professional baseball, there are people who market tournaments and professional league games. All of these careers involve the sport you know and love.

If you are having a tough time choosing a hobby you really enjoy, try out something you think you will hate. Yes, that’s right!

While you think you will hate it and have zero interest in pursuing it, remember we tend to know very little about the things we think we do not enjoy. While it seems counterproductive to explore these options in majors and careers, push past that initial aversion and learn something new about those seemingly “sticky” degrees.

Maybe you will find passion in earning that engineering degree you thought you did not want. You can eventually find that some programs which seem boring can actually be interesting while also leading to versatile degrees.

For example, with an accounting degree you will be needed in most companies and jobs around the world. While certain aspects of the job may seem boring, you will be given a lot more opportunities and responsibilities to make the job more interesting than it may initially seem.

If all else fails and you need a quick way to explore new college major options, the “dartboard method” is your go to. Invest in a dartboard (which can’t be more than five dollars), tape each major of interest to each of the sections, and then toss a dart to see where it lands.

Wherever your dart lands, take the next week to research it. Look up what your college offers with that major and compare and contrast with other universities of interest. Look into what potential job options you would have if you chose this major.

Once you have truly gone in depth to look into the major, either remove the option from your list of potential interests or add it to your top priorities. Then start the process again. By breaking the wall in starting something new, you’ll be on your first step to choosing a new college major. 

Once you have a potential new college major, the next step is meeting with your academic advisor. Academic advisors are there to not only help guide your course of study but also provide a help with studying and are willing to help if you’re feeling lost.

If you were planning on switching majors, your academic advisor can be your biggest supporter. Look into your advisors’ open office hours to make an appointment to touch base with your advisor on switching majors. Be open and honest with your advisor as to why you were thinking about switching majors, regardless of your reason for doing so.

Make sure you are prepared before meeting with your academic advisor with all necessary materials. Know your student ID and password and have easy access to your student portal or other means of accessing your schedule.

Prepare a four year plan including a rough outline of which classes you will take in the semesters you were enrolled. Having this plan prepared for your academic advisor will make their life easier in understanding your plan and will help you get on track to your major switch faster.

Make sure to bring a list of questions that you have and do your research. Academic advisors have many responsibilities outside of meeting with their students so make sure the time you have with your academic advisor is useful.

By taking this active role in your education, your academic advisor will see that you are serious about your major switch. Also, make sure you start this process early. You do not want to meet with your academic advisor about switching majors two weeks before the start of a new semester.

A major switch can require a separate application process which needs time to complete. Make sure you’re meeting with your academic advisor as soon as possible to discuss any requirements you need to switch your major. 

The next step is reviewing any academic requirements needed to switch your major. With more drastic major changes, a new major may also require a switch in department or even college within your university.

Some colleges even require the same admission requirements as outside students for seeking acceptance into the school for a transfer. For this reason, it is completely possible that you may not be admitted into your new major even though you were currently a student at the college.

Make sure you are reviewing any GPA or class requirements needed to switch your major. For example, if you are switching to a major in finance, a class requirement may be a 101 course in economics. If you are switching to an arts major, an audition or portfolio may be required before you’re even considered for admission.

Make sure you are preparing for these academic requirements ahead of time. If you are denied admission into your desired new major, do not give up. Take the next semester to raise your grades and take the classes you need to reapply. 

The last step is submitting all paperwork needed to switch your major. This process may be lengthy so remember to start as soon as you decide to switch your major.

The process to change your major differs from university to university but your application will likely need to be approved by the department chair or college dean of your new major. Once all of your paperwork is submitted, all you can do is sit back and wait for the results.

If you are denied the major switch don’t worry, take the time to see any faults in your application and try again the following semester. With the semester you are “losing,” do not treat it as a loss. There is no shame in taking up that time to get closer to your desired degree.

When should I switch my major?

The simple answer is you should start the process of switching your major as soon as you decide you want to. The sooner you start the process of switching your major, the more time and money you may save.

It is never a bad time to switch your major even if you are a senior in college. This is because the first two years of college will probably be all or most of your general education requirements, such as your writing and math courses. These are more likely to work for multiple major requirements.

The longer you wait, the harder it may eventually be because of the specialized classes you will be taking in your later college years that may not apply to your new major.

You may lose credits you’ve already earned if they are not applicable to the major you were changing into, and you may need to take additional required classes to fulfill your new major requirements.

The best time to change your major is in or immediately after your first year. Make sure you complete the semester or full school year to be sure of your decision.

However, even if you do not fall during this time, it may just require a little more help and support. 

If you have evaluated a major switch and have seen it is not for you, you can always take up a minor. A minor will require core requirements needed for that major without the extra elective courses.

Many students decide to take a minor that has nothing to do with the current major specifically because they want to explore separate interests and open doors for themselves.

If you are nearly finished completing your bachelor’s degree in a major you did not initially want to study and decide that another couple of semesters is not for you, that is all right as well. Completing a bachelor’s degree for a field you do not want to work in can be compensated by pursuing a Master’s degree in a field you do want to work in.

In many cases, obtaining a master’s degree that is unrelated to a bachelor’s degree is possible. While it may take extra steps to initially qualify, shifting your academic concentration for your master’s degree can be done.

Many schools anticipate students’ careers and interests changing as they grow. If you want to take this path, showing deep interest as well as real life experience can make you a qualifying and competitive candidate for a graduate school spot.

Also take the time to research any exams you may need to take to be accepted into the graduate program of your choice. The possibilities are limitless. For example, a friend of mine who majored in musical composition studied for her MCAT on the side. With a few science courses and an application she was accepted into nursing school with a music bachelor’s degree.

It is never too late to decide what you want to do with your career. Therefore,  if you want to finish your initial degree, even if it’s not on a subject you wanted to study, you can always pursue a master’s degree later.

Once you have switched your major, enjoy it. You worked hard to make the change you wanted to see in your life. Take advantage of the opportunities your new major offers you.

Research internships in the field, participate in extracurricular activities that involve subjects in your major, and take the time to learn and get to know your professors. Remember, if this new major is not for you, there’s always an opportunity to change! 

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