Throughout the course of my three years of college, I’ve changed my major around half a dozen times. I’ve gone through thinking I know what I want to do, making a plan for that career, looking into classes for my schedule, and then deciding that I don’t want to do it anymore more times than anyone’s probably willing to listen to me babble on about. It’s usually at the end of the semester that most people decide they want to change their major because by then, they have gotten a taste of a few classes for their current major and they’re in the process of deciding whether that taste is bitter or sweet. If you’re like me and you love feeling in control of everything, then feeling uncertain of your current major probably feels slightly troubling and even stressful. Plus, not knowing what you want to study anymore doesn’t really make for a great conversation at the dinner table with your parents… Fortunately, here’s how you can handle this in an organized and composed manner.
1. Ask yourself: Why do you want to change your major?
I don’t think that simply disliking one class or disliking one professor is enough to force someone out of a major. Disliking half the classes in the program, however, is another story. Every class is a lot of work, but the part of you that enjoys doing it is what makes it worth it. If you aren’t good at a subject, this may also be a reason to change your major. I started my freshman year as a Health Science major on the pre-med track because I thought I excelled at science and would be successful studying for a profession in health care. Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. I did decently in Chemistry, survived two semesters of math, struggled through two semesters of chem lab, and completely screwed up biology. I simply wasn’t as good at science and math as I thought I was and that made me miserable, but that’s okay. I feel like a lot of pressure on changing your major comes from the way your peers might perceive you for doing so. My school focuses heavily on math, science, engineering, and computer science, and it’s pretty easy to think that you’ll be considered “less smart” because non-science majors are “easy.” I say, give ’em the finger and move on. Your major isn’t supposed to ~impress~ anyone. Also, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN “EASY” MAJOR. Likewise, don’t feel like you need to switch to a major that’s considered more “prestigious” at your school. Bottom line, make sure you’re changing your major for the right reason.
2. Look for a major that shares some classes/pre-requisites with your current major.
One concern a lot of people have when trying to change their major is that they’ll basically be starting from scratch again. Looking into majors that also require one or two classes that you’ve already taken is a good way to not feel like you’re completely starting over. Maybe you took an intro level history course as per your school’s curriculum requirement and you want to start studying history. This is a good starting point when looking to change your major. But sometimes, we might make a change that’s COMPLETELY different and we have no choice but to start from scratch. This was totally the case with me when I declared journalism as my absolutely final major, but I’m glad I made the switch because (and this is going to sound totally sappy) I’m studying something I love.
3. Talk to people who are studying what you’re thinking of studying.
Ask them what they learn in the classes they’re taking, how they plan to use the major after graduation, etc. Of course, you probably shouldn’t let your decision ride on just one person’s thoughts so try to talk to as many people as you can to get an idea of what you can expect and see if this is a major you’re still interested in studying. Be on the lookout for ice cream socials and other events designed to get people in the major together. If you can attend, this is the perfect place to talk to multiple people!
4. If you aren’t sure about another major, declare it as a minor first.
I always tell people to dip their toes in it first by declaring it as a minor if they’re REALLY interested in the subject. From there, you can declare it as a major later on if you really want to, and you’ll already have a good chunk of the major completed. When I was in high school, I used to think that your minor HAD to be related to your major, but that’s not the case at all. You can be a Biology major and a Spanish minor; a Journalism major and an Art minor — I love that there are so many combinations!
5. Don’t compare your progress with anyone else’s.
This is super important when deciding that you want to change your major. Depending on when you decide to change your major and how much of the program you have to complete, you may be a bit behind. You may not be able to graduate in the time that you initially wanted to. You may also find that you need to take a winter or summer class to “catch up.” Let me tell you, even just one three-week class over the winter can make a huge difference, especially if it’s a pre-requisite for a lot of other future classes. Thinking about how ~that~ person is a sophomore taking 300-level classes, and how ~that other person~ is going to graduate early is only going to harm your progress. Focus on YOU and what YOU need to do.
6. Make an appointment with your advisor.
If you don’t yet know what major you want to switch to, see your advisor. He or she can talk you through what major might be a great fit for you. If you know what major you want to switch to, see the advisor of that department. They can determine which classes you can take over the winter or summer intersessions, if you need them. Advisors are really great for helping you see both the big picture and the little ones within the big one. They can tell you exactly which classes to take every semester until you graduate, and they can help you plan the best way to help you accommodate any minors or double majors, and other things that might come up. If you only decide to do one thing on this list, it has to be seeing an advisor! If you aren’t sure what questions to ask an advisor when you see one, here are some for you to jot down:
- Will I need to take a summer/winter class?
- Which classes in the program are available during the summer/winter?
- Are online classes available?
- Will I still be able to graduate in the time I expected?
- Are there any joint-degree programs available for this major?
- Does this major require any concentrations that I should be aware of?
- Is it possible for me to take pre-requisite classes as co-requisites with other classes?
That last one is my favorite question to ask my advisor because it helps me take as many classes as I can each semester. Of course, I always consider whether or not I can handle the course load before I do it. Another thing to consider discussing with your advisor would be waitlists. If there are closed classes that you need to take, make sure you can either get on the waiting list or have your advisor throw you in.
What are you studying in college? Have you ever changed your major?