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Should I Switch Majors? How to Decide
Students who are deciding if they should switch majors face a difficult choice. Switching majors can have big implications for the rest of your college education, and your career afterwards. Additionally, upperclassmen may have difficulty completing their course requirements on-time. However, it can be an extremely rewarding choice that sets you on the path to pursue your interests. And students who switch majors are in good company; according to a study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, about 30% of undergraduate students switch their major at least once. In this article, we’ll go over all of the factors you should consider when switching.
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Are you interested in your current major?
Have you lost interest in your current major? If you are finding that your current studies are not rewarding, that’s a good sign it may be time to switch. This could come about for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the entry-level courses seemed more interesting than the advanced ones. Or maybe you feel as though the courses you’ve taken have reshaped your interests in a new direction.
For example, a student may decide to be a sociology major, but find their interest in the field is concentrated in politics. It could be that the social theory doesn’t really interest the student. This is a great sign that it’s a good idea to switch majors.
The same could be true of a much more dramatic shift. For example, a student may enroll as a biology major, but take an English course for diversification requirements. If the student falls in love with English and finds themself uninterested in biology, it’s a good sign to switch. You’re paying a lot for your education, and there’s no sense in continuing to put that money, time, and effort into a field that does not interest you.
Also see: Should I double major or minor?
Are you confident that your desired major is a good fit?
Before switching majors, ensure that you feel confident that your new major will be a good fit. You can help investigate this by talking to classmates, upperclassmen, graduates, and professors. You’ll also want to try to enroll in a variety of courses in the field. If you are considering switching majors but aren’t quite sure, you could try taking a half-and-half semester.
This would involve enrolling in less than your usual number of required courses for your current major. Fill some of these slots with classes for your potential new major. This way, you’ll get a better idea of your prospective field of study. If you don’t decide to switch, you won’t have fallen too far behind in your major.
What career implications might your decision have?
Switching majors has major effects on your remaining college experience, but you should also consider its effects on your post-graduate career. Average salaries in post-graduate positions vary widely by major. Some majors will show little difference in this department, however. For example, an anthropology major considering switching to sociology will not see their career opportunities shift dramatically. However, an English major considering switching to business could see dramatically higher salaries.
In addition to salaries, a change in major can impact your prospects for graduate school. For example, students thinking about attending med school should be very particular in their major selection. Med schools are very particular about undergraduate major requirements. Law schools, on the other hand, often accept students from a wide variety of majors.
Have you talked to graduates of both your current and desired majors?
Most colleges have strong alumni networks, so it’s not hard to get in touch with recent grads. Try speaking with someone in your school’s alumni or career office. You could also speak to a professor in the department you are interested in. They might be able to put you in touch with a recent alumnus who they think would be a good resource.
While professors and other professionals can be a great resource, there’s no substitute for talking to other students. By talking to a recent grad, you can get an idea of the potential fields of study within your department. You’ll hear a firsthand account of someone who went through the program. Additionally, you’ll hear how the program prepared them for post-graduate life and finding a job.
Related: Top 15 college majors for the future
Do you have relationships with professors in either department?
One of the most valuable resources in undergraduate education is the relationships you build. Especially for students who hope to continue in academia, relationships with teachers can be hugely influential. If you are considering switching majors, you should weigh any relationships you’ve formed with professors.
If you get along well with a professor in the field you are considering switching into, that’s a great reason to switch. Additionally, if you know of a professor who specializes in one of your interests in another department, reach out to them. See if there is potential for a relationship to form before you make your decision.
On the other hand, you may have already formed relationships with professors in your current major. That would be a good reason not to switch. Try speaking to these professors and tell them about your consideration of switching. They might be able to steer you in a direction to find satisfaction in your current major.
Will you have to take an extra year of college?
Some students will have to postpone graduation in order to switch majors. This could be caused by a variety of factors. If you are switching between majors with widely varying subject matters, you may have to graduate late. For example, an English major switching to biochemistry may not have completed any of the prerequisites. You’ll have a lot of catching up to do.
Another reason you may have to graduate late as a result of switching majors is your seniority. If you are a second-semester sophomore or above, you will be racing against the clock to complete requirements.
Regardless of your situation, make sure to speak thoroughly with your registrar and academic advisor before switching majors. Ensure that you know whether you will have to take extra time. If you will have to take extra time, speak with the financial aid office to see how that will impact your package. Many scholarships run out after four years, so you may be paying more for that extra time. Also be sure to consult anyone who helps you pay for college.
Let’s say you’re interested in a new major but you don’t want to give up your current one. Double majoring might be the right call for you. It can be very time-intensive and strenuous, but rewarding. Double majoring can help provide versatile career options post-graduate and give you a holistic education. But remember, there will be much more work. You’ll have less time for extracurriculars and might have to complete two senior capstones.
Have you considered adding a minor?
Sometimes, students may find a new interest in college, but be logistically unable to switch majors. Additionally, they could be split between two interests but unable to double major due to schedule constraints. A minor might be just what you’re looking for. Minoring in a subject allows you to add it to your degree without taking as many courses. It also excludes you from any senior capstone.
It’s worth noting that minoring in a subject will not bring about the same versatility in degree as majoring. Some employers will not be concerned with students’ minors, and grad schools may not accept them for admission. However, adding a minor to your degree can help you to stand out from the pack. For example, minoring in a foreign language would help you land jobs where a second language is a plus.
Making the decision
So, should you switch majors? When deciding whether to switch majors, there are a few big questions you should ask yourself. Here’s a summary of these questions:
- Are you interested in your current major?
- Are you confident that you’ll be interested in your intended new major?
- What career implications might the change bring?
- Have you spoken to graduates and other students in your current and prospective departments?
- Do you have relationships with professors in either department?
- Will you have to enroll in additional semesters to complete a new major?
- Will enrolling in additional semesters affect your financial aid, and are you able to pay?
- Have you considered double majoring?
- Have you considered adding a minor?
Good luck with your decision! And remember, many students go on to careers that vary drastically from their college major. While this decision is a big one, it’s not the end of the world. You can continue to shape your career as time goes on. And even if you don’t switch majors, you can enroll in courses from different fields.
Also see: How to pick a major