At the start of a new year and a new semester, your consideration of a change to your major is not terribly shocking. As many as half of all students will make this change at some point, and many more consider it but choose to press ahead in their current field of study in order to graduate “on time” minimizing their college expenses. Determining the right field of study can be a real challenge.
Thinking about changing your major? Join the crowd you are in the majority of college students. National statistics show that about three-quarters of all students change majors at some point during their college career.
What to consider before you change your major
1. WHY are you looking for the change?
Can you pinpoint what you don’t like about your old major? Is it different from your “going in” expectations or has your thinking evolved in terms of your interest? Are there any elements of it that you do like? If so, what? Were there any classes within that field of study that were of interest to you? Spending some time really thinking about what you liked and didn’t enjoy it will give you some clues as for the characteristics of a new major that might make it a better fit.
2. What impact will the change have upon your graduation timing (and related cost)?
College is expensive, VERY expensive. Do you understand the impact this move will have on your ability to graduate when you had expected to do so? There’s no requirement to take a job within your field of study, so can you finish college in your original major and still get a job in a related field that might be more appealing to you? For instance, with a degree in Engineering, you can sell technical products. This job will pay well, leverage your technical knowledge, yet be very different from actually practicing as an engineer.
3. Have you fully researched your new major?
Often, students are unhappy in a major, and just want to get out of it as quickly as possible. Because of that, they don’t always look before they leap. I’m fine with you changing majors once. I’m a bit less excited about you changing it twice, and at some point will suggest that you get your degree, get a year or two of work experience, and then consider a graduate degree in a field that you have now decided is your passion.
Given all this, make sure you understand the course requirements of a new major as well as the job prospects in that field before making the jump. Understand starting salaries and typical salary progression in that field. If at all possible, spend time shadowing professionals in that field to get as good an indication as possible as to whether or not it’s a fit for you.
4. What year are you in school?
If you are a senior it’s way too late to change your major in almost every case I can think of. Rather than change your major, pick up a double major, a minor, or an independent study with a professor in your new area of interest (assuming you can do this and still graduate on time). If you are a junior, proceed with caution heeding Pat’s advice. Sophomores you are best suited to change majors from a timing standpoint, but freshman beware. You only get one chance to change your major without looking like you’re fishing for your interests and abilities– – are you sure you want to use your free spin card so early?
5. How are you doing in your classes?
Your question doesn’t tell us whether your unhappiness is a result of not doing well in your current classes and/or other reasons. If you are failing out of your major, or are headed in that direction, then it might really be the right time to change majors. If you’re doing well, I’d strongly re-consider changing majors even if this major is not your heart’s desire. You can always branch out from a solid foundation into other areas without changing your major.
6. Are you unhappy with other aspects of your life right now?
You mention being unhappy with your major. Are you sure the problem is your major? I always discourage people from making major decisions from a place of anger or unhappiness. If you are unhappy with other thing going on in your life right now, changing your major won’t change your unhappiness. It may just introduce some of the other problems Pat mentions above.