It’s the middle of your first semester at college, and you’re just beginning to finally get a handle on things. You can navigate campus without a map, know where all the best venues are, and are finding the perfect balance between academics and social life. However, you still feel uneasy about one thing. When you were a naïve incoming freshman at orientation, you thought that Philosophy was right up your alley, so you decided to choose that as your major without giving it much second thought. Now that you are half-way through Nicomachean Ethics, however, you are really starting to rethink that original decision.
Changing your major can be a challenge, even in your first semester. It’s very important not to make a rushed decision, but to instead think carefully about the costs and benefits of such a dramatic change, especially if it is a radical shift between fields of study (going from sociology to mechanical engineering, for instance). There are two main points to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to change your major.
1) How Will Changing My Major Provide Tangible Benefits?
There are only two reasons you should change your major: a) because you absolutely hate what you are studying now or b) you will enjoy better career opportunities with the other major. As we will cover later, changing majors after your fall semester of sophomore year is a bad idea. If, however, you should find yourself in such a predicament, these two rules will save you thousands of dollars and a world of pain. If this list includes the reasons you have for changing your major, don’t do it:
- I like ____ better
- I don’t like math
- “x courses” are alright, but I think “y courses” would be better
- I don’t like the professors
- My friends all have ____ major
As mentioned above, the only excusable reasons for changing your major are if you absolutely hate what you are studying (not dislike; actually hate) or the other major will provide substantially better career opportunities. For instance, if you are driven to the point of tears while writing that philosophy essay because you can’t stand it, then you should probably consider changing. Or, if you are currently a history student but concerned that you won’t be able to make the amount of money you want to after graduating with a bachelors in history, it would make sense to look into a high-paying field such as information technology or electrical engineering. If you have any reason for changing your major besides these two, forget about it.
2) What Year Am I In?
While deciding to change majors, your first semester is usually not a big deal; however, it becomes increasingly less advantageous with each year that goes by. In your first four semesters at university, you are doing little related to your actual major, but instead fulfilling prerequisites and electives. However, once you start to approach your first junior semester, it becomes increasingly difficult to make such a change. The differences in prerequisites might make it impossible to graduate within four years, thus costing you tens of thousands of dollars more in tuition. On the other hand, however, if your major change stays within the college of your current major (such as the College of Arts and Sciences or the College of Engineering), you might still be able to make the switch with little to no adverse consequences. Make sure you thoroughly understand the prerequisites for each and talk with your academic advisor before you decide to make such a decision.
As a general rule, though, it is too late to change your major once you reach your spring semester of sophomore year. The best way to prevent the major change fiasco, however, is to simply make sure you have clear goals established by spring semester of your freshman year. Seek academic and financial counsel from trustworthy people who know what they’re talking about. If you have a clear vision for the future established, you will be able to avoid much financial and emotional pain and not have to go through the misery that those who lacked your foresight did.