Bad Reasons to Change a College Major

You’ve just bombed another quiz. The topic you’ve picked for that research paper that’s hanging over your head seems like the dullest thing ever. And you can’t bear the thought of dragging yourself to hear boring old Professor So-and-so drone at 8 am tomorrow. Every term, when it comes time to choose your classes, you find the ones you want to take losing out to the ones you need to take. Is it time to change your major? Maybe… or maybe not. Here are a few signs that you should give your current major a second chance.

One failed quiz, or perhaps even one failed course, isn’t cause to give up on a major. Your high school gym teacher was right: most things that are worth doing aren’t easy. Think about the last difficult thing you learned to do: take snowboarding, for example. Looks awesome, right? You could learn to do that, right? Absolutely! But it’ll take a lot of work. And, unfortunately, a lot of bruises. Don’t let a couple of academic bruises keep you from following a dream.

Don’t give up until you’ve asked for help. Remember that snowboarding example? You don’t need to be great at something new right away, and there’s nothing wrong with asking an expert to take a look at what you’re doing and give you a few pointers. If you’re struggling in a class, go to the instructor’s office hours and ask for help. Consider joining a study group with other students in the class, or even hiring a tutor.

On the other hand, maybe it’s just that another major looks so much more… well, interesting! Beware the grass-is-greener phenomenon. Take a course— or better, two or three— in a major you’re considering before you commit to it. Make sure you really find the courses as fascinating as their blurbs in the catalog make them sound.

If you’ve reached your senior year before you find that perfect major, and it’s not the one you’re in, it may be better to stick with what you started until graduation, and then plan to explore your new interest in graduate school. Talk to a faculty member or adviser in the department of interest to see if this route makes sense. You may be able to get started now by adding the second field as a minor.

Some students are pressured into, or out of, majors by family or friends. Advice on majors and careers is great; it can really help to talk over your plans with people you trust. Just remember that you’re the one who has to actually take the classes, and it’s awfully hard to be good at something you hate.

It’s not uncommon for college students to take a year (or sometimes two or three) to figure out what they really want to study. Don’t be afraid to investigate a change of major; it can’t hurt to know your options. Talk it over with friends, family, faculty, and advisers. But beware of hasty decisions that can have frustrating (and expensive) consequences.