Changing College Major

You’ve been putting off visiting your academic adviser. Halfway through your junior year of college, your grades are sagging, and you’ve started to dread going to class each morning. What ever happened to the excitement of your first year, when each new set of textbooks seemed like an opportunity to explore fascinating new worlds? These days, every time you take a trip to the bookstore, you find yourself in the wrong aisle entirely. Every subject seems interesting… except your major. Is it too late to make a change?

Does this situation sound familiar? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Some college students were pushed into a major by mom and dad, or simply by a shortage of imagination. Some find that the areas that seemed so fascinating when they were picking their first classes as new high-school graduates just don’t hold their interest once they’ve gotten a year or two into the prerequisites. Some students find that their interests and their aptitudes don’t line up as well as they’d like. And some students find opportunities they’d never known existed in the depths of a university catalogue.

All of these are excellent reasons for a change of major. Students often worry that changing a major is quitting, especially if they’ve had academic difficulties. The truth is, quite simply, that it’s easier to succeed at something that you like, and that you’re good at. It’s undeniably important to balance interests with economic reality—most students, like it or not, will be finding themselves on the job market when they graduate—but don’t forget that a major you hate is likely to lead to a job you hate.

The good news is that it’s almost never too late to change. Although it may be necessary to spend some extra time making up prerequisites and completing requirements, many students who change majors late in their college careers consider the extra time and money well spent. Visit an academic adviser to talk over your options. Be honest about your academic interests and challenges. Good advisers know that they’re not in the business of shoe-horning students into a particular major; they’re more interested in making sure that each student is in a program where he or she can succeed.

For students just starting out in college: it’s a good idea to take your school’s breadth or distributional requirements seriously. Treat them as possibly your best opportunity to learn about things you’d never get the chance to learn about otherwise. No matter how sure you are about your major and your intended career, it will only be to your benefit to add to your knowledge and your skill set. And who knows… maybe you’ll end up changing your major!