If you’re like millions of college students, you have wondered whether or not you’re in the right major. Some estimate upward of 85% of college students change their major at least once during their academic journey. This can be a scary and stressful process.
One of my favorite tales of a student and their incongruent major comes from a friend in Arkansas. He sat with a new student who proclaimed her desire to major in Aquatic Biology. Awesome, right? As a good advisor, he asked the important next question, where might she want to move after she graduates? She proclaimed that she didn’t have any intention of leaving home and wanted to pursue her field right there in Arkansas, the “Land of Opportunity.”
The takeaway from this story is pretty straightforward- the student had a deep love for her major. But why? If she has no intention to relocate to a coastal location, how realistic are her career options? Whose "script" is she pursuing?
To help you ensure you are ready to make the switch, here are three questions you should ask yourself:
1. Will I be more satisfied with a new major?
This is important because students often fall out of love with their current major because of one bad experience. Maybe your first business professor ruined your notion of being an entrepreneur or you bombed your first engineering exam. Take a moment to make sure that you are not reacting to a bump in the road. If you determine that you would be happier and more satisfied in a new major, then you should explore it!
2. How will a change impact my graduation options?
Timing is everything when it comes to the switch. If you are in your final year of college, I suggest that you graduate rather than changing your major. Find out if your switch will set you back in terms of credits and consider the fact that it may prolong your academic journey. For example, if you are in your senior year of engineering and think that philosophy sounds more appealing, I can almost guarantee that you are extending your undergraduate experience by at least a year. Don’t wait to change- first year changes will have far few ripples than those that come in years two, three, four, etc.
3. Will my new major change my career options?
It is important that reality drives your decision. Will your new major help or harm your career prospects? While this shouldn’t be the only question, you should consider it. Trust me, it’s important to know what the future could hold.
Finally, a quick note to those who are currently undecided in their major- it is time to choose. I don’t care which major your pick, but pick something. Failing to decide is a decision. It is illogical, if not impossible, to graduate with an undeclared major. Besides, what are the career options for undecided students?
I hope that these questions help you in your process—more than anything, you should realize that you aren’t alone in questioning if you have chosen the right path. Think about those questions, seek assistance from an advisor, and choose wisely. Above all, don’t major in Aquatic Biology if you want to live in Arkansas. Don’t let idealism trump realism!