Majors are a tricky thing. They can be labels and definitions. How many times have you raised an eyebrow when someone tells you his or her major is underwater basket weaving? How many family members or friends have raised an eyebrow at your major? Majors are what we tell the world we consider important enough to develop careers in — right?
The stress of choosing a major starts pretty early. Many people choose their schools based on what majors it offers. But what happens when they discover that major is not for them? Then they’re stuck at a school that specializes in that one field of study.
What about the major you start the school year with? Freshman, no, college students in general, are notorious for changing majors as often as they change shoes. I remember telling my mom what I was thinking about majoring in when I started looking at colleges during my sophomore year of high school. She waved away my musings with a nonchalant “Don’t worry about it now; you’ll change your major a hundred times.”
I remember at the time hating that thought. I am the type of person that likes to have a direction and a goal to work for. I don’t need complete control or structure, but I would like a general idea of what’s going to happen. The thought of starting college without a path scared me and I was determined not to be that student.
Not that there’s anything wrong with going into school without an idea. Students do it all the time and find something to study they would have never found if they hadn’t been exploring. I’m pretty laid back, but I am not a person who likes to see where life will take me. I like to tell life where I intend to go.
But it is true, we all change our minds a lot of freshman because a whole new world is being opened up to us. We latch onto majors we thought were perfect only to find it doesn’t work. How many pre-med students discover that working with bodies grosses them out? I have a friend who loves music; she wanted to become a band director. She had mentors, could play multiple instruments and had already put in hours observing in a classroom. But when it came down to it she discovered that music, which had been her passion for years, became something she hated studying. The classes and work turned something to which she had devoted intensive years of practice into something she dreaded working with.
I have a hall mate who was on the pre-med biology track who decided to explore architecture as a major. She quickly discovered that not only was architecture not a major to just pick up, she found that it really was not for her and went through a rough time switching to Exploratory before coming back onto a nursing track. College is a time for exploring but sometimes it’s so hard to do that. I feel like there’s no way to try out majors without committing to them because we always have to be on track for something.
Nevertheless, many of us seem to feel that doubt. I am doubting my major right now which makes writing this post very fitting.
What is kind of awesome though is that ISIS offers degree audits which enable you to check out the requirements for all majors. It will also show you what classes and credits you already have that can be applied towards a different major. I personally have checked out at least 10 different majors and minors using the degree audit.
Changing a major, while pretty common, is also somewhat of a big deal. Before changing willy nilly, really think about it. Why do you want to change your major? What makes the second major better than the first? How will changing majors affect your scholarships and finances? How will changing majors affect when you graduate? Is it possibly better to minor in that subject if you really care about it? These are all very important questions. We would all like to think that switching to underwater basket weaving will be ideal for following our passions but in reality, is it a smart choice?
The next step is talk to advisers. They’ve seen and heard it all before so they can give you better advice than your friends. Your friend may be 100% sure that underwater basket weaving is a great choice but your friends are in the same boat you are and probably shouldn’t be the final authority on life choices.
Talk to advisers both in the major you’re in currently and the one that you want to switch to. I am doing that this coming week in fact. It helps to talk to both sides and make your decision with their advice. So many students have issues or doubts about their majors, advisers are there to help alleviate those issues.
It also doesn’t hurt to speak to other students. If you’re planning on changing your major to history, then go talk to an older history student. Ask them about their classes, internships, career prospects, the whole shebang. You never know, you could find out that to obtain a master’s degree in history you should know multiple languages. Maybe languages aren’t your thing and that’s a major factor to consider.
Don’t treat changing majors like changing shoes. While it’s true that you should always follow your passions and don’t settle for a major or pick one based solely on job availability, you should still be smart. Get as much educated advice as you can. Advisers, parents and older students are your best sources for advice. If nothing else, take one class within that major and see if you even like it before committing to it.
According to the New York Times, 61 percent of UF students change their major by their second year. So, it’s not unusual and it doesn’t mean you’re a flake. It just means you haven’t found what you love yet. Many students that I’ve talked to who are older still have doubts and worries even three years or more into their major. The worries will never really go away but at least by then you’ll be set in a major — even if its underwater basket weaving.