29 Choosing Your Major and Deciding When to Rethink It
Noah Helphenstine and Brendan Stevens
Our project was developed to help students decide on their major. We have covered ways for both prospective and current undecided students, as well as current students who want to consider changing their major. This is an important topic for students to have information on because the education is the most important part of the college experience and students ought to have a way to determine what exactly they want to study, especially with the cost involved. The project is divided into sections about research, using interests, and changing a major, as well as an introduction and conclusion.
College. You finally made it and it is time to finally answer your relatives’ question: what do you want to do? The overall college experience is very important, but at their core colleges are centers of learning. You hear people talk time and time again about declaring their major and working towards their goal (or dream job, for the auspicious among us). But why do they select what majors they select? Typically, it is because they either love that subject or because they have an end goal that requires it. Or their parents made them, but that is a different topic we can cover in a future section. There are lots of reasons to decide on a major since being undecided can put you at a disadvantage. This can be a monetary or temporal disadvantage, or you may even have to leave for a different school that has a program you want to pursue. (College of St. Scholastica) We will make an effort to break down what you can do to decide on a major, and hopefully, by the end of this section you will have a better idea of what you want to do.
One of the most beneficial items anyone can have is knowledge. As General Hawk would say, “Knowing is half the battle.” The easiest way to get the knowledge you would need to decide on a major and/or pathway is to do your research. There are multiple ways to go about this and it is important to consider. There are documented benefits to do doing your research and coming to college with a major, but arguably the most important is that it can save you time and money in the long run. It also may affect where you go to college. (Fortenbury)
The first major* way you can go about your research is one people often forget exists. When you are in high school, every year there is a list of available classes passed out so you know what you can request for your schedule. Similarly, UPIKE and colleges across the country publish their undergraduate catalogs every year. This lists every course the university currently offers as well as when they are offered. These show every program offered at the school and give short descriptions for every course. This gives you a good starting point, but you may need to dig deeper. Google is certainly an acquaintance in this situation since googling allows you to look deeper. Another rather essential source is other people. It can be easy to understand something when a person explains it rather than reading it on a screen.
It is also important to research your pathway while also researching your major. Certain pathways need you to have certain prerequisite courses. There is also the chance that the end goal of the pathway may require a select set of skills that are cultivated over a specific set of courses. Dr. Darla French, an academic advisor and professor, stresses the importance of researching the steps to your end goal. Basically, it is all well and good to say you want to do something, but you also must understand how to get there.
I am sure everyone has their own story on why they chose what they chose. I know that I did not follow the advice we are giving you now. When I first filled out my application, I declared as a Biology/Chemistry double major. My end goal is to go to medical school; I thought having both would prepare me based on what I had been told. Once I had been scheduled then I set in to do my research. It was then that I realized that having both was the best route for me.
*Pun fully intended
Recognizing your own passions is one of the hardest processes a college Freshman must do. Finding out which careers would reflect you as a person as well as your monetary intentions is a challenging prospect, but there are possible steps to be taken to aid with determining your innate abilities.
According to O*NET Online, there are categorically 6 types of interests one can assume themselves in. Interests that are realistic belong more intimately with those who use more practicality in their work and often work with a hand-on approach, while investigative interests assume more of a mental presence and require the ability to cogitate. A more artistic person will show their individualism in creative and perceivable ways to others. People who are attracted to communicative careers will find themselves more interested socially and will make it their purpose to aid others. An enterpriser will more decisively deal with prospects and with the principal responsibility to direct others, while a person with more conventional interests will often administrate and pay attention to the details of these projects.
Oftentimes, a person who has not thought out their interests in life are unable to find tangible enjoyment in the career they find themselves averse to. The pressure to perhaps convince themselves otherwise is unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs by simply being aware of one’s own personal ability. Reflecting on this should correspond with whether a person should change their major or not.
When you first filled out your application, you likely declared a major. Potentially, you also came to school with an idea of what you wanted to do when you graduate. But, as with many other things in life, your opinions and ideas could change after a semester. Or even after a few days of class, in some cases. For every student there is always the option to change your major. It likely is not the most practical choice but it is an option, nonetheless.
Changing your major is a rather heavy decision. If you are only a few weeks in, you may suffer some speedbumps. If you are a few years in, well some speedbumps would be a gross understatement. It can also have ramifications for your pathway since you may need to rethink your career path. If you ultimately decide to change, sooner is better than later.
Why you change is a personal matter. There are three common reasons people change majors: they were pressured into the original major, they change interest, or they did not realize what they were getting into with the original major. It can be argued that the most common reason is the second one mentioned. Students can easily believe they have a plan, and then they discover something that interests them more than their original plan. It can potentially be a hefty shift, but pursuing your passions is what we come to college for, isn’t it?
In good nature, I must tell you what the downsides of changing your major could be. There is the fact that you may be putting yourself at a loss. It takes time to earn a degree – if you have invested time already you may need even more time if you change to a totally different path. The same goes for money. Even if you want to try to take extra classes to try to stay on track, you may have to take more than the normal 14-16 panned credits and may even be paying extra money to take a higher course load. Some majors are also more difficult to change into. Take education, for example; there is a very specific order of classes and if you do not take specific classes early enough (say, first semester) then you will already be behind. This does not mean every major is this way, you just must do your research. The way it was explained to me, the fewer core classes, and the more electives a degree requires, the easier it is to change into. So, this makes switching to something like psychology easier than going to chemistry.
But what if you do not need to change your major? When I asked Mrs. Megan Childress, an academic advisor, and the director for the Center of Student Success, what students should consider about changing, she said that individuals must consider the possibility that they do not need to. Many careers do not have any specific degree requirements and just call for “a college education.” All the advisors in the CSS have a degree, but they all have different ones – one is even in criminal justice. She also stressed exploring the soft skills required for a career rather than just the formal education, as these are often not taught, but incredibly important.
With all of this in mind, do not let college intimidate you. While it might be a large, rapid change, it can easily be survived. With the advice in this paper, we hope to make a rather significant part of the college experience a little easier. If you do your research and work with your interests, selecting a major is a breeze. If you find out that your original plan was not quite what you thought it would be, then considering everything in that section should help you through the decision to change your major. Having the cards stacked in your favor can make all the difference, and hopefully this essay helps you along your journey.
- “Is It Important to Choose a Major before Starting College?” Www.Css.Edu, www.css.edu/the-sentinel-blog/is-it-important-to-choose-a-major-before-starting-college.html. Accessed 4 Oct. 2020.
- “Viewpoint: Choose Your Major before Choosing a College | College Choice News for College Students | USA TODAY College.” Web.Archive.Org, 18 Aug. 2018, web.archive.org/web/20180818154854/college.usatoday.com/2014/09/16/viewpoint-choose-your-major-before-choosing-a-college/. Accessed 4 Oct. 2020.
- Childress, Megan. In-Person Interview. Conducted by Noah Helphenstine, 21 Sep. 2020.
- French, Darla. E-mail Interview. Conducted by Noah Helphenstine, 21 Sep. 2020.
- “Browse by O*NET Data.” O*NET OnLine, www.onetonline.org/find/descriptor/browse/Interests/. Accessed 4 Oct. 2020.