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4 Good and 3 Bad Reasons to Change Your College Major

There are some good and bad reasons to switch your college major. Do any of these common scenarios apply to you? Here's some advice, plus questions to ask!

Choosing a college major can be incredibly stressful. Chances are you made an initial decision during the college admission process and declared it when you applied. However, a lot can change once you begin taking classes directly related to your major, and you may be left questioning your choices. If you’re considering changing your major, you're not alone. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 80% of college students change their major at least once during their undergraduate career. But how can you be absolutely sure whether you should go through with it? Here are some reasons for and against changing your college major, along with a few questions to ask yourself as you work through the process.

Bad reasons to change your major

While there are plenty of valid reasons to change your major, these are a few situations where changing your major is a bit extreme. Consider these within the context of your entire decision-making process for a more well-rounded conclusion.

1. One tough course

Many majors have “weed out” classes that can make you question your entire life plan. These are introductory courses designed to help students understand the intensity of the field they’re getting into. Having one difficult class shouldn’t be enough to make you change your major, particularly if you continue to enjoy the field. Plus, some entry-level courses may not even be overtly connected to your future career. For example, some Business degrees require high-level calculus courses; however, you most likely won’t use that level of calculus in your day-to-day job. Obviously, you’re expected to pass the required courses to continue in your program, but if you’re considering switching your major over a B or C, try to take a broader look at your situation before making a snap decision.

Lauren, a senior Graphic Design major at Anderson University in South Carolina, considered changing her major at various points in her college career. Although she struggled with the workload and certain classes she didn’t enjoy, she ultimately decided against it. “I realized the hard times were worth it and I could find a job that lined up with the parts of design I enjoyed,” she says. As she moves toward graduation, she’s thankful she stuck with her major because she can’t imagine pursuing a different one.

2. A difficult professor

While some classes are difficult due solely to their content, others are still more challenging because of the professor teaching them. There’s always the occasional bad apple that makes class unenjoyable with poor communication, a rude demeanor, unfair grading, or any number of other problems. It can be easy to conflate a difficult professor with hating your major. But remember: You likely won’t have the same professor twice. So no matter how acerbic, disorganized, or biased your professor may be, take comfort in knowing you’ll be done with them at the end of the semester. And if it’s still early in the semester, you may be able to switch to another professor teaching the same course. While a less-than-stellar professor is unfortunate, it’s one semester out of eight and not worth changing your major over.

3. Unrelated life changes

As you mull over changing your major, think about what else is going on in your life. Often, other difficult life events can cause you to make rash decisions. What feels like not being able to keep up with academics is simply you being stressed and exhausted from other issues. For example, if you’re having a difficult time transitioning to college and considering changing your major as a first-semester student, analyze whether it’s the subject material that’s the problem or general unhappiness with life right now. Maybe you had a rough break-up or family issues are escalating. Regardless of what’s happening, it’s best not to make big life changes when you’re anxious from dealing with it and not thinking clearly.

Related: An Essential List of All the Wrong Reasons to Choose a College Major

Good reasons to change your major

Now that we’ve talked about some bad reasons to change your major, here are some more legitimate reasons for seriously considering a different field and starting the process.

1. You can’t imagine enjoying a career in the field

If the thought of pursuing a career related to your current major sounds terrible, you may want to reconsider your options. It’s one thing to have a class you dread or a professor you don’t get along with, but when the entire major feels soul-sucking and you don’t look forward to your future, it’s most likely time to find a new field to pursue. Alyssa, another Anderson student, began college as an Elementary Education major but soon switched to Human Development & Family Studies her first year. “I realized I wasn’t passionate about teaching and couldn’t see myself in a classroom setting,” she says. “Taking a few classes in my old major was helpful to know I wanted to switch, and taking some classes in my new major helped clarify I made the right decision.” She’s now pursuing a career as a caseworker in the foster care and adoption fields.

2. You’ve discovered the program and field aren’t what you thought

Sometimes your perception of a major doesn’t line up with reality. It can be hard to see this until you get a higher-level education on the subject or hands-on experience through an internship or other experiential learning opportunity. Many students have interests that may not translate into full-time careers, and that’s okay! After all, there’s a lot more to majoring in Graphic Design than being good at using Canva. As you get into the upper echelons of a field, you may discover that it isn’t for you. While this is a disconcerting realization, it’s better to find out now than to get 10 years into a career you hate before you allow yourself to admit it. However, keep in mind there are many other career options that aren’t the internship you didn’t enjoy or the upper-level course that didn’t relate to what you ultimately want to do in life. Every college major can lead to a lot of different jobs—even ones that seem super specific. 

Related: Why Picking a College Major Isn't the Same as Choosing a Career

3. You’ve fallen in love with another major

This is one of the easiest reasons to say “see ya!” to your current major, especially if you’ve been sitting on the desire to switch majors for an extended period of time. Perhaps you took an elective course in Psychology and realized it’s your passion after spending an entire semester floundering in a Chemistry major. Sometimes, things just click—and if that happens for you, it’s beautiful, and you should definitely chase it.

4. You chose your major for the wrong reasons

Picking a major can be stressful, especially if you aren’t sure what you want to do and you feel the pressure to choose. Since you must declare something eventually, it’s easy to pick a major for the wrong reason, like pursuing Engineering because it will lead to a high-paying job. Maybe you picked the same major as your friends even though deep down you know you aren’t passionate about it. Or perhaps you agreed to a major that you were pressured into—just because everyone in your family went to medical school doesn’t mean you have to! If you know you didn’t choose wisely the first time, it’s important to correct yourself as soon as possible to find your true passions.

Answer these questions to arrive at your decision

Changing your major is not something to be taken lightly, so here are a few questions to work through as you weigh the pros and cons of a change.

  • How long have you been thinking about changing your major? It’s typically not wise to make a snap decision of this magnitude, so if you’ve only been considering this change for a week or two, you may be getting ahead of yourself. If it’s been a stressful few weeks, you may not genuinely want to change your major as much as you just need a break from school and some time to relax.
  • What would you change your major to? While you don’t need to have your whole career mapped out, you need to know some of your next steps before you start the official process.
  • What do the people you love and trust think? While the decision is ultimately yours, it’s a good idea to run your thoughts by people who know you well for a fresh perspective. Talk to parents, advisors, friends, or work supervisors (or all of them)!

Related: Changing Majors: It's Not the End of the World

As you contemplate whether to change your major, keep these reasons in mind and take comfort in knowing you’re not alone in considering a change in your college path. In fact, you’re in the majority!

Want to consult more experts and students on making this big decision? Find all the advice you could ever need in our Majors and Academics section.

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