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

Changing your college major isn't as big of a deal as it's made about to be--but there are some things you should know before you start.

I entered my freshman year of college completely convinced that I would graduate as a History major. It seemed logical at the time, as it was one of the only classes I truly enjoyed in high school. However, I barely made it two months before I switched my major to Film with a minor in Art. These two majors may seem completely different, and they are! For students who are unsure of their major or are thinking about switching: it’s okay. Changing your major isn’t as big of a deal as it’s made about to be—but there are some things you should know before you start.

So you think you want to change your major…

The first thing to realize about college is that you’ll be exposed to so many more subjects than in high school. I had never taken a film class before changing my major, and while I wouldn’t recommend blindly choosing a major off a website like I did, I would be open minded to the many different fields of study that exist at college. Many courses are offered in a broader number of subjects in college, so don’t be afraid to take classes that may seem unconventional or unimportant to your current major—they could fill general education requirements, and they may lead you to a whole new field of interest.

You should also know that it’s completely fine to change majors, and it isn’t a waste of time! I felt a lot of pressure when I decided not to pursue a History degree any longer, and I felt like I had spent too much time on something I wasn’t passionate about. But changing majors is actually a pretty common occurrence—around 30% of students change their major within the first three years of pursuing their degree, according to the US Department of Education—and it’s completely possible to change majors without affecting your graduation plan. It’s important to note, however, that most schools require you to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year, and after that, it may be more difficult to change your plans (but not impossible).

Related: 12 Up–and–Coming Majors to Consider for College

Making the switch

Once you’ve made the decision to switch your major, there are a few things you should look at. Most importantly, you should look at your school’s credit policy. Many colleges, like my own, allow credits to be transferred between majors. My general education credits and some more specific liberal arts ones transferred, and I am currently on track to graduate even earlier than I thought. You should also look at the number of credits your new major requires compared to your current one, because different majors will sometimes need more credits or different prerequisites than others.

But what if your college doesn't allow credit transfers between departments? Fortunately, there are still some ways to change your major. There is always the option of graduating later than expected—which doesn’t mean failure, but could mean paying extra for more years of school. You could take extra credits to try and graduate on time, although this usually requires you to pay extra fees. The most common alternative is to take classes during the summer (online, on your campus, or at another college) in order to fulfill basic requirements.

No matter what option you choose, talking to your academic advisor is the most important thing to do. They have dealt with this same situation many times before, and they can help you plan out credits and classes for your new major, as well as offer advice about the different programs offered at your school. This may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but if you decide that a new major is what you truly want, it is possible!

Related: How to Change Your College Major

In general, there’s no reason you should be hesitant to change your major. College is an eye-opening experience for everyone, and there are so many opportunities to discover something you’re really passionate about. Good luck!

Find more information to help you explore college majors in our Majors and Academics section.

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About Maddy Heller

Maddy Heller is a freshman at Pace University majoring in Film and Screen Studies. She enjoys exploring New York City and running and hopes to work in documentary production in the future.


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