I entered my freshman year of college completely convinced 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.
A plethora of fields to explore
The first thing to realize about college is that you’ll be exposed to so many more subjects than you were even aware existed 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 as I did, stay open-minded to the many different fields of study available to you in college. Many courses are offered in a broader number of subjects, 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.
Why changing your major is okay
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 a pretty common occurrence among college students, and it’s completely possible to change majors without affecting your graduation plan if you map out the remaining time in your new major effectively. It’s important to note 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).
Making the switch
Once you’ve decided to switch your major, there are a few things you should look into. Most importantly, you should look at your school’s credit policy. Many colleges, like my own, allow credits to be transferred between programs. My general education credits and some more specific liberal arts courses transferred into my new major, and I was on track to graduate even earlier than I thought. You should closely 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.
What to do if you can’t transfer credits
So what happens if your college doesn't allow credit transfers between departments? Fortunately, there are still ways to change your major. There’s 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 an overload of courses to try and graduate on time, although this usually requires you to pay extra fees and can cause you to burn out faster. The most common alternative is to take classes during the summer on your campus, at another college, or online to fulfill basic requirements and get back on track.
Talk to your academic advisor
No matter what next steps you take, talking to your academic advisor is the first and most important thing you should 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 a new major is what you truly want, it is possible and worth your time!
If you’re confident you want a different life path, 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 and make a good choice for you in our Majors and Academics section.