If you’re a new college graduate regretting your choice of major, you’re not alone. According to a Payscale survey, nearly two-thirds of bachelor’s degree holders regret something about their college experience, with 12% citing the field of study they chose. Remorse was especially high among Humanities majors at 21%.
It’s hard enough to select a major when you’re just 18 years old, let alone decide on your future career. But instead of dwelling in disappointment, you can use that feeling to embark on a new path better suited to your goals. If you’re looking to make a change, these seven steps can help you set out on a new academic and/or career trajectory.
1. Speak with a career counselor
If you’re regretting your college major, you at least know what you’re no longer interested in pursuing—but you might have less clarity around what field would be a better fit. If this is the case, take some time to meet with a career counselor at your school and talk through your thoughts. A career counselor can help you clarify your interests and learn more about your options. They may also show you opportunities for internships or entry-level positions in various industries. Most colleges grant alumni access to their career centers after graduation or even for life, meaning you have a valuable resource to turn to if you start questioning your degree. Wanting to make a change is common, whether you’re a new graduate or have been in the workforce for years. A career counselor can help you navigate these murky waters and figure out your next steps.
2. Go back to school
If you discover you need a different degree for the job you want, consider going back to school. If you need a bachelor’s in a different field, you may be able to complete it in a shorter time frame since you’ve likely already completed some prerequisites. Some careers require an even less time-intensive qualification, such as an associate degree or certificate. Alternatively, consider applying to grad school programs, but be sure to think carefully about what the return on investment of your degree would be. If you’re confident about what you want to study and it can lead directly into a salaried career, it could be worthwhile. If not, you’d likely be better off gaining some work experience before jumping back into an academic setting.
3. Take online courses
You don’t need to go back to college to gain marketable skills. There are tons of online courses that can teach you coding, design, marketing, or other in-demand skills and qualifications. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms like edX, Udemy, and Coursera offer thousands of courses, including ones on how to land a job. You’ll be able to go at your own pace, study from anywhere, and gain new knowledge at a fraction of the price you’d pay at a formal institution. However, one potential drawback is some employers may not recognize an online class as an official certification. But for many employers, you don’t need a specific credential if you’ve developed the skills to do the job.
4. Pursue an internship
Another way to transition into a new field is to land an internship, which can provide real-world experience and help you make valuable connections in your field of interest. Of course, the downside of internships is that they’re typically unpaid, so you may need to work a paid job at the same time to afford your living expenses. But if you find an internship that’s likely to lead to a job placement (or one of the lucky ones that finds a paid internship), it could be worth your time.
5. Join the Peace Corps
Your path from college to career doesn’t have to be a straight line. If you want to take time to figure things out while doing good in the world, consider joining a service organization like the Peace Corps. Peace Corps volunteers work on a variety of issues around the globe, from health campaigns to local entrepreneurship to digital literacy. While the pay is low, you’ll receive housing accommodations, a living stipend, and around $10,000 at the end of your service. What’s more, your service could count toward the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which forgives federal student loans after 10 years of public service. If you took out a lot in loans for college, this may be a great choice.
6. Focus on your transferable skills
Although you may regret your college major, it isn’t totally useless. You still gained skills that transfer into the workforce, even if they don’t seem directly related at first glance. Soft skills such as communication, time management, organization, and the ability to meet deadlines are useful in almost any field. Even if your field of study doesn’t directly relate to the job you’re pursuing, you can still highlight the relevant, transferable skills you gained on your résumé to show a hiring manager that you’d be a good fit.
7. Take control of your student loans
Many graduates regret their field of study when they’re met with the harsh reality of student loan repayment. You might feel like you borrowed too much for a major that didn’t lead to a high-paying job. But if you owe student loans, there are ways to get your debt under control. If the payments on your federal student loans are too high, you could consider an income-driven repayment plan. You might also explore student loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs to reduce your balance. Some cities even offer student loan perks for new graduates, so you could consider moving for student loan assistance or to find better-paying job opportunities. Finally, if you have good credit, consider refinancing your student loans for better rates. Refinancing can save you money over the timespan of your repayment, but be cautious about refinancing federal loans, as doing so means you lose access to federal programs and protections.
Don’t dwell in college major regret
After years of hard work, you should be celebrating your college accomplishments, not regretting your choice of major. But college major remorse is common, especially among those who are struggling to get a job or feel burdened by student loan debt. Instead of letting your regret hold you back, use it as motivation to take steps in a new direction. By understanding what no longer suits you, you can make decisions for your future that better align with your interests and goals. Even if your undergraduate degree doesn’t directly relate to your choice of career, it still equipped you with valuable skills and experiences to take with you in your next steps, wherever they may lead.
If grad school might be in your future, discover and learn about great programs across the country using our featured grad school lists.