Did you remember the university application process by which you have to declare your major? For the majority of us, it might be one of the hardest decision of our lives yet because we are often unsure what we would like to specialize in. As a naïve fresh starter, deciding a major might be nearing the probability of striking a winning number in a lottery. Many students I knew declared major without giving it much thought, some even did it because their best friends were in a particular major so he/she did not have to go through the hassle of fitting in. However, after a few months of taking classes, some started to realize that that particular major was not the right fit and they were rethinking that original decision. If you are in the same position, I hope this article can help you understand the benefits and challenges of changing your major.
First of all, changing a major does not mean that you are making a blunder nor it was a waste of time. College education is designed to help her students develop their own characters and realizing their potentials. It means that you are fortunate to be given the time and facility to explore your individuality and it is understandable if you are deviating from your original design. Moreover, switching majors can be interpreted as a way that you are enriching yourself as a well-rounded job candidate. For example: a background in accounting with journalism major can give you an appeal as a knowledgeable business writers.
The tangibility of changing major is another important aspect we should consider. We often find someone who decided to stay in a particular major because it looks good on his/her resume or because it can help his/her to land on a ‘dream job’. The caveat here is that it is harder to devote time and energy to classes if you are not interested in the material and this could ultimately hurt your attempts to get a job. Outside of the scope of quantitative career such as engineering and classical sciences that requires graduate studies, there is no major that can guarantee a particular admission to a certain job.
In the United States especially, students are expected to be an opportunity seeker. This means that extracurricular activities, social work, internship, a job shadowing or networking with alumni can all help boosting your chance to be accepted in a company of your dream outside the mastery of your major. Many people have gone ‘astray’ from their original major and doing very well in their career without relying much on their degree. The most important thing to take note is that whether you decided to stay with your original major or switch to another, the skills you learn in any class are likely to come in handy at some point.
I recommend that you re-declare your major as soon as you are convinced about doing it. This is because effect of changing major is inversely related to the length of your college years. In the United States especially in the Engineering Department, classes are defined by the yearly progress. Freshman will take mostly 100 level classes, sophomore will be 200 level classes, so on and so forth. The depth of material, time devotion, and performance expectation will naturally increase because most majors are structured so that students will be more invested towards their junior and senior years, while electives and prerequisites are done within freshman and sophomore years.
From the classes structure mentioned above, it is obvious that while changing majors on your first semester might not look like a big deal, it becomes increasingly less advantageous with each year that goes by. If you decided to change your major on your junior years, it will cost you tens of thousands of dollars more in tuition especially if your major change is radical (eg, from accounting to mechanical engineering). It is also difficult because it will require different faculties to assess the eligibility of your degree i.e. your paper diploma of the major you have declared. On the other hand, if the major change stays within the college of your current major (within the College of Liberal Arts for example), you might still be able to make the switch with little to no adverse consequences because the pre-requisite for those classes may be closely overlapping.
There is a myth that changing major is difficult process. In reality, changing your major is mostly about paperwork. Of course, in most cases, changing major will require signatures from the Registrar, the head of the department, and an academic advisor. However, this process is streamlined and it can be hard to believe that the bottleneck of the process was actually deciding what to re-declare. The most recommended way to start major re-declaring process is to speak to academic advisor about deadlines, overlapping classes requirement and rescheduling your graduation target. In my Alma Mater University, several Majors, especially in Engineering, require good GPA consistency to be accepted in their department. These information may not be readily available to students. Your helpful academic advisor can streamline that part of the transition and make it less overwhelming because the application process can have.
It is generally accepted that changing your major will be difficult once you enter the spring semester (or second semester) of sophomore year. The best way to prevent the major change fiasco, however, is to simply make sure you have clear goals established by spring semester of your freshman year. I strongly suggest that you seek academic and financial counsel from trustworthy people who know what they are talking about. If you have a clear vision for the future established, you will be able to avoid much financial and emotional pain and not have to go through the misery that those who lacked your foresight did.
Raymond Biondy Henka earned both his M.Sc in Technological Management in 2013 and B.Sc in Chemistry with minor in Material Science Engineering in 2012 from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He currently is the CEO of PT. Kharisma Semesta Hijau specializing in heavy machineries and several warehouse complexes in Jambi Province, Indonesia. Previously, he worked in Deloitte Ltd as associate consultant and journalist for the Strait Times Singapore during his stay in Singapore. An avid reader, his interest lies mainly in music, management system, investment and entrepreneurship. A passionate vocalist and writer, he enjoys good jamming session and composing lyrics with various musician friends during his down time.
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