Career Switching

5 Elements to Consider Before Changing Majors

Thankfully, college is the time for academic exploration. Students starting off with one major can end up finishing in 4 years with another one entirely depending on their course selection and timing of transition. If you are considering switching majors, know that you are not alone; in fact you probably are acting upon a serious consideration that many of your peers have thought about or even wished they could do themselves.

Before taking the leap I encourage the consideration of five critical elements: timing, personal capability, understanding of post college opportunities, department resources, and financial needs.


I think above all, the key aspect to switching your major is timing. If you are in your third year of college, chances are it is probably a bit too late given the specific course credits demanded by the department you are seeking to obtain your major from. Even students in their second year may choose not to take this route because of the vast changes it will require in their academic planning and the time crunching necessity of certain prerequisites. This is not to say it cannot be done. If changing majors is non-negotiable for you, then making an active, fully focused transition with no hesitation will place you on a better footing on the whole.

Before making any conclusion it is important to set up a time to meet with your academic advisor to discuss in what ways you can make such a change viable if it is a priority to you. While you may find comfort in trusting your advisor for course selection and navigating subjects such as internships and job searches, an advisor may have an impartial or alarmingly adamant take on what pathway you should choose. Since they will not be the one taking your exams, showing up to class, or wearing the cap and gown come graduation; I would advise that you respectfully follow your own aspirations while considering their expertise.

Do not rule out the potential of finding an invaluable coach and mentor through this advisor-student relationship however. This very individual can know you better than anyone else on campus, and very well write your letter of recommendation or inform you of post-college opportunities you were not aware of.

Personal Capability

Initial personal capability determines how you start out your academic journey; its important to start on a strong note. Challenging yourself and navigating unchartered academic goals for yourself is not just admirable, it is a personal display of female competency, strength, and leadership. Having said this, it is essential that before choosing a major, you know exactly what is expected, project a pathway on how to meet those standards, and set measurable, attainable goals to reach them.

Just because you may find yourself comfortable in introductory courses does not mean you will find the same level of ease and comprehension as you re-arrange your whole academic journey around a particular major. If personal performance and academic accolades are important to you, then personal capability should be paramount in your considerations.

To test your personal capability in a particular major, try taking courses that are required or which train and enhance the skills needed to successfully complete that major. In this way, you can clear your own doubts or potential insecurities if they exist, while gearing you up before taking such a huge leap. Hopefully, this could be done during your freshman year so no time is lost, but even in sophomore year it is possible as well depending on the program you are looking at.

Ultimately, if you decide not to switch majors, you may already find yourself working towards a minor in that subject instead.

Understanding of post college opportunities

Opportunities after a college education are akin to a desirable destination after a long, arduous journey. I am sure that most of us current students have our fingers crossed despite having numerous years of hard work and achievements to show for. That is simply the nature of the post grad journey. However, if you do your homework now you have no false impressions of what industries or opportunities you are likely to gain access to, or the kind of recruitment that will take place on your very own campus.

If you want to truly investigate a different direction, I would recommend visiting a career fair for the college or department that you are seeking entry into. Even attending luncheons, programs, or alumni dinners in which you can peer into the life of a student in that field is particularly insightful.

Department resources

What kind of resources does your desired department have? What kind of funding, projects, or news coverage does your university receive for this discipline in light of the college as a whole? Look into how high your program ranks on an accredited website, journal, or news source you trust. Much along the same lines as personal accolades and achievements, many students pride themselves based on the rank of their university program.

The same aversion that students have to being picked last in a sport indicates that it is not likely you will enjoy studying countless hours in the library only to find your program is not worth much in comparison to A, B, and C schools.

Financial needs

Financing college can be an enormous task for students, which means that any potential changes that can delay your graduation are not even comprehensible for some. If changing majors means taking more time to graduate, then its highly encouraged that you place opportunity costs alongside benefits to see if what you are gaining is worth the change.

It is very helpful to make a T-chart of negatives and positives associated with any decision, and more so when deciding to switch majors. If you find in your evaluation that changing majors is every bit worth the time and money then it would only benefit you to take the leap.

One should not rule out the potential scholarships that may be available to you simply because of this change in major as well.

When I changed majors

Personally speaking, delving into business studies from a liberal arts background, was fulfilling and worth every initial frustrating obstacle I had to circumvent or face head on during my transition. It was not a matter of just one factor, such as scenery, subject, or approach. For me, business school is where I found purpose and practicality, while holding up a magnifying lens to some of the world’s pressing issues, financial topics, and socioeconomic trends. I am able to study and understand them in real time in light of our country’s history, legislation, and business practices while considering global factors.

I have used my liberal arts beginnings as a powerful springboard, which believe it or not, gave me a unique advantage in spite of the set back afforded by changing majors my sophomore year. Now, I have put business school as the main focus for me in college, while still delving into the arts as a minor in music.


Nicole ChacinNicole Chacin will graduate in 2015 from George Washington University with a degree in business economics and public policy with a minor in vocal music. She plans on getting a JD/MBA after college and dreams of working in health policy and administration. She was a part of the first Forté College Leadership Conference and is the creative designer and co-founder of Chicago Boutique.

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