Thinking about changing majors?

Advising can be found in the The Academic Success Center which is located in the MSR building (pictured). (Photo courtesy of Nick Libby.)

College students commonly face uncertainty or feel a lack of passion for their current major. Hopefully, they have been able to reduce these uncertainties by the time of graduation, but if not then they aren't alone.

According to a 2012 to 2014 study by The U.S Department of Education, 30% of undergraduate students in associates or bachelors programs change their major at least once within three years of their initial enrollment.

Of those, one-third of the students who changed majors in bachelor programs, 9% changed majors more than once, while 10% of 28% of those who were earning their associates switched majors more than once.

This begs the question: Why do students switch majors?

According to Gabriela Morder, an advisor for the Academic Success Center, students may choose to change their major because “the subject chosen isn’t what they thought it would be. It’s not going to lead them to the path they want.” For other students, the choice was never theirs to begin with. “There is also a small percentage who choose the major because of family or friends, but then the students actually decide what they want to major in and study about,” said Morder.

Abigail Orozco, who was a Business major before switching to Communication Studies, talked about her major change after her first semester of college. Orozco said that she had no interest in taking classes that were needed for the Business major. “After figuring this out, I knew it was time to change majors before taking a path that would lead me to be unsuccessful in the major I was currently in”.

Klarissa Guzman (freshman, English) who was a former Communication Studies major talked about her experience with changing majors. “I thought about switching majors right when I was entering school due to being rushed to pick a major when I was applying to school. I wanted to change my major because at the time I wanted to go into medicine so I switched over to Biology. Now I switched again over to English.”

Valentina Gallardo was a former pre-nursing major who switched to English with a concentration in Single Subject Matter Preparation (SSMP), then she eventually switched that concentration to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She said, “I realized that I didn't have as much interest in nursing as I thought I did. I realized that studying it didn't make me happy.” Gallardo continued, “I changed my major because I wanted to study something I actually liked and that I was good at,” which led Gallardo to switch her major to English.  

Brenda Ramirez says that she was also focusing on Pre-Nursing before she switched to Biology. Eventually, she changed that major to a double major in Psychology and Spanish during her junior year. She mentioned it was because of her time in the biology classes and working at the hospital that would lead to the change to Psychology and Spanish.

This brings up another question: When is the time when most students change their majors during their university enrollment?

Morder said that there is a small group of freshmen that switch majors, and that most students who switch majors are "usually 60 units in or in their junior year." She added, “This is a trend because you’re taking upper divisions then you realize that ‘This isn’t what I thought this would be.’"

Joel Ramirez (Alumni, Communication Studies) took a year off from school for missionary work as a Kinesiology major. When he came back to school, he was unsure about Kinesiology. “When I came back, I was indecisive on whether or not Kinesiology was for me. During the year I was back, that’s when I made the switch.”

For those students that wish to change, it's not too difficult to do so.

According to Morder, it all begins with the Declaration or Change in Degree form, which can be found at the Academic Success Center in MSR 210.

Morder said, “Walking to the departments is the hardest part of the process, and working up the courage to talk to your old department and telling them you're changing majors."

"Then, for the discipline you are switching to, you go to the department of that major and do the same thing with their department head or an advisor there. Finally, you must sign off on the form and drop it off at Enrollment Services [MSR 120]. The change happens once it’s submitted to MSR,” said Morder.

Guzman said, “The experience was pretty simple for me. All I had to do was get signatures then turn the major change form to Enrollment Services.”

For Gallardo, “The part that took the longest and was the most inconvenient was getting the new department signatures because I didn't know anyone in that (new) department.”

For Brenda Ramirez, it wasn’t as smooth. She said, “It was a bit difficult because I had to run around from department to department to get signatures to change my major. I did not know where any of the departments were so I had to do a lot of asking around which was very time-consuming.”

If you are thinking about changing your major, here are some things to consider. 

Why do you want to change majors

A good way of thinking about switching majors is writing a pros and cons list of "why you would want to switch majors," according to Joel Ramirez. (Photo courtesy of Nick Libby)

From the perspective of current students at Stan State, Orozco says that you shouldn’t wait on changing. She said, “The sooner the better! The longer you wait, the longer you’ll be in school.”

“For me, it also helped to research a major before choosing it to know that I will be choosing one that I would more than likely stick with,” said Guzman.

Gallardo said, “If you're thinking of changing your major, take a class in that major and see if you like it. You're not wasting your time by switching majors because it's better to do what you're interested rather than what is expected of you. And either way, you were able to get more education from it.”

Brenda Ramirez also offered advice for first generation students like herself. “There is nothing at all wrong with changing majors multiple times. The more classes you take the more you realize what you like and what you don't like.” As for other advice, Ramirez said that “changing majors is a part of your own journey of figuring out what you like and don't like which is one step closer in slowly discovering yourself and your future.” 

Contact information for the Academic Success Center can be found here or by visiting their office in the Mary Stuart Rogers building (MSR), room 210.

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