Should I Break Up with My Major?

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Remember reading that long list of majors at orientation? You probably felt more than a little overwhelmed. Not to mention, your parents were probably breathing down your neck to choose engineering when all you really wanted was to study dance. After you’ve spent some time in your major, and you’re not sure if it’s the best fit, you may want to reevaluate that major decision.

Do you ever ask yourself: “Am I in this for all the wrong reasons?” If a student chooses a major based on his or her parent’s expectations, or some other outside influence, that’s a big sign he or she needs to drop that major in the grease and pick up something he or she really loves, explains Dr. Diane Miller, director of Undergraduate Services at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Another hint you’re on the wrong path is performing poorly in one of the preliminary courses. Continuing on to the higher-level courses will only make matters worse because they build on skills you haven’t mastered from the lower levels. For example, if you’re on the pre-med track but are struggling to pass chemistry, you may want to consider re-evaluating your choice of major.

Sometimes students choose a major because the complementary career field seems lucrative. But what if finance isn’t for you? Here’s the deal: the more passionate you are about your studies, the more likely you are to succeed. And don’t be fooled— there are money making opportunities in every field.

“My advice is to go with your heart and passion. Too often we feel pressured to do the pragmatic or practical thing, and for some people, that works, but for many of us, that doesn't capture our imaginations or kindle a spark of passion,” said Dr. Stephanie A. Smith, an English professor at the University of Florida. “Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, ask yourself, what gets you up? What keeps you up? And see if you can find a major that motivates [you].”

If all this sounds familiar, and your intuition is telling you you’re on the wrong path, then consider a change. Know that you’re not alone, says Brian Glankler, director of First Year and Undeclared Advising Services at Kennesaw State University. He estimates that most undergraduate students will change their majors anywhere between one and three times. But before you switch, make sure you research your new major. “Hopefully the main influencing factor would be that the student has done a self-evaluation of his interests, goals and aptitudes and researched various majors and career fields and has made an educated decision to change,” said Glankler.

Christoff Visscher, a junior at Hope College, changed his major from chemistry to theater after landing the lead in the fall play, Big Love. “Little by little, I could tell my love for chemistry was dying and my passion for acting was growing.” he said. This summer he diversified his experiences with a marketing internship at a consulting firm while actively networking in the theater field, in pursuit of his dream.

Meghan Bender, a recent graduate of Emory University, originally wanted to be a doctor but realized it wasn’t the career path for her, so she switched to anthropology. “Most of the major would have meant classes I didn’t like. But I went into the anthropology lab and I felt at home and happy surrounded by the past human-evolution species skulls,” she said.

Before you make the switch, meet with your advisor, who can help you decide what major may be a better fit for you. Try taking classes in a variety of fields and see if you have an interest in a particular subject. Or ask those who know you best. When you’re home over Thanksgiving break, stop in and see your old high school teachers. They’ll know your strong suits and can give you an idea of a major that draws from what you’re good at.

Just remember, college is a path of discovery—if you’re in the wrong major, making the change is a part of the journey.

College Magazine Staff

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