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Should You Switch Majors Midway Through College? Pros and Cons

Mar 6, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Education.org Columnist | 0 Comments

Some students know exactly what they want to major in—from the first day of college and even before. For others, however, the choice isn’t so clear. And for many students, college is supposed to be a time of exploration. So why shouldn’t you be able to switch majors if you feel it’s necessary?

However, there are consequences to switching majors. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of switching—and what to think about when making the decision.

Benefits of Changing Majors

You hate your current major—and you know you’ll be happier with the new one. If you can’t stand going to class and shudder at the thought of the type of career your current major is preparing you for, it may be time to switch—regardless of the drawbacks. Any major is worthless if it’s preparing you for a life you don’t want.

Your new major may be more lucrative. If you’re currently majoring in Fine Arts and you’re worried about the job market and repaying your loans, you’d be perfectly justified in switching to something like engineering—something that’s more likely to prepare you for a stable, well-paying career. Provided you’re sure you’d enjoy the second choice, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a new major that will offer a more stable life after college—especially in this economy.

See Also: Online Degree Programs

Drawbacks of Making the Change

It could be expensive. Depending on the type of major you were in before and the type you’re switching to, you could have to take extra courses—and pay for extra credits. That can add on to your tuition bill. The change may be worth it for you anyway, but it’s important to talk to a financial aid officer or your advisor to determine what the impact will be financially.

You could spend more time in college. Along with the extra tuition could come extra time. It’s possible you’ll need to graduate later, forego that semester abroad, or take some summer classes in order to earn all the credits you’ll need to graduate with that new major. This is true both for traditional and accredited online colleges.

See Also: Online Colleges and Universities

How to Make the Switch Easier

Switch as early as possible. The bottom line is this: the later you make the switch, the harder it will be—so talk to your academic advisor to determine what the right path would be for you. If you’re contemplating a switch at the beginning of your senior year, for instance, you’ll almost certainly have to make up some classes and spend extra on tuition. If you’re considering switching, don’t wait to look at your options early on.

Switch to a similar subject when possible.  In addition, it’s more difficult to make the switch if you’re making a change between two entirely unrelated majors. However, for some majors that are fairly close in subject area, you may be able to count many of the credits you’ve already earned toward the second major—so you won’t have to start from scratch in the new major. If possible, choose a new major that allows you to use old credits.

It’s important to remember that you may decide to switch careers even after you graduate—and the subject you major in doesn’t necessarily determine your life. If possible, try to get out of college without the need to spend more money on tuition than necessary—and you’ll have more freedom and fewer loans once you graduate. But if you’re sure you need to switch majors, don’t wait—talk to an advisor sooner rather than later, and hopefully you’ll be able to switch without paying a high price in money and time.

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