Can I Switch College Majors? Should I?

  • All students are welcome to change their majors in college.
  • However, there are hurdles to changing areas of study including increased costs, delayed graduation dates, and limited availability of certain majors.
  • Students shouldn’t change their majors simply on a whim or because of outside pressure as this can lead to burnout and other problems.
  • Those looking to make the switch should talk to their advisors and their college’s Career Center to create a game plan.

Picking a major is a, well, major part of the college process. A lot of effort can go into searching for schools that have a reputable program for your desired major. College majors can be broad or niche, common or unique. And since majors largely determine what sort of classes you’ll take or specialize in, they can have a major impact on your future career.

But if you are a student and unhappy with your current studies, you may be wondering, “Can you change majors in college?”

A green arrow pointing left above a red arrow pointing right, both say "choice."

Can You Change Majors in College?

The answer is a resounding “yes!” Students can always change their majors in college. Some switches may come with more hurdles than others, but students always have the option to change up their area of study – even in the months leading up to college graduation. However, it may not be the best route for every student and those looking to switch majors should consider the question and the answers from all different angles.

But should you change your major? That’s a different question entirely. Let’s run through some considerations you should keep in mind before changing up your area of study.

Should You Change Majors in College?

Students are always able to change their major in college, and there are several reasons students decide to make the switch. Here are three common ones:

1. You’re Unhappy with Your Current Area of Study

Many students change their major because they discover they simply don’t like the area of study. They may grow bored of it, they could find something they enjoy more, or they simply misunderstood what the actual content would be about.

In any case, it’s not a good idea to push yourself through a major if you simply don’t enjoy it. You likely won’t enjoy your career options after graduation as a result, and you’ll wish you changed your major when you could!

Helpful Tip >> SEARCH MAJORS to see if yours is right for you for if there is something similar but a better fit.

2. It Doesn’t Align with your Career Goals

It’s not uncommon for students to discover partly through their studies that their major does not actually align with their career goals. While there can be some overlap, not all related majors are the best option for careers.

For example, biology can be a strong major for a career in a zoo, but a zoology major may actually be the better choice in the long run.

And if your career goals change drastically – where you wanted to work in a zoo, you now want to be a writer – your major may have to change just as drastically. In this case, you could opt to major in English and minor in Biology so those earlier classes don’t go to waste.

Not sure? > > EXPLORE CAREERS to find something you are truly interested in.

3. You Find it Doesn’t Match Your Skill Set

Students may love a subject, but once they take college-level courses could be overwhelmed. College courses, especially advanced classes, can be extremely difficult, and no amount of study and tutoring can make a difference for some students. If you find yourself in this boat, you could be putting your GPA or even placement at the school in jeopardy.

It’s okay to find you’re not skilled in a specific area or subject. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s okay to admit that this major is just not right for your skill set. That doesn’t mean you can’t find something related that aligns better with your interests and your strengths!

READ MORE >> Majors For Different Myers Briggs Types

Important Considerations Before Changing Your Major

Of course, while you can always change your major in college, it may not always be the best option for your goals. There can also be downsides that make switching your area of study more difficult.

1. Your Current School May Not Have an Ideal Program for Your New Major

Not all colleges and universities offer the same programs. And many of these programs are not created equal. While one school may have a standout English program, its biology program could be lacking. And some schools might not even have your major. They could have a biology track but not one for zoology.

At this stage, students may have to transfer colleges to get into their preferred program. Those looking to switch their majors need to weigh the pros and cons of making this leap and also identify the best schools for their new wants.

Keep in mind, too, that some majors will require a separate application and it’s not as easy as submitting paperwork. Engineering, for example, is usually a competitive major. If you’re looking to change from English to Engineering, you could find the change difficult if not impossible without transferring.

2. Switching Your Major Can Result in a Later Graduation Date

One of the biggest downsides that prevent students from changing their major in college is the fact that it will often push back graduation dates. So it actually matters when you change your major, however. If you make the switch early, in your sophomore or first half of your junior year, for instance, you could find it has little to no impact on your graduation date. And if you’re moving to a related major, it may not really affect your trajectory either.

However, if you change your major in your senior year or the second half of your junior year or your new area of study is drastically different from your old selection, you could be looking at another 2 to 3 years of school. Students may also be required to take introductory courses they were not required to take previously. For example, if you placed out of taking a math class as an English major, but are changing to Biology, you may have to take those math classes as a result.

Taking summer and J-term classes, forgoing a minor, and adding more coursework during Spring and Fall semesters can help offset this delay, but additional semesters or quarters may be unavoidable if you want to change your major in college.

3. It Can Cost More

Of course, if you’re taking additional classes to meet your new major’s requirements, it’s going to cost more money. This can be a big reason students don’t change their majors in college. Tuition is already expensive, and this extra cost can be staggering.

Scholarships and grants may also be affected. Those that are renewable every year don’t usually go beyond 4 years of availability. Others may be contingent on you pursuing a particular major. Come grants are even major-dependent, and students can find themselves on the hook for paying back that cash if they change their major.

Reasons You Shouldn’t Change Your Major in College

Not all of the downsides will affect every student looking to change their major in college, but there are reasons you shouldn’t change your major right now.

1. Your Parents Told You To

Parents usually want what is best for their child, but those desires can sometimes be detrimental to the student – especially when it comes to education. There are countless children who choose areas of studies based on their parents’ wants, not their own. Your area of study should be up to you – not your parents, not your family members, not your friends.

Students who have their tuition paid for by their parents may find it difficult to avoid their recommendations, especially if the parent is making the payment conditional, but it’s important to think about your own wants, needs, and goals. If your parents want you to major in biology, but you prefer English, you could be setting yourself up for burnout, less-than-ideal grades, and a career that isn’t aligned with your personal goals.

Even if your parents’ payments are based on you studying a particular major, it probably isn’t worth it. Instead, look to afford it yourself. There are loans, scholarships, and grants that can help make college more affordable and you can study the major you want.

2. All of the Classes are at 8 am

We get it. Waking up at 8 am is tough, and if your major has an abundance of courses that have an 8 am start time, it can be easy to say, “This isn’t the major for me.” However, this really shouldn’t be a reason you switch your major in college. You can and will get through this, and the early morning habits you learn now will pay off big time in the future.

If you really are struggling with 8 am classes, consider online courses that allow you to attend on your schedule if possible. Other tips include going to bed earlier, taking electives later in the day when available, or scheduling all your classes early as well to get them all done at once in the course of your day. You might also want to try scheduling all of your courses over 3 to 4 days rather than 5 days so you get some extra days off.

3. You’re Making the Change on a Whim

Have you had a sudden epiphany that English isn’t for you and Biology would be much more your jam? That spark of inspiration can feel like a sudden wake-up call, but is it truly what you want in the long run? Stress from college and other responsibilities and factors can cause us to have reactive responses that are actually detrimental to our goals.

If you’re thinking about changing your major in college, this is not a decision that should be made overnight. Instead, consider the pros and cons of making the switch before you make it official. While you can always change back if you decide you made a mistake, you don’t want to waste time and money taking new major-related classes on a whim.

How to Switch Your Major?

So after considering all of these different factors, is it time to switch your major? These steps can help you make the best decision for your studies as well as your career.

1. Take a Class in the Subject

You should always take a class (or a few) in the subject before making the switch, especially if it’s a drastic change. This will help you feel out the area of study, see if it matches your strengths, and help you discover if the courses are what you expected. Sometimes our perceptions of a major don’t align with reality, so taking a few classes in the subject will help you make the best decision for your education.

2. Explore Career Options

Students should also ensure that their new major is aligned with their career goals. A trip to the college’s Career Center would not go amiss here! They can help students identify the best courses and majors for their individual goals. You might just discover the job you want has a different recommended major than you expected.

3. Talk To Your Advisor

Those looking to change their major should schedule a meeting with their advisor. They can help you through the transition. If you’re making a drastic change in area of study, however, your advisor may change. So you should first meet with your current advisor and then with your new major advisor to make sure the change goes as smoothly as possible.

4. Consider Transferring

If your current college’s available programs don’t fit your needs and wants, you should consider transferring to a college that does have what you need. This is a big leap, so research is necessary. Students should approach this as they did during their high school years and ensure they’re finding a college that matches them and their new major. Not all students will have to transfer though to change their major in college.

5. Make the Change!

After your meetings with your advisors and the Career Center, you’re ready to change your major! Your advisor should walk you through the process and necessary paperwork, so make sure to get that completed as quickly as possible and sign up for your new classes.

You might also want to think about working with a tutor in your new major to catch up, especially if you’re making a more drastic change. If you studied English for the last two years, for example, your math skills for your new Biology major may not be up to snuff! You will want to set aside time to hone your skills in these cases.

Changing your major in college isn’t an easy decision, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Students should look at all angles before making the switch, but remember: if you’re unhappy in your current area of study, you don’t have to stay. Staying can actually do more harm than good.

If you’re thinking about changing your major and your current school no longer matches your needs, wants, and goals, you might just have to look for a new college. College Raptor’s College Match can help you find the perfect school for your new area of study. Sign up for free right here