Picking a Major Early in College

Time and time again, people may tell you not to stress over deciding on a major right away.  They generally advise you to take your time contemplating, that you can change it at any time so there should be no pressure at all.  While all of this may be true in a sense, the difficulty of adapting your curriculum to a major switch cannot be underestimated – but it often is.

People are quick to glamorize the freedom of being able to change your mind regarding your career path at any time in college, but the truth is, you can only change your mind so many times before it significantly lengthens your college career.  With every major comes a different set of required classes, and depending on how closely related your new major and past major are, these classes may not always overlap.  So if you’re going into junior year and decide you want to be a marketing major when you have spent the last two years taking journalism classes, being able to fit your new batch of requirements in the four remaining semesters ahead of you may seem a bit daunting.

All in all, it really does depend on the specific majors in question, because many students do change their minds late in the game and still manage to graduate on time or close to on time.  The particular major could be less demanding in its requirements, you could get lucky in class requirements overlapping, or maybe you’re just dedicated enough to cram an overload of hours into each semester you have left.  So this idea is not impossible and you should never be discouraged to change your mind if you really feel passionate about a different career – after all, that is what’s most important in the end, doing something that you love.  But you could make things a heck of a lot easier on yourself if you take just a few steps to really think things through during your first few semesters of school.

First off, your freshman year will be filled with mostly Gen Ed’s anyway, so this is the safest time to flip from major to major.  You won’t be wasting any time because you need these Gen Ed’s regardless of what degree you walk away with later on.  And while you’re being forced to take all of this general education, really try to soak it up.  It’s good to be kept well-rounded because you experience more, and the more you learn about basic subjects, the more you will figure out what you’re really interested in.  The subjects you find yourself better at or caring about more may point you in the general direction of a more specific area of study that suits you well.  This year should be spent truly exploring what the academic world has to offer you so you can discover what topics really matter to you.

By the time sophomore year rolls around, you should hopefully have a good idea of what you want to study.  If you do, start getting involved in all aspects of it!  If you’re still undecided, at least narrow down the main choices you’re considering and try to take at least one class in each of them.  This way, you’re still allowing yourself to learn and explore rather than blindly settling down and you’re decreasing any possibly wasted time.  Also, if you’re still struggling at this point, talk to other students in those majors, join extracurricular activities related to them, meet with your university’s Career Center.  There are endless resources on college campuses ready to give you an honest perspective on making this big decision.

Ideally, if you follow through on this process thoughtfully, you should be settled on a major by the end of your sophomore year and will have already made some progress toward completing its requirements.  Again, if your career passions change overnight, you need to do what makes you happy.  But by setting goals for yourself to figure out what you want early on, you will be able to devote a lot more time to it throughout your college career and be ten times more prepared to make it a professional reality once you graduate.