Many students start their college careers with an intended major and a prospective career path that they would like to follow after college graduation. Some students, who enter with undecided majors, may quickly discover their course of study in college.
However, many students decide that their intended major is, for some reason, not for them. These students can change their college major, but should consider the consequences of doing so before declaring a new major.
Reasons for Changing A College Major
In fact, studies show that most college students will change their major at least once during their college career, with many of those students changing majors multiple times, reports the College Board.
There are many reasons that a student may change their major during college. For most, it is because they are unhappy with their current program of study, or have changed career or graduate school plans. For some, changing a major can be a result of a change in the job climate of that industry, or simply because of financial reasons.
Others may be forced to change their major due to transferring colleges. Not all colleges offer majors such as pre-law, pre-medicine, English, education, or political science, so while a student may be enrolled in a popular program at their current college or university, the same program may not exist at their new school once they transfer.
Changing A College Major May Mean More Time in College
While colleges and universities vary in when students officially declare their majors, changing a major can result in taking extra terms or years in order to complete degree requirements.
College Board reports that, outside of the liberal arts, many major programs have a predetermined set of degree requirements that must be taken in sequence in order to graduate. Starting these required sequences of courses and other requirements later in a student’s career may result in extra time spent in college to complete these courses, even if a student’s general education or institutional requirements are already completed.
In addition, if a student changes his or her major they may see a change in their general education requirements in order to satisfy the graduations requirements of the college or university. Some colleges and universities have different general education requirements for students who are pursuing bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and bachelor of education degrees, so it is important to consult an academic advisor before making the change. Changing majors and changing degrees may mean making up general education classes to satisfy new institutional requirements.
Things to Consider Before Changing A College Major
Many things can happen as a result of a student changing his or her major. This can have an impact on a student’s college career in many ways, aside from taking extra time to complete a degree:
Change in financial aid There are specific scholarships and grants offered by colleges and universities for students who are enrolled in specific programs. If a student is receiving one of these scholarships and changes his or her major, they run the risk of losing the financial aid or receiving a smaller award.
Owing back course and department fees Some major programs, such as electronic media, graphic design, and fine and studio arts, are expensive. To offset the cost of materials and the upkeep of work rooms and labs, a college or university may charge major or departmental fees for students who are enrolled in that program. When a student changes their major, however, they may find that they owe back departmental fees to cover the cost of running the program. Sometimes, these fees can be as retroactive as being charged back to the time of a student’s enrollment.
Retaking general education requirements Some colleges and universities may require a different set of general education requirements based on a student’s major. Changing a major may mean retaking some general education requirements, such as math or foreign languages, in order to satisfy these new requirements.
Testing and entrance assessments By changing a major, it is possible that students may need to take a placement test or entrance assessment before officially enrolling in the program.
Applying to a new college or university division At larger colleges and universities, students who wish to major in certain areas, such as nursing or education, have to complete a separate application process in addition to applying to the college or university. Students changing their major may find that they have to apply to a new division of their college or university prior to changing their major.
Changing a college major is a common act among college students for many reasons. However, there are many implications that students may face after changing their major that can greatly alter their college career.