Inevitably, at one point or another, you will switch majors in college. In fact, according to one study, at least 50 to 70 percent of students change majors at least once when pursuing a bachelor's, so on average, at least three times before the graduation! Like many others, I went into university determined to stick to the major I had spent hours mulling over. But soon enough, two semesters into my first year, I already had to change my major. And as I later found out, changing my major impacted a lot more than just the classes I would take...
1. The list of majors you can pursue shortens considerably, based on each major's credit requirements and your financial constraints.
My first major, computer science, was selected after I succumbed to encouragement (AKA peer pressure) from friends and family to pursue a lucrative, money-making degree. But after facing the onslaught of college level calculus and chemistry fresh out of high school, my resolve crumbled mid second semester.
I decided to follow my heart (at least for my associate's degree) and consulted a counselor about switching over to journalism. My counselor just nodded, gave me the print-out version of the online form and that was it. But as it turns out, had I gone along with my counselor's nonchalant attitude and switched over without a second thought, it would have delayed my graduation by at least a year's worth of classes. My college's journalism major track required at least two semesters of foreign language, over five other general ed courses and then another five classes for my area of study.
I was able to avoid making that switch-over mistake and costing myself another year of financial drama and missing credits by this special program: Degree Works — an online checklist of all the classes I needed to complete for whatever selected major. DegreeWorks also shows you what classes would carry over and what you would need to take if you were to switch majors. This played a vital role in my decision to switch, because as I soon realized I'd have to spend at least eight months or more than usual to obtain an associate's in journalism, I dropped the major from my list. Instead, I chose my second option: criminal justice, which allowed for all my already completed general ed core classes to be carried over, so I was able to graduate right on time!
Some students may prefer to pursue a specific degree, even if it takes them an extra semester or two to obtain it, and that's totally fine and up to each individual, but understand how many hours and financial aid you will have to commit to obtain the degree. That vital information plays a key role once it's time to make a decision. Some counselors may not be of much assistance when it comes to selecting the right major for you based on personal factors like your financial situation and total number of credits already obtained. That was my case, and by putting in the time to weigh the options myself, I was able to pick a major that suited me financially, interest wise and worked with my time constraints. Even if your college doesn't have DegreeWorks or a similar, helpful program that tracks the classes you've taken and need, comparing degree programs' requirements list can help to narrow down options and select the right major for you.
2. Depending on which college you attend, your degree program may have few to zero extracurriculars and scholarships available.
Each university is a different story, but it's a story you should read through before joining mid-chapter. There are a variety of degree programs available, yet not each program offers extracurricular opportunities, including career fair, company connections or even something as basic as club activities that may be essential to panning out a future for yourself in the workforce after college.
For example, at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), the technology department is still new and fairly underdeveloped, with only a dozen or so professors holding lectures versus the numerous professors leading other fields of study. Because the tech programs are still under development, they don't offer many club activities or student associations — something I took for granted going in, since every other well-known college in the area did offer extracurriculars for tech majors. But GGC doesn't. I didn't even learn of this until I attended orientation and spoke with an adviser. The webpage for GGC's school of technology and science doesn't mention it either, but it's definitely something to consider when you're switching majors.
Is it important that your college offers various leadership opportunities and connections in your field of study? Or are you willing to start a few or connect with others on your own, individually?
Another serious matter to research for students in need of financial aid is the list of scholarships every college sends out prior to the beginning of the semester. Georgia State's Perimeter College, for instance, offers several scholarships geared towards English, education, nursing and dental hygienist majors. The college also offers a chunk of their financial awards to incoming freshman and students on specific campuses, but each school has its own pie chart of scholarships, varying slices for a few specific majors.
If you're dependent on financial aid, be sure to check which degrees receive the larger slice of the scholarship pie to factor into the decision-making process. There will obviously be more competition for certain scholarships and majors, so take student bodies (as divided by their majors) into account as well.
3. Your resume skill set list and approach to interviews changes drastically, as do your job prospects.
If you're majoring in something that's sure to land you a company job straight out of college like computers science or information technology (according to... well, practically everyone), then one perk is you can pretty much copy-paste your skills set from Google straight onto your resume, recite the list of programming languages you've learned plus a bit of career experience on the side and boom — hired.
But what about vague majors, like political science, English or even mathematics?
If you obtain a teaching certificate, that's one way to apply your knowledge of the field, but nowadays, many millennials are finding themselves in job positions that appear to the complete opposite of what they majored in. This can sound deflating for sure, as if what you major in doesn't matter at all, but that isn't necessarily the case.
For more abstract degrees, such as political science, you not only learn (the obvious) debate skills but also how to analyze stats to support your argument, broaden your perspective of the world and other cultures, religions and political structures that inhabit it. You master valuable communication and research skills that come into play during team projects, and when applying for management positions, this can prepare you to take leadership roles head-on. It's also vital to support your skill sets with viable experiences — namely, internships, volunteer experience as well as past and present jobs.
Walk your talk.
And with that, you can apply for almost any job — from traveling journalist to banking or other business.
Most importantly, if you genuinely cared about what you learned and can apply those skills, they will come in handy later on, which leads me to my next point...
4. All of your classes are important and matter. Yes, even "women's gender studies" and "underwater basket weaving."
OK, maybe not "underwater basket weaving," but hey, you've got to admit that could certainly come in handy someday. I mean, how many people you know are competing to score a spot in that field? If you're passionate and hardworking, it just may work out!
Many people have made fun of certain classes college requires, and they're understandably frustrated. I mean, as cool as it sounds, what does "street fighting mathematics" have to do with your history major? Besides that weird batch, there are the drier subjects like history from the 1500s, philosophy and physical education — all of which can be a headache to students who just want to study exactly what they're majoring in and be done with school. Paying fees for general ed classes like those can be irritating, especially if you can't see how they are useful to you, specifically.
But guess what? They are.
Shots have been fired, my bretheren.
But before y'all come for me, let me paraphrase quote my 8th grade math teacher:
"Learning a variety of subjects expands your brain, so you learn to use various parts of it. Whatever you choose to major in college or whatever field you want to work in later on, you'll use the underlying skills you learned from all those different classes to solve all the diverse challenges that will pop up in your higher studies, work place and even personal life."
For instance, my first year, I took a sustainable business class as a light burden to round off a 16 credit schedule, but it turned out to be my favorite class of the semester. I had next to no understanding or real interest in how businesses influenced the environment. I understood "environment" and "business" in separate contexts, yet by taking a class that combined the two topics into a transcontinental study of what turned out to be a fascinating, significant subject that affected my life directly, I changed entirely as a person. Now, I make it a point to invest in environmentally friendly products and research whether a business is truly all-natural before purchasing its products. This was not a class I'd ever choose to take on my own time had it not been offered as a college course, nor would I have stumbled upon it myself, but since I was required to take it, I know the basics of business if I'd ever like to start one!
Many people dream of starting a business or owning a shop, yet they seldom take the first steps towards their dream without failing on the first try because they are not understanding it in a proper, learning setting. Reading through "Business for Dummies" will not automatically prepare you, and it probably won't bolster your confidence either, unlike a class with an educated instructor and peers.
This is why understanding why you are learning something is just as important as actually learning it.
If you don't deeply understand the topics enough to explore outside of the controlled box they are presented in, then you are missing out on the opportunity to progress above and beyond the minimum standards you are held to. Don't think of yourself as a yet another student when it comes to studying what you love. It's amazing enough to be given the opportunity to study whatever you choose, so do not take that for granted, and rather, take full advantage of it by envisioning yourself as an explorer in a field that is always developing in leaps and bounds beyond the pages of your textbooks.
No matter what major you switch to, genuinely invest yourself in your studies, and you will prosper and enjoy life. And if you have a hard time accepting that from a college student, then here's a graduate's two cents on what a difference your degree makes, post-grad life.