Academia, Blog

College 101: Declaring a Major

Going to college is such a rewarding experience in so many aspects of your life. However, the main purpose of going to college is to gain the knowledge necessary to prepare you for your future career. Thus, declaring your major is an important part of the college experience. The thought and task of choosing your major can be overwhelming. But, fear not! College is the arena and time to discover who you are, what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at, and what you want to be. In this post, I will tell you about my own experience with changing majors and will offer some thoughts on the process and when to declare your major. Please keep in mind to not change your major several times like I did! I will discuss the cons of doing so!

First off, let’s address what exactly IS a major?  A college major is a subject area that a student specializes in. There are a group of college courses that should be taken in sequence during their associates or undergraduate studies. Most curriculum require core classes that all students take, with specialized courses tailored to your major that will be taken later on in your college career.

From Graphic Design to Child & Family Sciences

Now, let me tell you about my exploration of majors… When I first started college, I KNEW that I wanted to be a graphic designer. I loved drawing, painting, and designing, so I was absolutely CERTAIN that this was what I wanted to do the rest of my life. As I started going through classes, I realized how time-consuming and expensive It was to be an art student. I should have looked up careers before declaring to be an art major. Instead, I did this post-hoc and learned that snagging a career as a graphic designer isn’t the easiest and most fruitful. I told myself, “You can always do your art as a hobby, but maybe not as a career.” So, instead of seeking advice from an academic advisor, I decided to switch majors on my own to marketing (my second semester of my freshman year). My thought was, “If I can’t design the ads, I can totally sell It!” HA! Looking back I see all of my mistakes by not seeking help and not really looking into what was required course-wise for making this switch. I learned VERY quickly that I was not cut out to be a business major. There are just some things that you think you would be good at, but once you get into It you realize that It’s just not for you. All of the math and economy jargon went COMPLETELY over my head, so I went back to the drawing board…

This time, I was a bit wiser and sought help from an academic advisor when I wanted to change my major. After chatting a bit, I expressed an interest in sports medicine and possibly being an athletic trainer (complete 180 from graphic design). I really enjoyed some of the classes I had taken, so I figured that I would give It a shot. For most athletic training programs, It is best to decide that you want to do that VERY early on in your college career. There are several other majors like this, too. The reason why is because of the course progression—meaning that the sequence of courses must be taken at certain times and you have to have a certain grade to move on. Everything is a prerequisite for all other courses, and some courses are only offered in Fall or Spring. Basically, you have to pass everything and get It all right! This can be very stressful! On top of that, you also have to do some “clinical” work and observe or practice in the field.

I was an athletic training major for more than a year, but I really didn’t feel like It was right for me and I was super stressed over course progression. So I went back to my academic advisor in distress around my Junior year and asked what I could do at that point. This meeting is really what changed the trajectory of my college and life career and I wish I could go back and hug her. She suggested that based on the courses I had already taken and rather than starting all over again, that I should consider Child and Family Development. It had the same core curriculum as athletic training and some of the courses I took overlapped. Once I declared my major, I fell in LOVE with this major. I met some of my best mentors in that department who encouraged me to go to graduate school. Since then, I have a bachelor’s in Child and Family Development, a masters in Child and Family Sciences, and I am now finishing my Ph.D. In Human Development and Family Sciences.

Disadvantages of Waiting to Declare Your Major

Again, I DO NOT recommend changing your major as many times as I did or changing It so late in the game. Some majors require a rigorous application process in which admission into the program isn’t guaranteed. Students (and mostly their parents) want to graduate college in 4 years. This can be accomplished by choosing a major and sticking with It, rather than switching over several times or waiting too late. If you wait too late to change your major, there may be a semester or two worth of courses that you have to take to catch up on the core requirements for that major. It is not imperative to declare your major during your first semester of college. It is better to wait and explore your options and interests so you can avoid getting behind on classes. It is best practice to have declared your major by your sophomore/junior year.

Benefits of Waiting to Declare Your Major

Studies have reported that about 80% of students change their major at some point in college, and 25% of students change their major after their freshman year. This is the time of your life to explore your interests. A lot of core classes are the same, so I recommend taking an intro class in the field that you are interested in to see if that’s something that you want to stick with. A great thing about college classes is the diversity of instructors teaching the classes and the students in those. A lot of amazing professors teach core and intro classes, so if you have a class that you really enjoy the instructor do not hesitate to reach out and start a conversation with them. Ask them about the field, their job, etc. You would be surprised how helpful small conversations can be! Explore your options and talk frankly with your academic advisor to determine the major best suited for you. Keep in mind that you can always choose to minor in a subject, too! Whatever you choose, and whether or not you stick with it, choose something that interests you to motivate you to keep going and to make the grades. Furthermore, when you do choose or consider which major to choose, think of why you are choosing. Is it because it’s what your parents want? Is this something you have always wanted to do? Just think of the reasons behind your decisions before making one.

From Fashion to Law

I can’t emphasize enough that college and this time of your life is meant for you to explore the world and learn about yourself enough by now. Sometimes late in your college career you may realize that you want to pursue a different field or attend graduate school in a similar/related field. But, you may be so far along in your major that you may as well just graduate rather than setting yourself back in courses and having to pay more money. In those cases, just know your chosen major does not define who you are or your career path. Life is about using the opportunities that have been presented to you and making the best of them. My husband was a fashion major in college. When he met me, my roommate was in law school and after hanging around us and starting to calculate what his next move in life was going to be, he decided that he had the potential and opportunity to go to law school. We always get funny looks when we tell people that he was a fashion major in college and is now in law school. Most students we have met in law school were business, criminal justice majors, etc. Regardless of his undergraduate major, I can proudly say that my husband is in the top of his class in law school.

While this post is a bit on the anecdotal side, I do hope you found this post helpful and informative! I would love to hear your experiences with declaring and changing majors in college!

Cheers!

Kelly

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