If you’re a freshman in college, you’ve probably asked yourself this question. Actually, if you’re a sophomore, junior, or senior, you may have asked yourself this same question as well.
Numerous factors assist you in the decision to declare a major. A college major should lead you to a successful career, a stable salary, and financial security in your future. That’s a lot of pressure to place on one decision.
Don’t worry, changing your major is perfectly normal. Studies show that 50%-70% of undergraduate students change their majors at least once, and the majority change their majors at least three times.
Every student will reach a point when it is, unfortunately, too late to switch majors.
The Bottom Line…
There is no general truth about which semester or year is too late for switching majors. Each case is different.
Many people believe that you should not change majors after starting your junior year. Typically, colleges give you a list of general education credits you need to complete to earn your degree.
You can spend your first two years taking these courses. Doing so helps you get one step closer to graduation as well as discover what subjects you may lean toward when declaring a major.
Once you get to your junior year, you definitely need to declare a major. If you endure one semester of courses in your major and hate them, now is the time to switch majors. Once you hit second semester of your junior year, you make life more difficult by switching majors late in the game.
Generally, the end of junior year is “too late” to change your major.
However, there are several factors you should consider when deciding if you are going to switch majors. These influences can help you decide if it is “too late” in your specific situation.
When Do You Want to Graduate?
Most incoming freshman set a goal to graduate in four years. The later you change your major, the more likely you are to push back your graduation date.
Let’s say your current major is Communication Studies, and you want to change your major to English. This switch may not mess with your graduation date, because both majors are in the humanities department. They most likely have the same core classes you had to knock out your first two years.
If you change your major from Communication Studies to Biology, you may be gambling with your graduation date. You would be switching from the humanities department to the science department. You would be switching from a Bachelor of Arts to a Bachelor of Science.
Communication Studies and Biology most likely have different core requirements, so some of those courses you sat through your first two years may not even count toward your new degree. Those would become hours wasted. As a result, you may have to add on an extra semester or two.
Maybe graduating a semester or two later than expected isn’t a big deal to you. Many students don’t like to graduate at different times than their friends. Others simply do not like school and don’t want to prolong the experience.
If you want to graduate in four years, you should try to avoid changing majors once you begin your junior year of college. If you decide to switch after this point, you will need to add an extra class or two each semester. Eighteen or twenty-one hours makes for a hefty workload.
You can’t ignore one huge reason people don’t want to be in college for more than four years: money.
Is Money a Priority?
It’s no secret that an undergraduate degree is expensive.
According to recent studies, the average in-state tuition for public universities is $9,410 per year. Out-of-state public universities cost $23,890 per year, and private universities cost $32,410 per year.
Those numbers only reflect tuition. If you’ve attended college, you know how expensive campus housing, textbooks, and food can be.
Each additional semester you stay in college adds more to your bill. One more semester could mean thousands of dollars.
Many college scholarships do not extend past four years. If you are taking out loans, you will have to take out more for more time in school.
However, money may not be an issue for you. Your parents might be paying for your education. If you are switching majors to go into a career that quickly earns you a large salary, you will be able to pay off those extra student loans easily.
Before you bury yourself in more student loans, ask yourself an important question. “Why do I want to change my college major?”
Do You Need to Change Majors to Move Forward?
Most students want to change their majors because they decide they want to go into a different career field.
In reality, your undergraduate degree is not always a reflection of your future career.
The job market is constantly changing. You should not necessarily add years and thousands of dollars to your college degree if you want to go into a certain field. Studies show that roughly 40%-60% of careers of the future have not even been created yet.
If you decide in your junior year of college that you want to go to medical school, you do not necessarily need to change your major to Biology or Pre-Med.
It’s true that medical schools have certain prerequisites. However, when choosing which students to accept into their programs, medical schools look at how well you excelled in your chosen major rather than what your major was. They look at your GPA and MCAT scores. They pay attention to you in your interview. They don’t toss out your application simply because you were a Music major.
Asking, “Why do I want to change my college major?” is the most important step in making your decision. If you can’t think of a solid reason, then it’s already too late.