College / Tips & Tricks

I Changed Majors Seven Times—And It’s Okay

When I was a senior in high school, my dream college was the last to post my admissions decision, and the only one to tell me the date that it would be posted. So, the day before I would hear back, I slunk into AP Calculus looking like I had been punched in the stomach. My teacher asked me why the smile had run away from my face, and when he heard my answer, decided to talk candidly to me about his own experiences.

“I went to college for computer programming because I was good at it, and my family said I should try it.” He hitched up a pant leg and propped himself on the desk next to me while my classmates craned their necks to listen. “But I hated it. Computer programming was boring, and it wasn’t what I wanted. So, I switched. And I switched again. And again.”

By the end of his story, my teacher had switched majors eight times, and had only decided on teaching math after talking to his professor at college and learning about what she did. My teacher stood with a flourish, grabbed a whiteboard marker, and turned back to me.

“It doesn’t matter where you end up, or even where you think you’re gonna end up. Wherever you are, make the most of it. Don’t waste the privilege of learning. And get into it.”

This story was the first thing I thought of when I sat down in my first history class of the year and realized suddenly that, as much as I loved history, I could not major in it. The panic set in as the anxious thoughts began. What classes do you take if you don’t know your major yet? Isn’t there an advisor to tell me what I should do now? How do I drop this class? What do I take instead?

I remembered my old math teacher’s story, and then spent the next few months putting myself into random majors, trying to convince myself I could go for anthropology, psychology, English, sociology, rhetoric, human development, public affairs — the cycle only ended when I realized that my real passions were for political science and philosophy, and the rest is, ironically, history.

My situation is not unique. Hundreds of thousands of students start college every year, some with a perfect idea for the future, and some trying to figure it out. In fact, about four out of five college students will change their majors at least once. When you finally get to college, a place with so many more options for classes, clubs and other extracurricular activities, it gets harder to choose.

Looking back at my own experience, most of my friends found themselves studying subjects they never could have predicted when they started college. One friend started as a biology major, and within a month declared a double major in history and Latin American studies. Another stayed a psychology major, but declared an anthropology minor and has started pursuing forensic anthropology.

The stories go on and on, proving one thing–it is totally normal to change your mind, and even more normal to take your time to explore the options college gives you for your education.Majors

“It doesn’t matter where you end up, or even where you think you’re gonna end up. Wherever you are, make the most of it. Don’t waste the privilege of learning. And get into it.”

While being undecided or unsure of your major can be a scary addition to the college experience, you are not alone. College students around the world share your frustrations, and we are all finding new ways to explore academia and find out what excites and encourages us to pursue our educations. Some suggestions for undecided and unsure college students include, but are not limited to:

1. Start by taking classes to fulfill your requirements!

Every college has a list of things they need you to take so you can graduate. If you don’t have a major to aim for, start by crossing some requirements off your list. College offers a weird variety of classes in writing, science, and languages that you can use to expand your horizons!

2. Take weird or unusual classes your college offers!

Look at your university’s course catalog, and keep an eye out for interesting classes you normally wouldn’t take. You never know – a class you never even knew could exist might change your perspective!

3. Join clubs for completely different interests!

Some of the coolest clubs I have seen or joined include a Zombie Student Association, intramural teams for literally any sport you can think of, amateur theater companies, and so many more. Reach out to clubs that sound interesting to you, get on their mailing lists and try to pop into a meeting every once in a while!

4. Pay attention to what your friends study!

Colleges and universities are always bringing in guests and visiting professors who are eager to talk about their studies. Tag along with your friend to her environmental philosophy lecture! Go to your roommate’s Women in Business conference! Gather all different kinds of information and see what sparks your interests.

5. Don’t get scared or intimidated!

There is so much to do and see in college, but don’t get overwhelmed! You have a whole four years to soak up as much as you want from the campus around you. Remember, you are not the only person experiencing all of these new things. Everyone around you is just as confused and excited as you are, so have fun and learn!

For every undecided or unsure student entering or continuing college this year, do not worry about “figuring it out.” You have so many opportunities to get involved, whether it be in your classes, clubs, or the community of like-minded peers you will have around you this fall.

From the words of a wise teacher, “It doesn’t matter where you end up, or even where you think you’re gonna end up. Wherever you are, make the most of it. Don’t waste the privilege of learning. And get into it.”

Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3

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8 thoughts on “I Changed Majors Seven Times—And It’s Okay

  1. Good advice! The world puts a huge pressure and misconception of young adults that once you get a degree / job you’re set for life, you can’t change your plans, it’ll give you everything you need. I applaud everyone who goes after their dreams, no matter how many times their dreams change.

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