Contemplating a Major Shift
“Change it abruptly” does not come highly recommended.
By Lindsey Davis, Iowa State University
You haven’t even started classes yet, but already your college of choice is asking you to declare a major.
Many students, like me, head to college straight out of high school. That means a vast majority of college freshmen are 17-19 years old. I started college when I was 18. At 18, I was still admittedly pretty immature and not quite so ready to take on life by myself. I still needed to call my mom at least a couple days a week because I either 1) didn’t know how much laundry detergent to use, 2) had no idea what a W2 was, or 3) just needed someone to calm me down when I felt overwhelmed with living on my own. On top of all that, I was expected to know just what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Succumbed by pressure, I declared journalism and mass communications as my major within a week of starting college.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a lot of college students can relate to this. The pressure to choose a major early is prevalent, and it’s even encouraged. A few short weeks into my first semester of college, I panicked. Why on Earth did I choose journalism as a major? I convinced myself that I wasn’t cut out for the field, that I wasn’t the kind of person who could sit and talk to strangers about their personal endeavors for the rest of my life. Everyone else around me seemed satisfied with their majors, so I figured I had to make a change and I had to make it now.
I gave myself three days to pick another major. How generous of myself. Three days to conjure up a career path that I would journey on for an indefinite amount of time. Ultimately, I chose English education as my next major. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking back I’m flabbergasted with myself. Throughout high school, I constantly thought that anyone in education was crazy because—HELLO—we just spent 12 years of our life sitting in a classroom. It was time to break free! Yet, I got scared that I had chosen the wrong major with journalism, so I made a snap decision that ultimately left me feeling unfulfilled and even less sure about my future.
After two years of slogging through education courses, I finally realized that English education was simply a terrible fit for me. I don’t have what it takes to be a good teacher. That’s no pity party, that’s just the truth. I regret that it took me two years to figure it out, and I regret ever changing my major in the first place. But if there’s one thing you can never do, it’s look back. Two years later and I’ve switched my major back to journalism.
After beginning my journalism courses again, I feel overwhelmed with satisfaction and relief that I’ve returned to my true passion. Although I’m a little bit behind others who have been on the journalism route their whole college career, I don’t know if I would feel as determined now if I had never made the misstep of trying out education. Because now I truly know where I’m meant to be. I also know exactly where I’m not meant to be.
Maybe you’re feeling anxious that you’re not in the right major. Maybe you’re really not on the path you should be, but you’re just too nervous to make the change. Maybe you truly are in the major meant for you, but you just need a little reassurance. I’ve been you. I’ve been all of you. My advice is this: (prepare for a cringeworthy moment) follow your gut.
When I switched from journalism to English education in the first place, it was because I never gave myself time to think deeply about things. One day I just began to feel a bit angsty, and next thing you know I’m freaking out and switching my major. I never really gave journalism a shot to begin with. Don’t be like me. I’m positive that even back then, my little ole heart knew that I was meant for journalism. But I let my head get in the way. Again, don’t be like me. If you’re thinking about changing your major, do yourself a favor and don’t rush into anything. You’ll probably make the wrong decision if you make a decision too quickly.
I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to choose a major right out of the gate.
Lots of universities, like the one I attend, allow you to come into your freshman year undecided. I never really knew about this, so I never saw it as an option. It’s not a bad idea to spend your first semester taking a variety of general education courses to gain a better understanding of paths you may be interested in. If you’re already an upperclassman and this isn’t an option for you, start taking elective courses. Have you always been itching to try out a beginners drawing course? Do it. Want to know more about animal science? Find an intro course and sign up. This might lead to a career path you had never considered before.
College isn’t just about practicing and gaining knowledge for your future professional life. It’s about discovering yourself and your true passions. Don’t hate me for being so cheesy. Sometimes it’s necessary.
I’ve changed my major minimal times compared to some other people. It’s natural to question your choices, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking the wrong major. Just as long as you give yourself time to get out and find the right thing for you. Yet, there are so many adults and professionals who have been in their fields for a long time and they still aren’t so sure they’ve found their passion.
Maybe you won’t discover your passion in college, and that’s just fine too. You and me, we are ever evolving people. Who’s to say that tomorrow I won’t want to switch my major to neuroscience? It could happen. (But probably not).