As you progress through your college education, you may find your interests or career goals have changed. This is a common occurrence among college students, and many students change majors during their college careers to pivot to new opportunities and areas of interest.
Here are a few key questions to ask if you are considering a new major:
What factors should I consider before changing majors?
Before you do anything, think about your reasons for changing majors. Why did you choose your current major in the first place? Are you passionate about this subject or career path? Did you start out with enthusiasm but now feel confused or overwhelmed?
Everyone creates their own educational path, and there is no single right path to graduation. As you begin to think about changing majors, some practicalities you'll want to consider include:
- Career outcomes: By changing majors, you may be choosing a different career path. Changing majors gives you an opportunity to rethink your professional goals after graduation.
- Credits: How many credits have you earned and how many of those credits will count toward the requirements of a new major? Depending on a number of factors, including the requirements of your current and potential new majors, you may be able to transfer more credits than you think.
- Graduation: How much longer might it take you to graduate if you change majors? Again, this depends on a number of factors, including how many credits transfer from one major to another. Still, you may not lose much time at all, especially if you take advantage of courses offered in the summer or transfer to programs with accelerated course schedules.
While the prospect of changing majors can be daunting, remember that at this point you haven't made any decisions yet. You're still considering your options and you don't have to decide this by yourself.
Who can help with my decision?
Before you decide to change majors, it can be helpful to speak with close friends, family members, classmates or professors. For help answering the practical questions posed above, be sure to seek out your academic advisor for advice on the logistical details of changing majors.
"I would suggest students talk with an academic advisor about switching majors as soon as they are considering it," says Kamran Samadi, assistant director of student success at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. "Even if you're not certain that you want to change your major yet, it’s important to have a discussion with an advisor to ensure you understand the various considerations."
Remember that while seeking advice from others is important, you still have the ultimate control over choosing your professional path; but speaking with an advisor can help you make the decision that's best for your situation.
When is the best time to change majors?
It's possible to submit a request to change your major at any point during the academic year, however the best time to change may be between semesters for the following reasons:
- Campus policy: Once the add/drop date passes for the session, your campus location will remain ASU Online for the remainder of the semester.
- Financial aid impact: Because your financial aid package is tied to your primary program, all courses for the semester must apply to your program. If you change majors in the middle of a session and the courses you’re taking don’t apply to both programs, your financial aid is at risk to be returned.
Talk to your academic advisor to formulate the best plan for your individual situation.
Steps for changing majors
Once you've decided to change majors, here are some steps to follow:
- Choose your new major: Take the time to educate yourself about possible fields before you make your choice. There are a wide variety of programs to choose from, so consider carefully what you want to study and how it aligns with your career goals. Talk with professors, students and practitioners in the field, or take an elective course. Once you're confident about your choice, it's time to move forward.
- Meet with an academic advisor: Your advisor can answer your questions about the details of switching majors. Advisors help students all the time, so they're well versed in the process of changing majors and will have good advice to offer.
- Review program requirements: Depending on which new major you choose, you might need to fulfill additional requirements to be accepted into the program, such as an entrance exam. Your GPA might also need to be above a certain level to be considered. Your academic advisor can walk you through these requirements and guide you toward the best route to success.
- Submit paperwork: Finally, submit any required paperwork for approval by department heads and deans. Again, your academic advisor can assist you in this process and act as your advocate. Once the change is finalized, you can chart a path forward together and see how many additional courses you'll need to take before you graduate.
Changing majors may seem challenging, but it can be a worthwhile and rewarding choice. Even if you're near graduation, you don't have to feel stuck in your current program or even at your current school. Many students change majors by transferring to another college that offers the courses and degree programs that they really want. ASU Online, for example, offers more than 300 degrees to satisfy many different interests and career paths.
"If you're no longer enjoying your major or not doing well, communicate this to your advisors rather than seeing it as a failure," says Catlin Mealey, advising manager at the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at Arizona State University. "We can explore or discuss other options and help you achieve your future goals."
Whether you've settled on an educational path or are considering a new one, reach out to an academic advisor to start charting your path to achieving your goals.