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Making Plans to Move Majors

Making Plans to Move Majors

By Chris Diehl

February 24, 2015

You’re bored in your classes. You’re not doing well. You realize that when you were a freshman, you had no idea what you were doing. All signs point to one solution: it’s time to switch your major.

According to Monster College, two out of every three students will change their major at least once during their college career. How do you make the transition as smoothly as possible?

Do Your Research

It might seem elementary, but it needs to be asked: Does your college offer the major you want? And we’re not only referring to whether they offer the discipline itself, but also whether the college’s program is up to your academic expectations. The strength of the academic program you’re about to leave behind probably played a part in choosing your college. Is the new academic department at your college as robust as you’d like?

Review the rules and policies before charging ahead. A major switch may only be allowed during certain times of the year. Check the dates during the academic year when a major switch is allowed. Ask your current academic advisor or your dean if you’re not sure.

But the biggest caveat of all is to make sure you understand what academic requirements you’ll have to complete after you change majors before you actually change majors. “Make sure to read the catalog and know what the requirements are … plan ahead what it is you’re going to do, especially in areas where there are a lot of electives,” says Mary Morley, registrar at Cal Tech. Not checking this beforehand could mean that you extend the time you spend on your undergraduate degree by a semester, a full year, or even longer. Also keep in mind that staying longer means paying more.

Changing majors can cost you your financial aid. “Some students are on scholarships specific to their college or field, and they may lose their scholarship when they lose that major,” says Dr. Fritz H. Grupe, manager of and professor of information systems at the University of Nevada, Reno. Before you make the change, take into account how switching majors will affect your college costs.

Jump Through Hoops: One or Many?

Depending on the school, the process may be as simple as filling out a form and then briefly meeting with your advisor; it could involve an interview and a waiting list. With that in mind, it’s very important for you to check with both your current and future academic departments to ask about the policies for changing your major. You may be asked to:

  • Fill out a form: Keep a copy for your records.
  • Fulfill general requirements: Some schools require that you have taken at least a semester or even a full academic year before allowing you to switch majors.
  • Meet GPA requirements: You might be denied entry if your GPA is too low.
  • Participate in department consultations: Some schools strongly recommend them, others may require them. Either way, it is a good idea to meet with academic advisors from both your old and new majors and get your questions answered.
  • Get assigned to a waiting list: Not unusual, depending on the popularity of the major, how full it may be during any particular semester or the time of year you try to transfer in.
  • Interview or audition: More common if you plan to switch to the performing arts.

Remember that you may be asked to only do one or two of these things. Your academic advisor will be able to best advise you about what needs to be done to switch your major.

But don’t assume that advisors or department representatives will have checked into your situation before signing off on your major change. While an advisor should certainly help you understand what’s expected, it’s ultimately your responsibility to know what courses you still need to complete.


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