I want to change my major. Am I making the right decision? | Ask Kelly

Student sitting on steps looking at laptop

Dear Kelly,

For several years, I thought I wanted to go into a particular profession, and that’s the reason why I chose the major that I chose. But now I’m considering changing my major and going in a completely different direction. This has everyone in my family upset and concerned, but I just feel I have changed my mind. How do I know if changing my major is the right decision?

Whether to change your major is certainly a tough decision. You have chosen a major and decided on a path for your life, and then you begin to rethink things. You begin to see other possibilities and wonder if you should take the time to consider them or stay steadfast in your original choice. This problem can become especially difficult if you have already begun your major courses and changing majors would mean you may have to go to school longer. And if you are already in your major courses and you change majors, would the tuition you spent on those classes just be a waste? You’ve got people giving you advice from all angles, and I know it can be quite overwhelming.

The first thing I want you to do is to advocate for yourself. While advice is great, you need to spend some one-on-one time with yourself, in your own head, working out some of these questions. It’s easy to ask other people what they would do, but remember, they’re not in your shoes, and they don’t have to live with the choices that are made.

So, I want you to ask yourself, “What has changed?” Think about the career field that you originally wanted to go into and ponder why you might be changing your mind. Is it because of things you have heard about that field? Is it because of the coursework that is involved in earning your major for that line of work? Is it the pay or maybe where you might have to live to do that job? Really ask yourself why you are wanting to change, and whatever you do, don’t let your answer be, “Just because I want to.”

Air Force Brig. Gen. Rosanne “Ro” Bailey had a saying that I definitely believe we all need to embrace: “It’s your life; you need to pay attention to it.” When we pay attention to something, we don’t just make decisions based on our current feelings; we research and scrutinize. Paying attention means we intently focus on things, listen, observe and ponder. If you’ve truly paid attention, you have the answers to the questions, and you are firm in your understanding of what is happening.

Therefore, before you simply change your major because you feel your life or your passions may be going in a different direction, I want you to stop and pay attention. Take some time to think about the questions above, and then go even further by doing some research. Talk to your professors and advisers. Tell them what you are thinking and why you are considering a change, and ask them what they think. Your professors and advisers are always there to help.

Research both professions — the one you always wanted to do and the one you are now considering. Talk to people who work in those careers. Ask them questions that go beyond wages but include what the day to day is like at those jobs and what skills and talents you might want to possess for those jobs. Ask them about opportunities for growth and promotion in those careers. Finally, ask them what they love about their career field and what they don’t. Try to speak to people who are new in those careers and to some who have been in the field for many years. Listen to their perspectives.

There is nothing wrong with changing your major if you are doing it for the right reasons. One of the advantages of being a college student is that through all of your studies, you learn and grow, and, furthermore, you transform. Sometimes a simple class can begin to open up new horizons and possibilities you never imagined. Trust me; I know this. I’m living it! I began my journey at a technical college wanting to earn one childcare certification. I thought I wanted to focus on teaching preschool, but then I decided I wanted to run a childcare facility, and before long that changed into wanting to be an elementary teacher. Now, the goal has transformed once more into teaching in higher education. My one certification course blossomed into an associate’s degree and is currently heading toward a bachelor’s degree in May, and then will become a master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership in a couple of years. But none of the choices I have made have been haphazard. I paid attention, asked questions, and pondered long and hard about my future. I’m not fearful that I’m making a wrong decision because I took the time to pay attention.

Make sure you are making the best decision, not just for today but for the rest of your life. Verify that your question about changing majors has nothing to do with whether your current program seems like it will be too hard, take too much time or just isn’t interesting enough to you. I’ve known too many people that had a passion for their major until they realized what classes they would be expected to take, and all of a sudden, they weren’t interested in that major anymore and switched. They almost always regretted it in the end because the fact of the matter is they had a passion for that field, and rather than sticking to it, they wanted an easier route. Don’t steal your future from yourself by compromising what it is you are destined for.

This is a decision that you have to make and will have to live with. Pay attention, because if you do, and if you take the time to ponder and research, your decision will be an easy one and you will know you have done what is best for you and for your future.

As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey.

Do you have a question about Mercer or coping with school in these challenging times? Each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at kelly.l.browning@live.mercer.edu or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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