Switch Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

By Alex Theriot
For Unwind magazine

Changing your major, no matter what stage of your college career, can result in an academic or emotional crisis, especially if you are struggling academically or are disinterested in the major’s subject matter.

For wide-eyed freshmen, academic advisers lay out multiple options of majors with each selection leading to different career paths and opportunities. Given so many options, students worry about making the wrong choice.

If students are not careful, switching majors too late may result in additional costs, including spending more on tuition, housing and other fees, or even an extra year of schooling. An additional year at the University of Maryland could cost an in-state student another $24,587 — or an out-of-state student another $45,735 — the Office of Undergraduate Admissions estimates.

“You’re also looking at lost wages. If you’re delaying your graduation, that’s another semester or year that you’re not out there making money for yourself,” letters and sciences academic adviser Julie Sass said. “If you have loans, are you going to be adding to your loan debt?”

Throughout their college careers, students are exposed to different fields as part of the university’s general education supplement and are encouraged to explore concentrations in related industries in an effort to create well-rounded students. Over the course of these classes, a student might find something they enjoy more and decide to change their major.

“I decided to switch now because I have finally found something that I am truly passionate about and if I didn’t switch now it would have added a lot of extra time to try and finish up my degree,” said junior Alex Rutigliano, who switched from mechanical engineering to materials science and engineering.

But for some students, switching majors later in their college career stems from dissatisfaction in both curriculum and their academic performance.

“After seeing my final grades at the end of the semester, I just felt extremely disappointed. I no longer wanted to take the next level engineering classes,” junior Laura Eng said after she switched from mechanical engineering to physics. “I honestly felt like dropping out of school because of all the stress.”

When Sass advises students, the first thing she tells them is to find something that is going to make them happy and to think about what they want to do after graduation.
“I think the hardest part is the mental block, your own reluctance to change your major, but once you’ve made up your mind and decided what you want to change your major to the actual process is not that difficult,” Sass said.

Students who do change their majors will often end up happier overall with their college careers and still reach their professional goals, Sass said.

“Sometimes I regret not changing sooner,” Eng said, “but in the end, I know that this was a good decision.”

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