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Making the Major Change

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Apr. 14, 2015
Photo Credit: US Department of Education

Figuring out what you want to major in the first time is difficult enough. But a second time, or even more than that, can be an anxiety-ridden and stressful experience. This feeling is still fresh in my mind since I made my own major change in December.

It all began with a white business envelope, containing the results of my portfolio review. At the time, I’d spent nearly a year and a half in visual communication design (graphic design). Sophomore portfolio review is a requirement for all students in the program. If you pass, you continue on your way towards your degree. If you don’t, you’re stuck starting over or repeating classes selected by the review board. Every VCD student’s biggest fear is not passing.

In retrospect, I can see now that I ignored some neon signs highlighting I wasn’t in the right program. Unfortunately in this case, my stubbornness to never give in blinded me. It wasn’t until I met with the director of VCD, inquiring about my results (an “incomplete pass”), that I knew I couldn’t ignore them anymore. The truth was, I didn’t like my major. By the end of my third semester, I hated it. I wasn’t passionate about it at all: projects were just more work, time could never fly fast enough when I was in the studio, and I was miserable. Whether I wanted to or not, I needed to change my major.

The idea of changing my major was terrifying. So much time, effort, and money had been invested in VCD. I didn’t want all of that to go to waste (and it won’t, since I’ve decided to make it a minor). But more importantly, I needed to find a major that would fit me. And I didn’t know where to start.

Before beginning my quest to find a new major, I met with my advisor, and I talked with other adults about my dilemma. They didn’t give me the answer, but they gave me a start. If you have no idea what you want to do, then you have some searching to do inside yourself before skimming through course and major catalogues for your school.

I was told to sit down on my own and make four lists: name your interests, what you’re good at, what you love, and your values. Some things on your lists may overlap, but that’s okay. These overlaps can help point you in the right direction.

Next is to look at which majors match up with the things on your lists. Once you have a few majors that pique your interest, look into what classes you have to take for it and what careers you could have with these degrees.

Writing everything out, and taking things step by step relieves some of the pressure that comes with making this change. What’s most important about this process is discovering what you are passionate about, what excites you, what you enjoy. Loving what you do will motivate you to work hard, but it will also make work seem less like a requirement. After a lot of thinking and debating, I settled on communication studies for my major, and adding a second minor in writing. Now, I leave my communication classes happy that I attended, and my creative writing assignments are something I look forward too. Realizing that I want to be an author, I’m working hard to make that happen.

If you’re thinking about changing your major, I encourage you to pursue what you love and what is best for you. Others will have their opinions of what you should do, but at the end of the day it is your life, your decision. No one else can make it for you. YOU will be taking the classes, YOU get the degree, and it is YOU who will get up each day and go to that job.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”