written by: Sylvia Cochran•edited by: Noreen Gunnell•updated: 4/21/2010
Changing your major in college after enrollment is more complicated than the average student anticipates. In fact, college students changing majors are sometimes surprised to learn that there are prerequisites, difficult quotas and fiscal ramifications.
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Changing Your Major in College after Enrollment: Thinking through the Pros and Cons
Is it bad to change your major? College students changing majors should think long and hard if this step is indeed in their best interest. Granted, the list of college majors initially looked forbidding and it may have been the easiest pick at the time, but now that the student is an ‘old hand’ at all things college-related, she might feel it is time to spread her wings and explore other options. Although not a rarity, it is fiscally and procedurally wise to think through the process.
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The Cons of Changing College Majors
A particularly boring (or difficult) but required class may make the student question her field of study; nevertheless, this class will soon be a distant memory. Changing a major because of one class or two is a bad choice.
Graduating on time may be put off. Depending on how far along the student has come in her studies, changing in mid-stream or later can add years – and thousands of extra dollars -- to the process.
The graduating student lags behind competitors in the marketplace. This is especially true if the change in college majors adds more than a year to the educational process. While being older does not have a measurable impact on the employability, there is the psychological aspect of working in an entry level position while other – younger – workers are promoted ahead of the older grad.
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The Pros of Making the Change
Students who entered a top notch school with a less desirable major (usually in the hopes of making the cut for the more desired – and restricted – majors) may find that this step is rewarded by being accepted after the fact. This is especially true if the student’s initial grades were not so good as to warrant admission for the desired major but she was since able to bring up her grades.
The new college major core requirements can be fulfilled with summer school classes or a couple of semesters of heavier course loads. If it is possible to still graduate on time with just minor adjustments to the schedule, this could be a worthwhile decision.
The student desires a complete shift in career goals. If the old major simply is not in keeping with the new career goals and there is no requirement for a professional degree, such as a master’s or doctorate, then finding a major in college that meets the new needs is a requirement.
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College Students: Changing Majors by the Rules
The best college majors are also the most competitive ones. As such, there may be very strict transfer rules set forth by the college.
For instance, Texas A&M University(1) only allows students to change into a Liberal Arts major if they have a GPA of at least 2.0 and completed fewer than 95 credit hours. Even if a student meets these requirements, there are additional prerequisites. For example, first year students still selecting college majors cannot change until after final semester grades are posted.
Arizona State University(2) is a bit more lenient with respect to the GPA requirements, but the school does require the student to visit the academic advising office of the new major. Moreover, there are time restrictions the students must meet when thinking of a change; usually it is the first week of classes.
Ohio University(3) breaks down its standard by college; for example, the College of Business only permits 25 students to transfer in – as long as their GPA is 3.0 and they completed a number of prerequisites. The College of Fine Arts allows for a GPA of 2.75 but only accepts 10 students each quarter.
Changing your major in college after enrollment is possible but it is an undertaking that should be discussed with an enrollment counselor or advisor. Avoid spur of the moment decisions!