Congratulations! You got into the college of your dreams! There’s just one hiccup—you’ve found yourself not being as passionate as you had imagined about the major you signed up for. No need to worry. This hurdle is one that thousands, maybe even millions (I’m not sure, not every student has returned my email yet) of students are struggling with right now. If you’re reading this and about to apply to colleges, you must be seventeen or eighteen. Think back to when you were thirteen or even sixteen—how different are you, your passions, and your goals now compared to then? Can you believe that the biggest problem in your life back then was figuring out a way to chew gum without mangling your braces? And if you’re considering a change in your major, then you’re already in college and presumably somewhere around twenty years old. Think back to your eighteen-year-old self applying to colleges. Can you believe you thought this would be a good major? What a fool that version of yourself was!
I’m only joking, but all that is to say, is that having a change of heart and discovering unfulfillment with a particular course of study is a common and reasonable issue. When choosing a major out of high school, there are usually two factors that students orient their decision around: the difficulty of the subject and the size of the paycheck its profession can bring. Unfortunately, students fail to recognize that intense enjoyment of a subject is more meaningful and that a major doesn’t correlate with a post-graduation occupation. Biology majors become authors, computer science majors become musicians, and sociology majors become user experience designers. A 2013 Washington Post article says that only 27% of college graduates work in professions relating to their major. A college major isn’t a life sentence, and they’re malleable.
I graduated from high school dead set on majoring in chemistry. As a pharmacist, lab technician creating medicine, or studying how non-living molecules made life, I figured studying chemistry would be an excellent way to become stinking rich as an adult—to where I could buy a Rolls-Royce or even a hot dog at Fenway Park.
In the lab, I was constantly spilling things, breaking glasses, and writing lab reports with incomprehensibly incorrect yields. On the first day of my Organic Chemistry II class, we took a quiz to review what we should have learned, known as second nature, from Orgo I. When I got a “See me in office hours” instead of a grade on this quiz, I walked over to my advisor’s office and changed my major. At that moment, I figured, “Chemistry obviously isn’t for me, and the calculus requirements are simply too hard.” But, looking back, I was in the same position — I just wasn’t passionate about chemistry. I didn’t put in the work to study hard enough, didn’t relate to many kids in these classes, and often did other homework before chemistry because I dreaded having to sketch another Grignard reaction.
Suppose you like chemistry, excellent! You’re much more intelligent than I am, and you should probably major in it. If you prefer economics, theater, art, history, engineering, or whatever subject, then it’s probably a good idea to study that more. But, if you’re reading this because your passion for the discipline has transformed into disdain for the subject, or if you’re preparing for college and need advice for school and this possible scenario, then don’t be afraid to make a change and switch majors. Talk to your professors and advisors. If you want extra help to stick it out, see if you can visit during office hours or stay after class for a couple of minutes. Review the requirements for other areas of study at your college or university and create a plan for how you could fulfill them with a different course of study. Everybody’s experience at school is different, but you should ensure that you’re enjoying and making the most of the schoolwork that you and your family are paying for.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming that today wasn’t your first day of kindergarten or even on campus. You’ve probably taken classes in other subjects while at school. Which one of those did you enjoy? Would you wake up excited to discuss psychology, even if the class was at 8 a.m.? Have you caught yourself anxiously tapping your foot because you were so excited to attend your lecture on the Cold War? Did you get lost in mathematical thoughts surrounding Gabriel’s Horn? Consider taking this subject as your major. In my Introduction to Philosophy class, we spent the first three meetings trying to define the word “chair,” and I thought to myself, “This is what I’m talking about,” so I majored in philosophy for the rest of my college career.
Do you want to spend your adult life doing a job you don’t feel passionate about? Do you want to be a psychologist if you don’t like psychology? Study the field that interests you, and you’ll have a better chance of finding a job that you genuinely enjoy. Take various courses before deciding what you want to specialize in.