4 Signs You’ve Chosen the Wrong Major, and 4 Things to Do If You Have

The average age of a college freshman is 18. This is an age at which people in the United States are not even allowed to legally drink alcohol, yet it’s also the age at which they’re asked to choose a college major that will determine the course for the rest of their lives. Unsurprisingly, such an important decision puts a lot of pressure on students because they’re expected to select a field that will make a lot of money, satisfy their families’ expectations, and bring them personal fulfillment.

Since most college freshmen do not have much life experience when they’re asked to make a commitment to a specific career path, it can be incredibly daunting. Ultimately, students are only exposed to limited career options in high school, and it’s easy for them to make hasty or uninformed choices, especially when their parents or families get involved.

Consequently, for many students, there comes a time when they realize their major isn’t what they thought or hoped it would be. In fact, a recent study by Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Insights revealed that 36% of college students would choose a different major if they could “do it all over again.” That said, below are some ways that can help you identify if you’ve chosen the wrong major so you can avoid regrets later in life. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, keep reading for suggestions on how to handle them.

1. You’re not interested in your classes.

If it’s hard for you to pay attention during class and focus on the lectures or discussions, you may be in the wrong major. Consider the following scenario:

You rarely feel engaged during class and have no desire to contribute to the discussions. You also dread doing homework, and it’s hard for you to gather enough motivation to complete the assigned readings or essays. You find yourself putting things off as long as possible, only to throw together a half-hearted attempt right before the deadline. You feel as though the class is a waste of time—you have no passion for the topics you’re learning about, and you don’t think you’re learning anything useful or interesting. In fact, you spend the majority of class time thinking of all the things you could be doing instead.

If you relate to this experience, it’s possible you’re not in the right place. In general, students should feel a desire to engage with the classes they’re taking, so if you’re having trouble doing so, take that as a sign. To clarify, this applies mainly to the classes associated with your major. Most degrees require students to take a number of core classes in different areas, so a disinterest in math courses when you are, for example, a writing major, is completely normal.

2. You’re not doing well in class.

You have to talk yourself into going to class each day. Your professor allows you to miss class several times without consequences, and you plan on using every single one of those absences (if you haven’t already done so). You’re constantly calculating your grade to see how poorly you can do on the final exam without failing the class. Additionally, when group projects are assigned, you find yourself relying on the other members to do the majority of the work. In other words, you do just enough to get by and aren’t motivated to put forth real effort for the classes.

You might also find that your classes are harder than you initially thought. In fact, most of what the professor says goes way over your head. You don’t understand what’s going on, but you don’t really care. All too often, when a student isn’t doing well in class, parents, professors, and even peers start making immediate judgments about that student’s intelligence. They may assume that the student is not smart enough to grasp the complexities of the class, or that the student is not able to handle the higher levels of knowledge and learning required in college courses.

However, underperforming in a class can sometimes be attributed to a student’s choice of major. The student may be perfectly capable of understanding the lessons and even achieving top marks on the assignments, but may simply not be interested or motivated enough to do so.

3. You don’t have a good reason for choosing your major.

When you start college, one of the first questions you’ll get from friends and relatives is “Why did you choose this major?” For some people, it is an easy question to answer; they can articulate exactly why they chose the major and will usually talk about their passion for a certain field or even a particular moment when their interest sparked toward a certain discipline.

However, for others, this question is a nightmare. You might not be completely sure why you chose your major, so you stammer out something about how your parents said it would be a good choice or how it’s a popular field right now, but deep down, you don’t have a concrete reason for your decision.

Additionally, you might not have had much choice at all in the matter of selecting a major. Often, when our parents pressure us to go into a certain field—whether it’s because they’ve heard of high success rates in that area or because they’re living vicariously through their children—it’s easier to go along with what they want rather than risk disappointing them. If this is the only reason you chose your major, or if you can’t really explain why you decided on it, it’s possible that this major is not right for you.

4. You dread the thought of working in this field forever.

College classes do their best to prepare us for the future, so if you’re already feeling burned out with your choice of major, you may not be in the right field. Perhaps you’ve already done an internship in your field, and it wasn’t at all what you’d hoped for or expected, and now you’re wondering if you would be able to handle working at a similar job long-term.

We all have daydreams about our ideal lives—where we’d like to be living in 5 or 10 years and what we’d like to be doing—so if a job in your chosen field of study is not part of the picture when you dream about the future, it may be time to reconsider your major. Additionally, if your friends’ studies sound exciting to you and you even feel a little jealous when they talk about the jobs they want to have, this is a sign that you’re in the wrong major.

If any of the above things are true for you, you’re likely heading down the wrong degree path. It can be scary to admit it to yourself—let alone to your family and friends. You might worry that you’ve wasted your time and money or that you’ll be in for more debt or have a harder time getting a job down the road. However, you’re not alone; choosing the wrong major is much more common than it seems. According to Virginia Gordon’s book The Undecided College Student, approximately 75% of college students change their major at least once before graduation. If you are interested in doing so, here are the next steps you can take:

1. Pinpoint the problem.

Your disillusionment with your chosen major can sometimes be attributed to a different cause. For example, the problem may lie with your classes. An exciting major can be ruined by a semester of jaded professors and poorly-structured classes, so make sure to research the different teachers and courses offered within your discipline. Often, a great class with a passionate professor is enough to restore your interest in your choice of major.

Another factor may be the college itself. Perhaps you dread going back to school after a break. Maybe you don’t like the environment, the people, or the university’s priorities. If so, consider exploring other universities that are well-ranked in your chosen major. The campus itself can play an important role in your satisfaction with your course of study.

Your personal wellbeing can also affect the way you view your major. College is a time of major changes, and that upheaval can affect your mental health. It could be that your lack of interest is a symptom of anxiety or depression, so consider making an appointment with your doctor or your school’s mental health counselor.

2. Take time to think.

Changing your major is a big decision—one that you shouldn’t make in the heat of the moment. You don’t have to commit to a new major right away. Rather, try taking a few classes in different disciplines to see what catches your interest. Additionally, you can apply for internships in a variety of fields. After all, real-life experience in the working world can be a great way to tell whether or not a certain avenue is for you.

If you need more time to think, you could also take a break from school entirely. Sometimes, distancing yourself from a confusing situation can help you approach it more rationally and objectively. For example, many students take time off either before or during college to travel. This is an especially good choice for students searching for direction—often, experiencing new places can give us fresh perspectives and inspire us to choose a new path. Whatever you choose to do, try not to make any spur-of-the-moment decisions that you may regret later.

3. Talk to your advisor.  

Meeting with an advisor is one of the most valuable things a student in this position can do. After all, advisors are here specifically for situations like these. They know the different programs inside and out and can give you important information and resources about things like class requirements or financial aid. They can also show you how to make the most of the credits you’ve already earned so you’re not wasting the time and money you’ve spent so far.  

In addition to academic advising, many colleges also provide career counseling services and would be happy to brainstorm future job possibilities with you. Sometimes, narrowing down your career choices can help you decide which major is right for you. Additionally, professors can provide a wealth of information about the available jobs in their fields. Most of them would love to discuss your future and can even give you recommendations for certain classes or internships, so set aside time to meet with them.  

4. Get support.

When we make big decisions, it’s crucial to have a strong support system, and changing your major is no exception. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your decisions and will not pressure you one way or another. For example, a good friend or family member is one who will listen to you and try to understand what you’re going through while still offering honest feedback. Often, simply talking through your feelings with someone who knows you well can provide new insights or clarity.

It’s also important to tell your loved ones about your dilemma as soon as possible. Hiding the fact that you’re unhappy with your major can add extra stress and anxiety to the rigors of college life, creating an additional burden for you. No matter how difficult it seems, sharing a quandary like this with those closest to you is usually a big relief, as it eliminates the need for secrecy and prevents you from shouldering all the pressure alone.

That said, it might be hard for your parents to hear that you’re thinking of switching your major, and it may take some time for them to get used to the idea. However, most parents will appreciate the fact that you’ve chosen to tell them and will respect you for it. As a bonus, you won’t have to worry about lying to them or constantly faking contentment with your situation.

If you’ve chosen the wrong major, don’t panic. While it might feel like you’re alone in this realization, it’s natural for students to change directions sometimes. No matter where you are in your college journey, it’s still possible to find a major that interests you and reflects your talents.

While it’s also important to choose a career path that will give you an adequate income, it’s equally essential to focus on your fulfillment with that choice. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you may end up burning out soon or regretting that you’ve traded your interests or values for financial security or to please someone else.

While choosing a major is a big responsibility—one that you may not feel completely ready for—trust yourself. Don’t ignore the warning signs, and don’t brush off any apprehension you might be experiencing. Rather, listen to your feelings and let them guide you. Ultimately, only you can decide which major is right for you, so make sure to think carefully about it and utilize the available resources. You can do this.



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I’m a writing major at Grand Valley State University. Creative writing is my passion–although I also enjoy professional writing and copywriting–and I will defend the Oxford comma to the death. When I’m not writing, I’m re-reading Harry Potter for the hundredth time, searching for new ice cream parlors to try, playing the flute and piano, or watching the Food Network (and sometimes doing a little baking of my own).

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4 Signs You’ve Chosen the Wrong Major, and 4 Things to Do If You Have

The average age of a college freshman is 18. This is an age at which people in the United States are not even allowed to legally drink alcohol, yet it’s also the age at which they’re asked to choose a college major that will determine the course for the rest of their lives. Unsurprisingly, such an important decision puts a lot of pressure on students because they’re expected to select a field that will make a lot of money, satisfy their families’ expectations, and bring them personal fulfillment.

Since most college freshmen do not have much life experience when they’re asked to make a commitment to a specific career path, it can be incredibly daunting. Ultimately, students are only exposed to limited career options in high school, and it’s easy for them to make hasty or uninformed choices, especially when their parents or families get involved.

Consequently, for many students, there comes a time when they realize their major isn’t what they thought or hoped it would be. In fact, a recent study by Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Insights revealed that 36% of college students would choose a different major if they could “do it all over again.” That said, below are some ways that can help you identify if you’ve chosen the wrong major so you can avoid regrets later in life. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, keep reading for suggestions on how to handle them.

1. You’re not interested in your classes.

If it’s hard for you to pay attention during class and focus on the lectures or discussions, you may be in the wrong major. Consider the following scenario:

You rarely feel engaged during class and have no desire to contribute to the discussions. You also dread doing homework, and it’s hard for you to gather enough motivation to complete the assigned readings or essays. You find yourself putting things off as long as possible, only to throw together a half-hearted attempt right before the deadline. You feel as though the class is a waste of time—you have no passion for the topics you’re learning about, and you don’t think you’re learning anything useful or interesting. In fact, you spend the majority of class time thinking of all the things you could be doing instead.

If you relate to this experience, it’s possible you’re not in the right place. In general, students should feel a desire to engage with the classes they’re taking, so if you’re having trouble doing so, take that as a sign. To clarify, this applies mainly to the classes associated with your major. Most degrees require students to take a number of core classes in different areas, so a disinterest in math courses when you are, for example, a writing major, is completely normal.

2. You’re not doing well in class.

You have to talk yourself into going to class each day. Your professor allows you to miss class several times without consequences, and you plan on using every single one of those absences (if you haven’t already done so). You’re constantly calculating your grade to see how poorly you can do on the final exam without failing the class. Additionally, when group projects are assigned, you find yourself relying on the other members to do the majority of the work. In other words, you do just enough to get by and aren’t motivated to put forth real effort for the classes.

You might also find that your classes are harder than you initially thought. In fact, most of what the professor says goes way over your head. You don’t understand what’s going on, but you don’t really care. All too often, when a student isn’t doing well in class, parents, professors, and even peers start making immediate judgments about that student’s intelligence. They may assume that the student is not smart enough to grasp the complexities of the class, or that the student is not able to handle the higher levels of knowledge and learning required in college courses.

However, underperforming in a class can sometimes be attributed to a student’s choice of major. The student may be perfectly capable of understanding the lessons and even achieving top marks on the assignments, but may simply not be interested or motivated enough to do so.

3. You don’t have a good reason for choosing your major.

When you start college, one of the first questions you’ll get from friends and relatives is “Why did you choose this major?” For some people, it is an easy question to answer; they can articulate exactly why they chose the major and will usually talk about their passion for a certain field or even a particular moment when their interest sparked toward a certain discipline.

However, for others, this question is a nightmare. You might not be completely sure why you chose your major, so you stammer out something about how your parents said it would be a good choice or how it’s a popular field right now, but deep down, you don’t have a concrete reason for your decision.

Additionally, you might not have had much choice at all in the matter of selecting a major. Often, when our parents pressure us to go into a certain field—whether it’s because they’ve heard of high success rates in that area or because they’re living vicariously through their children—it’s easier to go along with what they want rather than risk disappointing them. If this is the only reason you chose your major, or if you can’t really explain why you decided on it, it’s possible that this major is not right for you.

4. You dread the thought of working in this field forever.

College classes do their best to prepare us for the future, so if you’re already feeling burned out with your choice of major, you may not be in the right field. Perhaps you’ve already done an internship in your field, and it wasn’t at all what you’d hoped for or expected, and now you’re wondering if you would be able to handle working at a similar job long-term.

We all have daydreams about our ideal lives—where we’d like to be living in 5 or 10 years and what we’d like to be doing—so if a job in your chosen field of study is not part of the picture when you dream about the future, it may be time to reconsider your major. Additionally, if your friends’ studies sound exciting to you and you even feel a little jealous when they talk about the jobs they want to have, this is a sign that you’re in the wrong major.

If any of the above things are true for you, you’re likely heading down the wrong degree path. It can be scary to admit it to yourself—let alone to your family and friends. You might worry that you’ve wasted your time and money or that you’ll be in for more debt or have a harder time getting a job down the road. However, you’re not alone; choosing the wrong major is much more common than it seems. According to Virginia Gordon’s book The Undecided College Student, approximately 75% of college students change their major at least once before graduation. If you are interested in doing so, here are the next steps you can take:

1. Pinpoint the problem.

Your disillusionment with your chosen major can sometimes be attributed to a different cause. For example, the problem may lie with your classes. An exciting major can be ruined by a semester of jaded professors and poorly-structured classes, so make sure to research the different teachers and courses offered within your discipline. Often, a great class with a passionate professor is enough to restore your interest in your choice of major.

Another factor may be the college itself. Perhaps you dread going back to school after a break. Maybe you don’t like the environment, the people, or the university’s priorities. If so, consider exploring other universities that are well-ranked in your chosen major. The campus itself can play an important role in your satisfaction with your course of study.

Your personal wellbeing can also affect the way you view your major. College is a time of major changes, and that upheaval can affect your mental health. It could be that your lack of interest is a symptom of anxiety or depression, so consider making an appointment with your doctor or your school’s mental health counselor.

2. Take time to think.

Changing your major is a big decision—one that you shouldn’t make in the heat of the moment. You don’t have to commit to a new major right away. Rather, try taking a few classes in different disciplines to see what catches your interest. Additionally, you can apply for internships in a variety of fields. After all, real-life experience in the working world can be a great way to tell whether or not a certain avenue is for you.

If you need more time to think, you could also take a break from school entirely. Sometimes, distancing yourself from a confusing situation can help you approach it more rationally and objectively. For example, many students take time off either before or during college to travel. This is an especially good choice for students searching for direction—often, experiencing new places can give us fresh perspectives and inspire us to choose a new path. Whatever you choose to do, try not to make any spur-of-the-moment decisions that you may regret later.

3. Talk to your advisor.  

Meeting with an advisor is one of the most valuable things a student in this position can do. After all, advisors are here specifically for situations like these. They know the different programs inside and out and can give you important information and resources about things like class requirements or financial aid. They can also show you how to make the most of the credits you’ve already earned so you’re not wasting the time and money you’ve spent so far.  

In addition to academic advising, many colleges also provide career counseling services and would be happy to brainstorm future job possibilities with you. Sometimes, narrowing down your career choices can help you decide which major is right for you. Additionally, professors can provide a wealth of information about the available jobs in their fields. Most of them would love to discuss your future and can even give you recommendations for certain classes or internships, so set aside time to meet with them.  

4. Get support.

When we make big decisions, it’s crucial to have a strong support system, and changing your major is no exception. Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your decisions and will not pressure you one way or another. For example, a good friend or family member is one who will listen to you and try to understand what you’re going through while still offering honest feedback. Often, simply talking through your feelings with someone who knows you well can provide new insights or clarity.

It’s also important to tell your loved ones about your dilemma as soon as possible. Hiding the fact that you’re unhappy with your major can add extra stress and anxiety to the rigors of college life, creating an additional burden for you. No matter how difficult it seems, sharing a quandary like this with those closest to you is usually a big relief, as it eliminates the need for secrecy and prevents you from shouldering all the pressure alone.

That said, it might be hard for your parents to hear that you’re thinking of switching your major, and it may take some time for them to get used to the idea. However, most parents will appreciate the fact that you’ve chosen to tell them and will respect you for it. As a bonus, you won’t have to worry about lying to them or constantly faking contentment with your situation.

If you’ve chosen the wrong major, don’t panic. While it might feel like you’re alone in this realization, it’s natural for students to change directions sometimes. No matter where you are in your college journey, it’s still possible to find a major that interests you and reflects your talents.

While it’s also important to choose a career path that will give you an adequate income, it’s equally essential to focus on your fulfillment with that choice. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you may end up burning out soon or regretting that you’ve traded your interests or values for financial security or to please someone else.

While choosing a major is a big responsibility—one that you may not feel completely ready for—trust yourself. Don’t ignore the warning signs, and don’t brush off any apprehension you might be experiencing. Rather, listen to your feelings and let them guide you. Ultimately, only you can decide which major is right for you, so make sure to think carefully about it and utilize the available resources. You can do this.



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