Want to Change Your Major? Here’s What You Should Know

advice for students
liberal arts
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By Deshan Mendis
Last updated on August 10, 2023

Many US universities and colleges allow you to change your major! Read on to learn more about why you might want to change majors, the ideal times to change, and how to do it.

A female international student from Asia sits in class at her US university

In the US, your major (or study program) determines the type of classes you take,  academic requirements for graduation, and most importantly, your career path — but what happens when you are not happy after choosing your major?

You can change it!

Changing your major is common at US colleges and universities. Did you know that 80% of college students in the US, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, change majors at least once? The flexible approach to education at US universities and colleges allows international students like you to try out different majors so you can make the right choice for your future. 

If you want to change your major, here is what you need to know.

Why Change Majors?

The decision to change majors is unique to each student and their plan to study in the USA. 

Some reasons to change your major are:

1. You chose your initial major too quickly

When choosing a major, you might base your decision on recommendations from your friends and family, or you might be focused entirely on one major that you originally thought would be a good fit. Once you get to campus and take a few classes, though, you may find that your choice of major does not suit you — and you are now interested in exploring other academic fields. 

2. You are not performing well in class

If you do not feel motivated about the classes for your major, it could be a strong indication that you do not enjoy the subject. The major you choose for your degree should engage you and inspire you to keep learning, which is reflected in good grades. If you don’t feel this way about your major and your grades are suffering, it may be time to find a subject that’s a better fit for your aptitude and abilities. 

3. Your classes are not interesting

When you study a major you enjoy, every class can be an exciting learning experience. If you do not feel engaged or motivated while pursuing your current major, you may consider changing your major to a subject that appeals more to your personal interests.  

4. You chose your major based only on earning potential

Many students aim for a lucrative profession, and may choose majors that offer high earning potential after graduation. While future earnings are an important factor in choosing a major, ability and interest are significant, too. If you are only staying in your major in hopes of future wealth, consider other fields that could address both financial security and personal satisfaction. 

5. You changed your mind about your major

After taking a few classes related to their initial major, many students find it is not the right choice after all. Simultaneously, many students often develop an interest in another area of study, so they switch to that new focus for their major.

6. You did not enjoy your internship

Through internships and co-ops, many US university and college degree programs give you the opportunity to experience a career in your chosen major. This real-world experience can validate your original choice or may cause you to reconsider. If you worked in an internship related to your major and did not enjoy it, you may want to change your major. 

7. Your financial situation has changed

Sometimes, student financial situations change and may require you to reconsider the program you have selected — it may be expensive, offer limited job opportunities after graduation, or both. Changing your major can allow you to pursue a lower-cost and/or more lucrative program while still graduating with the qualifications you need to begin your career.

When Can You Change Majors? 

Most US universities and colleges give you the opportunity to change your major during your first year of study. Since your first year is usually spent exploring different subjects through general education courses and getting used to life on campus, this is a great chance for you to try out different majors and find the right field for you. 

Some universities also allow you to change your major during your second year, though this may be less common. US higher education institutions usually have strict rules — or outright restrictions — about changing your major in your third year, as by this time you are expected to be focusing on specialized courses for your field of study. 

Make sure to check with your university advisor and clarify any possible deadlines for changing your major — this will help you stay on track to graduate on time and save money by not having to take extra and/or unnecessary classes. 

How Do You Change Your Major? 

It is important to note that each university and college in the US has its own policies and procedures for changing your major. Some may require you to apply online via a dedicated website, while others may require approval from a specific university department with its own set of paperwork. You may also have to meet certain requirements, such as minimum/maximum credits earned.

To get started with changing your major, speak to an enrollment advisor or an international student services department at your university to learn the exact procedure. 

What Should You Consider When Changing Your Major? 

Changing your major requires planning and preparation. If you are considering changing majors in the future, here is a list of considerations to keep in mind:

  • Decide early — Since changing your major in your first or second year is preferred, it is important to explore your options early in your studies.

  • Consult an advisor — By speaking with a Shorelight advisor, you can learn more about your options for changing your major at your current university. They can also help you explore alternative options and finalize your declared major.

  • Research your major choices — Some majors may have unique activities or specific enrollment requirements. Research each major carefully to make sure you are prepared and that you qualify (or will be able to qualify).

  • Find out program costs — Certain majors may have a higher or lower tuition fee compared to your current program of study. Work with your advisor and university to understand your financial obligations, while also aiming to keep costs to a minimum.

Changing your major gives you the opportunity to pursue a completely new field of study that better aligns with your personal and educational goals. With the help of a Shorelight advisor, receive support every step of the way and find your ideal major.

Shorelight counselors can help you find the right major