Should you change your major?
The 150-plus majors at Virginia Tech can leave you second-guessing your decision. Here’s how to decide if you should make a switch.
You thought you had locked in your major.
Only now you're having second thoughts.
That was Claire Cheney’s situation last year as a first-semester chemistry major. When the white walls of the chem lab started closing in on her, she knew she had to make a change. But to what? With 150 majors and programs at Virginia Tech, “I could do anything," she said. "I'm completely lost."
To land on a new program, Cheney made epic spreadsheets, met with Career and Professional Development, and enrolled in UNIV 1824, a class for transitional advising students. Now, she's a sophomore in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, and she's loving her studies. “I’m actually learning stuff that I want to learn,” said Cheney.
Still weighing your options? Try these three strategies.
Attend the Majors and Minors Fair
Each year, the Majors and Minors Fair brings together representatives from every program in a single space so students can peruse all the possibilities. “You can confirm your current major, find something new, or decide what other minors or experiences you could add to your major to elevate it and make you the most marketable for when you go to apply for a job,” said Lauren Thomas, director of academic advising initiatives.
Get the most out of the drop-in event, scheduled Oct. 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Squires Commonwealth Ballroom, by asking questions like, “What are the career opportunities for somebody in this major? What internships or volunteer experiences would be beneficial? Would adding a minor or a double major give me an extra edge?”
Start with possible jobs in mind
Instead of focusing so much on your course of study, think about what jobs you might want to do after you graduate, said Chris LaPlante, undergraduate academic advisor for the School of Public and International Affairs. Find job ads that intrigue you on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job search sites, then mine them for information: What degree does the job require? What skills would you need?
“I call it the reverse-engineering approach to planning your college experience,” said LaPlante. “The goal here is not to find ‘the job,’ but to find a good handful of different job opportunities that you might choose to pursue and then engage in the programs and experiences that will enable you to be a highly qualified applicant for whatever route you decide to take.”
Find alternate pathways
The good news, according to Victoria Lael, director of undergraduate studies and an instructor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science, is that “most majors can be used to lead to a variety of professions, so if you're not in the right major yet, it's OK.” Talk with faculty, other students, or professionals in fields that interest you to “see what ideas and input they have about whether your current major is the best or only way to prepare for pursuing your interest.”
You may not have to change majors. You could beef up your resume by joining clubs, volunteering, or interning. But if you do want to transfer to something new, talk with your advisor or make an appointment for transitional advising.
For Cheney, changing majors from chemistry to neuroscience wasn’t exactly easy. But despite some anxiety about falling behind, she’s still on track to graduate and she feels much happier now. “I've been talking with peers in the new major, and they're really supportive and being like, ‘Yes, you joined us!’” she said. “There's something about it where it feels right.”