Switching Your Major? Here’s How To Get It Right

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Many students enter university knowing exactly what major they want to specialize in—at least they think they do.

But as students, we encounter new interests and challenges, giving us new-found perspective and knowledge. These new insights can contradict existing notions and fall contrary to previous expectations.

In high school, I was influenced by teachers and guidance counsellors when choosing which program to enter.

In high school, I was influenced by teachers and guidance counsellors when choosing which program to enter. I always knew that I wanted to study journalism, but I decided to enter university under another major.

I always knew that I wanted to study journalism, but I decided to enter university under another major so that I could work towards a greater understanding of my future program. In doing so, I built the proper knowledge, resources and mind-set required for journalism school.

But switching majors is not as easy as it seems. As someone who switched majors during my undergraduate degree, I know finding the major right for you can be difficult and overwhelming.

There are many things to consider when switching programs:

Meeting requirements

Each program has different requirements.  Some programs are based on a grades-only application, whereas others require grades plus non-academic submissions, such as portfolios, or audio and tape submissions.

When I applied to Ryerson University’s journalism program, I applied under the grades plus program which required me to submit a select number of published works.   I completed a lot of work outside school hours so that my portfolio would guarantee me acceptance into the program.

Switching to a more specialized program will demand a lot more than high grades.  Additionally, if you are applying to a program that is in-demand, you should make sure that your grades surpass the minimum grade requirement to get into the program.

Since journalism has become a much applied-to program, I made sure that my average was above the minimum grade requirements.  Your intended program may also require you to have a high grade point average, something you must consider if you are transferring out because of your grades.

Researching the program

Before deciding to switch programs, it is necessary to research exactly what your intended field of study entails.  You can never know too much, so do your homework prior to switching majors.

Even though I thought I knew everything about the wonderful world of journalism, experiencing the program first-hand was an eye-opener.  Luckily, I discovered a greater appreciation for the craft, but not everyone is as lucky.

Seek resources within your school; talk to department heads, people at the career centre and anyone who can help guide you in the right direction.  Do your research and don’t forget about the simple, yet crucial requirements, such as: having a minimum number of field-related courses and making sure that you do not miss crucial deadlines for transferring.

Sacrifice

Most people forget about the sacrifices that come with switching majors.  When you decide to transfer programs you are agreeing to forfeit your existing major.  Since program requirements vary, this could mean that the one or two years spent in your program will essentially be discredited and not counted towards your new major.

It also means having to start from scratch again.  I was extremely happy to switch programs and be able to study my true calling. I was, however, a little disappointed when I realized that all my hard work was not going to be accounted for.  It is a difficult reality to grapple with, especially if you are someone who wants to finish school as quickly as possible, or if you face major financial constraints.

Then there are other minor inconveniences such as, the transfer process, which can be difficult and laborious.  There are many forms to fill, fees to pay and places to drop things off to.

You have to be in a major that is complementary to your abilities and preferences. I initially studied politics in university and, though I found it extremely informative, I didn’t enjoy the program. If you are unhappy with what you are studying, it is not worth spending your time and money continuing.

In many instances, a student is forced to continue a major because of family, societal or other exterior pressures.  In such cases, the student will always find themselves in the centre of dilemma.  You cannot fool yourself for long.  We all have our individual callings and must honour them by doing what we love.

Being successful in university is the outcome of many factors, including enjoying what you are learning, but more than that, you also have to be good at what you do. Being in the right major is crucial to your success and future opportunities.  Remember: an education is what you make of it.

Final tip

Make an appointment with your academic co-ordinator or someone else who can help you weigh the pros and cons, and determine the best course of action.

Have you ever thought about switching majors? Did you go through with it?

 

Photo credit: a room full of ideas by I, Timmy on Flickr
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About the author

Nadia Zaidi is a journalism student at Ryerson University where she has also completed her politics minor. She is concentrating in broadcast journalism and hopes to pursue a career in television or print media. She is a freelance writer and her work is regularly featured in various local publications. Throughout the years, she has published over 100 articles on youth-based issues. Through her writing, she strives to advocate problems pertaining to young readers and community members. In her spare time she enjoys sports, jewellery making, creative writing and spending time with family and friends.