What to do when you are having doubts about your major (5 Steps)

Are you having second thoughts about your major? You are not alone. Many people experience the same thoughts during their college career at least once. It is common for people to switch their academic path and oftentimes their institution as well. Approximately 80 percent of college students in the United States change their major at least once. (National Center for Education Statistics.) Among all U.S. college students, the average number of times a student changes their major is around 3 times! So don’t be alarmed, this is a common occurrence, and I have put together my top 5 tips for when you experience this doubt.

Number 1: Take inventory. What are the things you have enjoyed doing in the past? Think about the things that you have enjoyed so far in your academic career. If you can’t think of specific areas or projects, look further back or look at things tangential to academics. What are things that you are good at? Tie those skills and talents to the working world. Now take count of your non-negotiables. What are things that you know for a fact you don’t like and would not want to do in your career? Be methodical about this process: Make lists and document your thoughts. This is a key first step to feeling in control of your path.

Number 2: Tap into your network for support. Talk to people that you trust and respect to have your best interests in mind. These can be friends and family of course, but make sure to also have conversations with people who will give you tough love and brutal honesty. You may need both support from your loved ones combined with structure and accountability. Some good outlets that can help you navigate this situation are your academic advisors, career specialists, professors, or people in your professional network (particularly those in your field).

Number 3: Pause and reflect. This is the most important thing to do. Know that you have so much time and you can afford to pivot. Even if you are seemingly far down the path, it is worth the time and money to make these changes as long as they are for the right reasons. Be honest with yourself about why you are having these doubts. Document your feelings, reflect on why you feel that way and what the factors are that contribute to it. Just know that right now where you stand, what may seem like a “bad decision” in terms of time and cost, might not be the case. Try to view it from the long term perspective and be very thoughtful into what will make you the most motivated in the long term. It is much more important to do what you feel passionate about. For example, if you are studying graphic design and hate it, don’t force yourself to have a career in graphic design. It doesn’t matter how much time you have “sunk” into that pursuit thus far. If you genuinely know that your passions lie elsewhere (for example, physical therapy), pivot. Course correct. Just be thoughtful and liberal with your decision making. Give yourself time to pause, reflect, and give ample time to think through your feelings fully. You’ve got plenty of time.

Number 4: Add adjacent or nonadjacent skills. If you are worried that you will not want to use the degree that you get (and you don’t want to switch), start to invest time in adding new monetizable skills. You are never too far down the line to acquire new skills, in fact, I would encourage people to do this even if they love their major/career. It is a good way to keep yourself sharp, have new exciting challenges, and serve as insurance in case something doesn’t work out with your major or your passion for your major goes away. This can take many forms, but a few common examples of monetizable skills are: Wedding Photography, Blog Writing, Technology Consulting, Business Marketing and Advising, and Content Creation. There are a ton of ways that you can learn niche skills inside or outside of your major that can give you income and have the potential to be your main source of income.

Number 5: Do pro-bono work in your area of study. This is a great way to get involved in your current major’s workforce to solidify your opinion on whether or not you enjoy it and see yourself in that field long term. It will be hard to find full time or part time paid employment while you are a student without a degree, but if you offer companies your service pro-bono, you might get some opportunities! It can be shadowing, interning, or volunteering - any involvement in the firms in your field will help you formula a more informed decision. 

Bonus Number 6: You can always do a Double Major or add a minor! This requires more work and more time investment, but has the potential to pay great dividends to you in the long run. If you don’t like your exact area of study or the careers that it offers, look into the adjacent majors or minors and review the opportunities that are offered in those fields!