Changing a Major in College — Should You Do It?

A student poses smiling beside green vines at UC Davis.
Maria Sandate-Reyes, a third year plant sciences major, poses for a photo at the Veg Crops greenhouse. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Making the decision to change your major can be quite difficult. You might find that you’re uninterested in your coursework, unable to keep up with academic topics or unhappy within your field of study. With one or more of these pressures weighing on you, switching majors may sound like an appealing option.

We’ve been there. We both started college as biochemistry and molecular biology majors and switched to communication. We both took the bold leap of switching from one college to another, from STEM to the arts. Making the move to switch isn’t always easy. By consulting the right resources and asking yourself the right questions, you can be confident in your decision.

Can you change your major in college? 

Two students smile on campus at UC Davis.
Kayley Walker (right), a fifth year double major in Communication Studies and Native American Studies Jazmin Chavez (left), a fourth year double major in Native American Studies and Chicano Studies, pose in front of the Native American Academic Student Success Center. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Yes, you can change your major in college. Countless students have changed their majors successfully. 

But before you change your major, explore another major through its lower-division courses. Changing your major is a lengthy process. Sometimes, you need to meet specific lower-division requirements before you can even declare that major. Enroll in lower-division courses to get a good look into what the major might entail. This could save you some time and energy before making a decision that is hard to reverse. These lower-division classes help you fulfill your general education requirements. So even if you decide not to switch majors, you are still on track to earn your degree. 

Is changing majors the right answer?

A student talks with an advisor at UC Davis.
Ashley Jess, a forensics graduate student, chats with career advisor Marjannie Akintunde in her office. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question. We wished it was as easy as a yes or no answer too. However, every situation is different. Various factors might weigh on you more than others. Are your family’s opinions of your degree of importance to you (or rather pressuring you)? Have you been dreaming of your future career since you were a child and would you do anything to see it through? Do you feel impartial to your major but are too afraid to explore other options? All of these are valid situations that you might find yourself in, but is switching majors the right answer?

Spencer Atkinson, advisor at the Internship and Career Center (ICC), likes to take this question-asking approach. He urges students to take time before declaring a change in major to figure out if this move is the best for you. Sit down with yourself, consult people close to you and visit academic or ICC advisors. Here are just a few questions to ask yourself before taking the steps to change your major:

  • What implications come from staying in your major? Alternatively, what repercussions come from changing your major? 
  • Imagine a life doing what you want to do versus the life doing the thing that you might be on the current path to do. Which do you favor?
  • Are you deep into your academic career? How will your finances, academic plan and college career be affected by a change in major where you currently stand?

Asking these questions are a great starting point. There are so many other questions that you should ask yourself (and that we asked ourselves, too). Communication major advisor Hayleigh Harrison adds, “Talk with different people, advisors, professors, and students. The more conversations you have, the more you are prompted with different questions and you never know what each conversation can bring.”

How to change your major

A student sits down with a staff member at UC Davis.
Valerica Becerra Angulo, a third year international relations major minoring in French and human rights, chats with a staff member at the International Center. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

There are a myriad of resources available to students struggling with the decision of changing their major. While it can get overwhelming, there are people whose job is to help you navigate through the change of major process. 

  • Academic advisors: Major advisors and college advisors can provide you with crucial guidance about a major. With their help, you can build an academic plan and understand more about the prerequisites for a major you are considering. Advisors play a key role in helping you strategize where you want to go and how a specific major can be stepping stone towards your goals 
  • Degree Explorer: This tool within the UC Davis General Catalog can help you do independent research on all of the majors on campus. You can filter by different interest areas such as helping others, social justice, and technology. Other filters you can use to narrow down your results include degree type, colleges and different focus groups. This tool is the ideal starting point for students who are just beginning the journey of changing their major. 
  • Internship and Career Center: Advisors within the ICC can give you perspective about changing your major. It is helpful to sit down with someone and explore all possible options that you can pursue in the future and whether they are appealing to you. The ICC holds workshops and events related to a wide variety of career-related topics. Their career advisors can help you explore career options in different majors. And they can help you dispel any misconceptions you may have about your potential new major.
  • Professors: Faculty can share detailed knowledge about their field of study. They can provide valuable insight into a major that might be hard to find otherwise. 

Listen to your gut before you change your major

A student chats with an advisor at UC Davis.
Valerica Becerra Angulo, a third year international relations major minoring in French and human rights, photographed chatting with international student advisor Lorena Galvan. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

While having several options for support can be helpful, you should consider the importance of your wants and needs. It is easy to feel out of place in a big university. At the end of the day, it is your choice. And it is important to feel content with what you choose. 

Tracy Grissom, director of advising and policy in the College of Letters and Science's Undergraduate Education and Advising office, adds, “There are very few majors on this campus that you can draw a straight line from the major to the job.” At the end of your time in college, it is you who decides what to make of the degree you received. And if you find pride and are confident in what you plan to pursue, then that is great. 

We navigated the process of changing our majors from a hard science to the humanities. We overcame the challenges and confusion associated with this process, and so can you. Find what you like, explore as many different paths as you can and push past imaginary boundaries because there are very few limitations. Try different classes, interact with your professors, and attend ICC workshops. Apply to internships and gain as much experience as possible. Make the most of your time as a student.

Alexa Carter (she/her) is a fourth year pursuing a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in professional writing. She is from La Quinta, California and is going into her third year as a social media intern for the Department of Strategic Communications. Alexa's favorite part of the UC Davis campus is the CoHo where she loves to sit at the barstools in Swirlz Cafe and watch people walk by while she does her work.

Riddhi Puranik is a second year double majoring in communication and design. She's currently a writing intern with Strategic Communications. 

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