Senior year of high school seems so far away now. But thinking back, can you recall the hundreds of times parents, friends and peers asked you about what you were going to major in at college? Most of us answered back confidently with huge smiles on our faces. Sure, we might have been a bit naive back then, but we had the right idea—majors are supposed to make us feel excited and eager to learn.
When people ask you about your major today, do you still light up in the same way you did at the start of your college career? If your answer is a halfhearted nod or a varying form of hesitation, it might be time to reconsider your choice of major. Check out these four signs that your major just isn’t right for you, and see what you can do about it!
1. You’re doing poorly in your major classes
Classes for your major aren’t meant to make you pull all your hair out or worry yourself into knots. If you find yourself doing poorly in classes for your major, chances are your major might not be right for you. Prerequisites are early indicators about whether or not you’ve made the right choice. If you’re already struggling before you hit your major classes, it’s a sign that you might want to rethink your major.
As a lover of science, Jaya Powell came into Duke University three years ago wanting to be a neuroscience major. Unfortunately, neuroscience came with a lot of prerequisite courses in areas she wasn’t very strong in.
“My first semester I barely passed chem, and would have failed calculus if it weren’t for the curve,” Jaya says. “On the other hand, I excelled in my other humanities courses.”
Jaya realized early on that her initial major wasn’t right for her, so she decided to switch to linguistics and has been happier ever since.
If you’ve made it past all of your prerequisites without incident, however, “Hallelujah Chorus” is probably playing in your head (choir and all), and life seems pretty good. Once you actually start taking major courses, however, you realize that you’re struggling hardcore in the classes that you’re supposed to be good at. What happened?
While the difficult material can be to blame, it’s probably not the whole story. It’s possible that you might just not be interested in the subject anymore. After all, you can still struggle in a class even if you’re a good student.
“If a student is falling behind in the class’s work, it might indicate that he or she is not interested,” says Nancy Leighton, program administrator of Peer Support Services at Queens College. “Students who do not like their major almost always do significantly poorer in their classes than those who like their majors. The reason is motivation.”
According to Leighton, students who aren’t motivated to work won’t put as much effort into their classes, which may result in lower grades.
“It is like the saying, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,'” Leighton says. “This rings true even in undergrad. If you are majoring in something that excites you, you’ll be more inclined to go to class and learn about it and retain the information for the future.”
Jaya has found that her tests aren’t too strenuous anymore now that she’s found the right major.
“For me, there’s so much passion I have for my field it’s almost scary!” Jaya says. “I’m excited for every assignment, and I even enjoy my midterms and finals because they give me a chance to demonstrate my knowledge.”
Bad grades can indicate a lack of motivation, and a cure might be to simply find classes that genuinely interest you.
2. You don’t like going to class anymore
As the lecture continues on, your eyelids seem more determined than ever to stick together, and you’re helpless against their willpower. Your eyelids don’t seem aware of the fact that it’s two in the afternoon, so you can’t even use the early morning as an excuse for nodding off in class. You just can’t seem to stay engaged with the material, even though you’re supposed to be majoring in it. If you find yourself wanting to sleep through or skip class, it’s a sign that you aren’t studying what you actually want to study.
Megan Sweet, a junior at Michigan State University, started off pre-med, but as her classes got harder and harder, she found herself losing interest.
“I couldn’t get myself to pay attention in the classes,” Megan says. “I was taking a writing and acting class to get arts credits required by the university, and my attitude was completely different in those classes. I found myself excited about getting up and going to class.”
Megan Sweet ended up switching her major a total of four times before sticking to one. Now that she’s found her calling in television production and screenwriting, classes don’t seem like such a chore for her anymore.
Before Elodie Jean-Phillippe, a junior at Duke University, made the switch from a biology major to a political science major, she also found that she wasn’t really enjoying her classes.
“I would get jealous of my friends talking about their classes because even though they complained, they really did love it,” Elodie says.
Choosing the right major can mean the difference between sleep-inducing classes and classes that you actually look forward to every week. Four years is a short time. Before you know it, college will already be over, so there’s no time to waste sleeping through classes or wishing you could take something different. If you don’t like going to your classes anymore, it might not be a bad idea to try something new.
3. You’re more interested in your unrelated extracurricular activities
Is there something that you absolutely love to do outside of class and wish you could spend all day doing if you could? Whether you’re blogging, attending figure-drawing sessions or volunteering at a local organization, extracurricular activities are often overlooked as something people do just for fun, but these activities actually have the potential to turn into something more.
Rebecca Shinners, a recent graduate of Boston University, originally started out as a political science major at Tulane University and did well in her major classes. One of her extracurricular activities inspired her to take a completely new path.
“I think what made me realize I wanted to change majors is that I started writing for Her Campus in my free time, and I could just really see it turning into something that I did for the rest of my life,” Shinners says. “When I transferred to BU, I went into the College of Communication, where they gave me a more practical look at advertising, PR and journalism, and I was able to find the best fit for me.”
Rachel Cisto has a similar story. Now a senior, Rachel started at the University of Hartford as a physics major because she had liked going to Space Camp and joining her high school’s robotics team. When she got to school, however, she ended up joining the Student Television Network.
“As I went through the semester, I realized I was enjoying the things I was doing for STN more than the things I was doing for my major,” Rachel says. “Then, at the end of the semester, we went on a field trip to one of the local TV stations where some of our alumni work, and I had a ‘flashbulb moment’ where I realized what I wanted to do with my life. I emailed my adviser at 3 a.m. saying I needed to switch to journalism, and the rest is history!”
So pay attention to what you’re really into, whether it’s in the academic realm or not. Who knows? Maybe your favorite hobby will turn into an actual job somewhere down the line!
4. You picked your major because you wanted to please your parents
Whatever major you applied to college with seems to have just stuck. Maybe you were planning on switching it once you started attending college, but somehow you never got around to it. If you had a feeling that your initial choice of major might not have been the right fit, don’t be afraid to explore your options.
Dylan Ebraheem, a senior at Montclair State University, originally applied to the school as a biology major not because he liked it, but because he wanted to please his parents.
“I realized before September started that it just wasn’t something I was in love with or could see myself doing,” Dylan says. “So in August, I switched from bio to English.”
However, after experiencing a difficult time in a professor’s English class, Dylan felt disheartened, but then realized that he was just in the wrong field again.
“I remember the time I had gone to the Met in New York to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit,” Dylan says. “I had been in awe and fell hopelessly in love with fashion. I switched to the fashion major and haven’t looked back.”
Dylan says his switch to a fashion major caused more doors to open for him than anything else before. Now with 10 internships under his belt, he has found his calling in fashion PR and social media—all because he did what felt right to him.
“It takes time, lots of thought and experimenting,” Dylan says. “Sometimes you want to please others, but in the end, you should only be making yourself happy in doing something that you genuinely care about.”
What happens next?
Whether you’ve been having doubts about your choice of major or you recently had an epiphany that your major just isn’t right for you, don’t be afraid to do something about it, just like countless other college students have. Leighton suggests speaking with a counselor about your concerns first.
“The counselor could help [students] determine why they picked the major in the first place,” Leighton says. “Oftentimes, students pick majors that they think will make them money, or their parents wanted them to. With the help of a counselor, students might be able to get to the root of their issues with the major and possibly explore their true interests in pursuit of a new major.”
Of course, it’s hard to pick one thing and stick with it, so it’s also not a bad idea to open up your possibilities by taking classes in a number of areas instead of being limited by your major. Megan has firsthand experience with finding her passions by taking a wide variety of classes before settling down with one major.
“I came to the realization that I am here to further my education, and I should study something that I actually could see myself doing,” Megan says. In addition, it’s important to consider how many classes you have already taken for your major, as well as how many credits your new major will be.
“This could be an important exploration for students trying to graduate in four years, such as those who receive financial aid,” Leighton says. “This could indicate to students how many more semesters they would need to graduate.”
If you have considered all these issues and are set on changing majors, most schools are reasonable about allowing their students to make the switch.
“All it took was a trip to the registrar’s office to change my major,” Elodie says. “It was that simple: I filled out a form, and three days later, my major was changed.”
And remember, while your major is certainly important, it isn’t everything. Your major doesn’t have to determine your final career path, because it’s about experience, too.
“Although it is important to have some idea what you want to do after you graduate and develop a loose ‘path,’ the undergraduate major isn’t the be-all and end-all of your life goals,” Leighton says. “Furthermore, graduate programs are becoming more and more necessary to even get a salary-paying job, so the undergraduate major is becoming less significant.”
So instead of becoming overly concerned about your career and forgetting to enjoy yourself in college, keep an open mind and try to find a major that you’re truly passionate about! Remember, your choice of major isn’t something that’s written in stone. You might find that sometimes, the best things come from the most unexpected places.