Last winter quarter, I realized that I simply could not stand to continue studying computer science.
It was no surprise to me. First off, I dislike programming with a passion —I lose a good five years off my life from frustration every time my code doesn’t run properly. I also didn’t have a strong background in STEM, opting not to take AP classes in subjects like calculus and physics in high school. And to top it off, I had only really chosen CS majors at a few of the colleges I initially applied to, and mostly because my parents wanted me to.
Luckily, I didn’t have to look far to find a field that I really felt passionate about and wanted to explore further. I was already taking Intro to Linguistics as a GE class that quarter, and I soon realized that not only are languages something I’ve been passionate about all my life, making the major a near perfect fit for me, but that UC Santa Cruz also has a fantastic linguistics department. So, that settled it—I began adding courses like Semantics I and Structure of Chinese Languages to my four-year planner spreadsheet and researching future career paths for linguistics graduates.
Computer science isn’t completely gone from my life, though. I settled on a compromise with my parents that I would either double major or minor in CS, in order to not lose out on valuable programming skills. I’m alright with this turn of events, now that I have something I truly love to put my focus on as well. Computational knowledge is surprisingly applicable to non-CS fields, even the humanities and social sciences. In the case of linguistics, natural language processing and computational linguistics are two growing fields in the tech industry that use programming to solve linguistic problems.
This article is nearly a year in the making, and I’m happy to finally be adding my voice to Ashti’s and Alexa’s previous articles about their respective journeys changing their majors. If any of the following tips resonate with you, consider looking through UCSC’s catalog to see what other majors might interest you, or making an appointment with your advisors—and even the advisors for a major you’re not in yet—to explore your next steps.
- You chose it for the wrong reasons
This one definitely hits close to home. If your reasoning behind choosing your major is something like “it makes good money” or “I didn’t know what else to study” or “my parents made me” and you aren’t staying in it for any other reasons, it’s time to start thinking about other fields of study.
- You don’t find your classes rewarding
This could go one of either two ways. One, you’re under-challenged. Your assignments are a breeze, you manage to pull A’s in your major qualification courses while on your phone during class all the time, and you’re not only bored by the course material, but also by your attempts to self-study outside of class. Or, you could be over-challenged. Your grades are slipping, you always feel out of your depth in your courses, and you don’t understand your assignments to the point that you can’t even begin to vocalize what’s confusing you. Either way, your major doesn’t need to be so unfulfilling.
- You don’t seek out extracurricular opportunities related to your major
This is an important one—if I truly liked computer science but just wasn’t good at it, I would be filling my spare time by participating in CS-related extracurriculars and organizations like CruzHacks and Girls Who Code, or simply trying to program a lot more in my spare time. This realization really drove home the fact that I really don’t have much of a passion for CS. Not wanting to spend time on your course of study outside of what’s required of you signals that maybe it’s not the best fit for you.
- You don’t like the career prospects associated with the major
While considering my future career paths as a CS major, I resented the prospect of having to code for a living as a software engineer—or, as I saw it, being shackled to a laptop and hammering out lines of code for eight hours a day in a male-dominated industry. This should go without saying, but a major isn’t right for you if its related future careers make you want to hurl.
- You’re thinking seriously about studying other fields
I’m not talking about a casual fantasy to change your major to history after watching that latest historical spy thriller (something I’ve experienced). If you find yourself seriously considering studying other fields to the point that you begin mapping out other potential career paths, it’s probably a sign that you aren’t happy in your current major.
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, a third of four-year college students will change their major at some point in their academic career. There’s no shame in being one of them! What matters is that you find an intellectually stimulating course of study that works for you and your future career plans. Good luck!