The All-Too-Real Stresses of Switching Majors

Nobody told me when I was applying for college that I was also signing up for four years of indecisiveness and stress surrounding my major path. High school makes you feel optimistic about your life, but sometimes when you actually get to experience your passion, you might end up not liking it. It has not been a walk in the park for me to find that perfect major, which is okay.

I began college excited to be a journalism major, and I was comfortable and determined with my decision. I enrolled in mostly general education classes, but I made sure to include journalism courses so I could get a feel for the major. Although my schedule was easy, I found that I was forcing myself to do work because I just was not excited for any of it. Little did I know that general education courses served no purpose at all in helping with my career choice, and (surprise!) it only added more stress to my college experience. I suffered through my classes even though they made me miserable and hoped it would get better.

After my first semester at UF and many tearful phone calls home, I realized that I didn’t like my major, and I needed to change that. The constant battle in my head on switching majors gave me bad anxiety my second semester. I knew I wanted to change it, but in my head, it felt like society was not agreeing with me, and I had a lot of worries surrounding the idea.

My first fear was that if I switched my major, even with incoming credits,  I would have to stay in college for more than four years. After talking to a lot of students at UF, these anxieties and worries became uncommon, and it seemed as though everyone I spoke to had changed their major more than once. When I had to get stitches removed after a bike accident last semester, the nurse was a UF grad and had switched her major from English to biology her senior year to go into dermatology. Being hit by a bike itself was a sign for me, but to hear that you can still be successful even at the last minute reassured me that it’s never too late.

Another worry that pondered in my mind was the fear of being judged. College is just a glimpse into the real world, and unfortunately, it allows for more judgment over everything. It’s difficult to feel successful when you’re at a top 10 public university surrounded by science and math majors. I always knew that they would have a better salary and job security outlook than a journalist like me. I was already being criticized for being a journalism major, but being an English major is a whole harsher level of judgment. Most of it happens on the notorious Swampy Memes Facebook page where students gather to make a joke out of UF, and although it’s funny most times, it makes me feel discouraged. Letting this small, meaningless stuff affect my mental health was just one more reason why I stepped back and made my happiness a priority.

The comfort I had with the journalism community at UF was also something that I was afraid to give up. Going through the process of joining new clubs and seeing new faces in my classes was difficult, but even my closest friends from the J-School could tell that I was significantly happier.

Over the summer, I had a journalism internship, and it was the breaking point in my decision to switch. My mental health and happiness are worth more than the fears that surrounded changing majors. One week before my sophomore year, I walked into the desolate advising office in Farrior Hall and finally had the courage to declare an English major with a Pre-Law track. Trust me, it wasn’t an easy thing to do, and change is one of my biggest fears. I walked out of my advisor’s office, and I drove back to my apartment blasting Eye of the Tiger with the biggest smile on my face.  

It may be tempting to ignore these comments and give up hope or suffer through a career path that makes you miserable. Ever since freshman year, I have lived by a quote from Alan Watts: “Better to have a short life full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.” This perspective on life has gotten me through the worst days when I was under extreme stress. Nobody should ever go through life miserable, and if that means changing your major, then it’ll be a big step towards making your college experience amazing.