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By: Marianne Salina, Academic Advising

Call it a product of the recession or perhaps a new level of unwavering determination, but it seems more students arrive on campus with a clear and decided path set before them, typically with a specific job in mind. Two popular areas we see students pursue are those majors that fall within the Engineering and Biology departments, and it makes sense: there is visible growth in the medical and STEM fields, often with positions that start at comfortable salaries.

Perhaps this increased level of academic certainty is exactly as it should be. After all, why spend valuable time and money as an undecided freshman, when the option of following a path straight into the job market exists? Well, for one thing, the path for many students in these majors is by no means straight, and for many more, it does not successfully end in four years.

Semester after semester we visit with students who are forcing themselves into majors that simply aren’t the right fit and the end result can be devastating, especially when they realize that not only have they suffered through their academic careers, but their GPAs have plummeted too.

While we undoubtedly want to see our students challenge themselves, it is also part of our department’s mission to help students identify an academic path best suited to their talents, passions, and potential as scholars and leaders in the workforce; with a little soul searching, advising, and some time spent “undeclared,” a student just might find a major in which they not only succeed, but thrive… and this might require changing majors.

Steps for Changing Majors:

  1. First, speak with your student openly and honestly about his/her grades. If a student is repeatedly struggling through the major course work and is either borderline or simply not passing classes, it is very likely time to change majors.
  1. Do it sooner rather than later. Preserving the GPA is of utmost importance, both for the job market and for post-baccalaureate studies. Don’t wait until a grade point average is unsalvageable.
  1. Students should schedule an appointment with their faculty advisor and with Academic Advising. They should research and learn more about themselves. Strengths Finder, Myers Briggs, and any number of personality test/career path tools can be useful in helping students learn how to harness their talents. The Career Center is a good place to locate these resources.
  1. After proper advisement, fill out and submit a Change of Major Form.

It can be difficult for students to pull away from a vision they’ve held from a very early age, but it’s important to encourage open-mindedness, especially if college has become an uphill battle. While changing majors might feel like a door closing, it can in fact be the decision that saves a student academically, which in reality, keeps many doors wide open.

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