Time for a Change
by Victoria Sebastian | published Sep. 2nd, 2019
As a high school senior, for as long as you can remember, your classes were clearly laid out for you. But all of a sudden, you have less than a year to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. You have pressures to decide your future quickly and correctly. The problem is, what is the correct decision?
Some people decide to take gap years to figure things out. Others will enter college undecided. The remaining enter with a declared major, but may decide they aren’t quite content with their choice.
Luckily, declaring a major is not a life sentence. If you feel like you're in the wrong place, it's always possible to look around at other options. Barry Strauber, a visiting lecturer in the School of Communication, explained it best.
“College should be about exploration and discovery,” he said.
Reading the Signs
Questioning your career path is a common occurrence. Nearly 30 percent of students will change their major within their first three years of college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. So, what are some signs that indicate this path may also be for you?
One of the most common factors of concern is a lack of interest in your major.
As Strauber summarized, “You need to be passionate about something ... when you’re passionate about something you’re doing, like a job, you just naturally work really hard at it.”
Sometimes, the lack of interest stems from parental pressures to be in a major of their choosing. Other times, your major may not fit your personality. It may also occur by mistake, expecting one thing from your major but getting another.
Fifth year Finance major Renee Annan-Hutton had experiences with many of these factors when she decided a change was right for her.
“I started out in Computer Engineering. A lot of that came from preconceived conceptions on what I thought it would be and also just a lot of influence from my parents,” Annan-Hutton explained.
No matter the reason, having a lack of interest in what you're learning can cause hindrances, such as a lack of attention and participation in classes. This can then go on to affect your grades, with academic struggles being another common factor.
“You want to be challenged by your coursework, but you don’t want it to be impossible,” Career Counselor Janine Rowe explained.
Getting one bad grade on a test doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. But, if you notice yourself constantly struggling, it may be time to look at other options. For Annan-Hutton, she knew something was wrong when she started comparing her troubles with those of her classmates.
“It was the feeling that I was struggling, and I seemed to be struggling more than anyone else,” she stated.
This can become particularly concerning when the classes you are struggling with are a core part of your major.
Annan-Hutton explained, “Engineering is so physics-based, that if I can’t get through this rudimentary physics, there’s no possible way I can thrive in it.”
Therefore, she sought out a middle ground.
“I needed to find a crossroad between where my interests lie and something that I am good at,” she stated.
"I needed to find a crossroad between where my interests lie and something that I am good at."
Taking the Path
After you have decided a change may be best for you, it is important to speak up about it.
“Talk to your parents ... talk to your current adviser ... talk to your friends ... ” Annan-Hutton said.
Talking to your parents may seem scary, especially if you don’t think they will agree with your choice. Parents have a valid reason to be concerned about your future, but sometimes the best career for you is the one you choose.
After talking with your parents, you should move the discussion to a professional source such as RIT’s Career Counseling service, which offers singular counseling, group sessions and assessments.
“[We] sit down with students and encourage them to really examine everything that goes into making a choice of major and a choice of career,” Rowe explained.
Your journey may stop here. After doing this research, some will find that they are happy in the major they are in and decide to simply take an immersion or elective that aligns with their other interests. These scenarios are perfectly valid.
“Coming to Career Counseling doesn’t necessarily mean you are changing your major," Rowe said. "I think everyone can benefit from clarification on their goals."
However, if you do decide to make the switch, the journey will vary between students.
“Departments and even specific majors can set their own policies and procedures about the major change,” Rowe explained.
Switching majors may require a portfolio submission, other times it may require a sit-down discussion and sometimes your ability to switch is based on your previous grades. Therefore, it is important to find your path by talking with your advisers and with the department or major you are looking to transfer into.
However, there are also the few who know they want to change their major but may not know what they want to change it to. Annan-Hutton found herself in this situation and, as a solution, she took a semester in University Exploration.
“ ... University Exploration is a good and popular way for students like me who didn’t know what I wanted to do yet [to find their major],” Annan-Hutton explained.
University Exploration allows students to take diverse classes that cater to their interests, in hopes that one of these will spark a light to guide them toward the correct path. Therefore, there truly is an option for anyone who is thinking about making a change.
A Bumpy Ride
“I think this major change seems daunting or scary when it doesn’t have to be,” Strauber said.
Changing your major is a big decision and it should not be taken lightly — extra semesters and extra costs can come into play. But, there are always options for a curious student to look into at RIT. In the end, you should go down a path that is best for you.
As Strauber said, “If it’s something you truly love, you just have to figure out how to do it.”