The day I got a letter accepting me into my college’s dental hygiene program, I was so proud. I had worked hard on my grades and test scores to be one of just 35 chosen students. I was on my way and nothing could stop me. A few months later, that excitement had turned to dread. I was miserable, but I kept trying to convince myself that it was part of the process. The last day of the semester, I was sitting in the clinic examining another student’s teeth, with my instructor pacing nearby. She casually commented that this was what we’d be doing for the rest of our careers. In that moment, I knew. I had made a huge mistake. I packed up my bag, marched down to the dean’s office, and quit. I thought I’d feel panic, but all I felt was relief.
My story isn’t anything special. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, nearly 80% of students will change their majors at least once. In fact, the average student changes majors THREE times during college. So, while it might seem like everyone else knows exactly what they want to do, you are definitely not alone. Here are some things to do if you’re grappling with your decision.
- Talk to an advisor. You may simply be struggling with one class or in a difficult program meant to weed out students not fully committed (hello nursing school). An advisor can help you figure out if you’re truly in the wrong place or if you’re just temporarily frustrated. Does it make sense to change or are there other options to consider?
- Look at the financial implications. Changing majors will probably require more classes and potentially extra semesters. How will you pay for these expenses? If you have financial aid, will it cover those extra classes? Not to say that you should continue in a major that you hate, but that you should be prepared for all the consequences.
- Do your research. I picked dental hygiene because on paper it seemed ideal: good hours, good pay, benefits, and job security. In reality, I didn’t know much about the job. I let peers sway me in the medical field direction, even though I knew it wasn’t something I was interested in. Chances are, family and friends offered opinions and you might have been influenced. Talk to people you know in the field, ask professors questions, and look up statistics online. Job shadowing is a fantastic way to research career options (more on this in our next blog).
After my dental hygiene debacle, I was lucky enough to find a major that I loved. I’m proof that switching majors can be for the best. It can be scary to say you made a mistake, but it’s better to figure it out now than to loathe your job later on. Changing my major wasn’t easier, but I’m infinitely happier. College is all about finding yourself and creating your future, so make it a future you’re excited about.