To change or not to change: the dilemma of switching one’s major
Changing one’s undergraduate major seems to be a scarier thing than changing one’s job. While people have accepted that there should not be “one job for one life”, people still think that there should be just one degree for one’s undergraduate study. It is just four years. Wouldn’t switching a degree program be too disruptive? What if one makes a wrong choice again? If you are now facing the problem of whether to change your major, this article is written for you!
The decision to change program is complex yet simple. It involves many often competing factors of consideration, yet there is probably one factor that carries the most of the weight: you need to follow your heart. To be more exact, you need to study something you personally find interesting and meaningful, so that you feel happy and confident as a student.
Bearing that principle in mind, let’s examine why you may want to change your course and why you may not.
Change at a good timing
If you want to change your course, ideally you should be in your first year. It is not that uncommon to see freshmen change their courses. In fact, the university administration understands that and they don’t expect a high school graduate to know everything in the future. The general policy is in favor of first-year students.
A deeper question to ask
However, being allowed to change one’s course doesn’t mean you will just change it. Doing a degree program is not like buying a T-shirt, something you can always change if you don’t like it. Hence while you are thinking if you should really switch, Digital Senior would like you to think in a different way. Instead of thinking “Should I change to this course”, ask yourself “What made me choose the current course?”
Thinking about such a question helps you uncover the mistakes you made in decision making and helps you avoid making the same mistakes again. Was it because you chose the major simply by looking at its admission score that was the highest you could get? Was it because of the career prestige that the major promised but that now you don’t find attractive (or even real) anymore? Was it because of too much parental influence? To find out the most common pitfalls students faced in choosing their course of study, click here. Once you have discovered the factor that led to the suboptimal decision, try to avoid them in making the decision to switch. This can greatly reduce the chance of you getting from a program you don’t like to another program you hate even more!
Do you really know your desired program?
Most often, students choose a program they don’t like because they don’t know enough facts about the program. The facts are not just about the starting salary of the graduates of the program, the admission cut off point or even one’s general impression. Facts are experiences. If you consider changing to a program, talk to the professors and students in that program. Attend their lectures (this requires you to find out their timetables). Read their textbooks in the library or watch some similar online course videos. Be honest with your feeling. If you feel the strong pulse in your heart, chances are you are at the right place. Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine describes this as intuitive wisdom which manifests itself in the form of physiological sensations such as a strong pulse in your heart or intestines. This is also commonly known as the ‘gut’ feeling, a uniquely human ability that tells you what the right thing to do is. So pay attention to your guts. Chances are, if you are reading this article, you really want to change your course, but there are many things holding you back.
Don’t overlook admin matters
If you want to change your course, you need to bear in mind the deadlines set by your school. Once you miss the deadline, you have to wait for another semester before you can possibly change your program. You need to get approval from your current school and the school you want to transfer to. They normally look at your current GPA and admission scores and your statement for reasons of change. Some special schools, especially some arts school, may even require you to submit your portfolio as part of your application.
|Deadline for Semester 1 AY2014-15||12 May 2014 - 11 Jul 2014|
* Application by early June is advised
|1 Feb to 21 Feb 2014|
|Deadline for Semester 2 AY2013-14||9 Dec 2013 - 3 Jan 2014||14 Oct to 15 Nov 2013|
|Credit transfer||Grades and Credits of approved courses will be transferred. Approval on case-by-case basis.||Credit of approved courses will be transferred. Approval on case-by-case basis.|
Why you may not want to change?
However, if you are well into your year 2 or even year 3, things become more different. University generally discourages students from changing for practical reasons. In terms of financial issues, the MOE tuition grant only covers the duration of your new degree program less the duration in which you studied in your previous degree program. Even if finances are not big issues for you, opportunity cost in terms of delaying your graduation for more than 1 year can be high. More forces are in favor of not changing.
However, there are many ways to mitigate the situation. First, you can always do a second major/minor or take more electives in the field that interests you the most. While you may not like your current program, tell yourself that it is your responsibility to get good grades out of it. There are many examples of students who are not necessarily fanatic about their course of study but still pulled through and ended up doing something else in their career and achieving phenomenal success. International Speaker and author of the bestselling book, ‘The happy student’, Daniel Wong says that schooling is only a part of your education. Daniel himself studied engineering in Duke University where he discovered and worked on his mission to empower people to lead a meaningful life.
You can engage in many other activities as a sideline, such as joining a marketing club, taking up freelance projects or reading books to educate yourself in preparation for a career in a particular area. In doing so, you further your understanding about the course and decide if it is right for you. This is of lower risk than just taking the plunge and quitting your course.
A Larger picture
Moreover, you always need to bear in mind a larger picture. In many industries, the relevance of one’s study does not matter that much. Hence even if you think your current degree program won’t increase your chance of getting in, at least it won’t hurt you. And you can always take relevant modules to demonstrate your interest, or apply for the industry’s internship first which is generally easier to get in. Unless you are aiming at very specific and technical areas of employment, your degree matters less than you think. Your grades matter much more.
Digital Senior understands your situation now. You are in a state of dilemma and there seems to be sacrifice to be made in either case. You are absolutely right! The point is to make short term sacrifices to secure long term benefits. If you are lost among so many considerations and voices, go back to the first principle mentioned above: follow your heart; consult your heart.
Read part 2: Whats holding you back from changing your course ?