Changing Major in College.

Updated on June 02, 2017
N.A. asks from Westborough, MA
20 answers

Hi, my child will be freshman in college this fall. She has been admitted to computer science department. Now she is considering changing the major when she goes for new student orientation next week.
As someone who didn't go to college I need your advise on this.
Is it ok to change now after having been admitted under one department? What impact will this have on her future?

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answers from Boston on

I think we went over this with you a year or so ago when she was considering applying. Most kids don't declare a major when they first go to college. For those who do, the basic courses for many majors are pretty much the same, so changing majors is fine up through the end of sophomore year.

You need to let this go. She's grown and off to college. She will have an advisor there, plus a department head. She needs to navigate this herself.

The best thing for her would be to take a variety of courses and actually see what she likes. No one particular major over another is going to guarantee her a job or keep her out of a job - employers are looking for smart, resilient graduates who can adapt well and learn in a new job environment. A student who has explored a couple of majors might be just what they want. There is absolutely no reason why a freshman has to choose a major now and stick with it for 4 years no matter what. That's a good way to guarantee a miserable 4 years.

Please relax. You've done a good job, she's gotten accepted, and she's ready to spread her wings. It will be fine.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Your child was accepted to the college. She was approved to take classes. One can change their declared major at any time. It is not locked in and she doesn't even have to declare a major in her first year.

My husband changed his major after his Junior year of college. He had to take an extra semester to get his new chosen degree, but it was otherwise a simple thing to do.

Unless you're personally footing the entire bill for school, I advise you to be cautious about interjecting yourself into her business. Other answers say, "Don't let her..." or "Contact her adviser..." My advice is to let your adult daughter be the adult in charge of her own education. Suggest that she to talk to her adviser, but don't do it for her. Don't call the school to talk about her. Don't call the teachers.

I have friends who are professors or college administrators, and there are never-ending tales of parents who are not letting their son or daughter have the autonomy they need to succeed. If your daughter ASKS for your help, give it. Otherwise, just listen, maybe suggest, but don't personally intervene.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Buffalo on

I teach at the college level. There are advisors who get paid to help people through this exact question. Just give them a call or go see them - they are supposed to be trained on counseling people on prerequisites, required courses, etc. That's their job!
Kids change majors all the time. This isn't anything earth shattering. At least your kid hasn't wasted a lot of time and money already in a different major.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

The best thing you can do is step back and let her figure this out herself. Trust that she will be under advisement of her college professionals. And ultimately, she will have the best chance of success in her future if she figures out her own path.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

The university I work for offers a program for students who are the first in their family to go to college. When you are at orientation, I would ask if her school offers such a program. Ours offers students to come to campus for a week at the end of July where they offer many opportunities to learn more about campus life, what classes are like, different resources, etc. It's really a great opportunity for students whose parents never went to college. They really bond with the other students in the program and definitely feel much more relaxed as they enter their freshman year.

Colleges and universities do ask applicants what they plan to major in, but for most majors, that is not used to determine whether or not they are admitted. Most students are either admitted to the university or not based on grades ACT or SAT schools, class rank, etc. Some applicants even put "undecided" as their major.

When she does go to orientation, she will meet with an advisor to plan her first semester classes. That would be a good time for her to mention this. No matter what her major is, she will be required to take English (usually 2 semesters), Math (many schools require 2 semesters) and other general requirements that all students need to take (science, history, psychology, etc). She won't have any trouble finishing her first year without being certain about her major.

College can very intimidating, but it can also be a very exciting time! Remind your daughter to be a good student (that's her first job) and have lots of fun!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

Your daughter is beginning her adult life. I agree with TF and JC about changes in her academic plan. Usually the first two years are basics and all students must take basics of some sort. Have her talk with the advisers about changes that she might want to take or change before she declares her major.

I have taken many classes and have not declared my major as of yet as I am not sure what I want to do even though I have at least two years of classes completed. In fact, I even work on a university campus and try to take classes in between work projects when I can.

Four to six years is a small part of life but for a teenager it seems forever. Make sure she studies and applies herself for what work she wants in the future and builds a solid base. She'll get out of school and get a job and see if what she has in education matches where she is working. She will also decide if this is the field she wants and if she needs more education in order to make it in life. Education now days is a journey that continues as long as you live.

Good luck to you both.

the other S.

PS I work with students in communication who are not sure if they want to continue in television media or go into journalism. So we do see a bit of flip flops but not so much. We even get the sports jock who changes his mind and gets out of sports and goes into television.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Many of my friends did not declare a major until the end of their 2nd year. And quite a few friends changed majors. It is no big deal. You have a lot of basic requirement classes you have to complete that go with any degree. Your daughter should meet with one of the college counsellors who will advise her. It should be just fine. It should have no bad impact on her future! It's important to get a degree in what you want/like. PS - When I was this age my mom had no impact on my decisions and didn't help with things like this anymore. I figured it out myself. The school your daughter goes to has people she can meet with who can answer her questions. I think letting your kids figure out their own problems is GREAT for them! Tell her to meet with a counsellor if she has any questions.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

When we had the orientation and registration for one of my girls last month, the parents had their own little orientation. One of the women was from the admissions area. She told us that we should not stress if our child decided to change majors. 86% of students change their majors before senior year. Obviously the more competitive and involved the field, the sooner you want to be in it. She also said that one reason students are given core courses for the first 2 years is so they can change if they decide to.

Honestly, I would prefer my child changes their major rather than work in something that seemed right for them but ended up not being what they really wanted. You get exposed to so much more when you really go out in the world.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Now is the time to change majors. Don't let her take classes that end up not being applied towards her degree. This is why so many students take 5-6 years to graduate.

(My daughter was accepted into the nursing program at her school. She then switched to Marketing and before her freshman year started she switched again to Communications. We were told though that the nursing program was extremely competitive and if she didn't get in then there was no chance she could switch in at a later date. Now if your child wants pre-med then the school might not have any spots open but your daughter can certainly switch out.)

Edit - if she is undecided she should go in as undecided so she only takes gen. Ed. classes. It is when students declare a major then switch that they end up doing the 5 year college plan. FYI... My daughter took several Communications classes her freshman year. If she were to change majors perhaps one or two could be used as electives but not all.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think the majority of students change their major at some point - sometimes more than once. Keep this in mind, because once she gets into her classes and gets a better idea of what she's really good at and what she enjoys, she may switch again. If a student switches late (after sophomore year), it could delay graduation because it might be hard to get all the required classes scheduled in the remaining 4 semesters*. But until then, it's usually fine.

*I personally changed my major during my junior year, but to a very related field, so I still graduated in 4 years. So even if you change majors late, sometimes you can still get all the requirements in. It depends how similar the 2 majors are.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Sometimes you hear people who say "from the time I was 6 I knew I would be a(n) _______ [doctor, astronaut, researcher, dancer, singer, rancher, etc],", and they are now an adult and they are exactly that. They never wavered and they're very prominent in their field and satisfied with their lives.

However, a large percentage of happy and functioning adults don't enter college knowing precisely what they plan to do as a job or career.

College is more than choosing a major and sticking to it. In college, a student may encounter a professor who introduces that student to a field the student never knew existed before. The student may meet another student, perhaps from a different country or different circumstances in life, who makes a profound impact on the student and changes the student's future. College teaches a student about the world, about his or herself, and about the opportunities that exist out there.

Many, many students change their minds about their majors after exploring an introductory course in another subject, or after talking with an advisor or professor. This is the time to learn about your strengths, your goals, your interests, your passions, your weaknesses, your abilities. Encourage your daughter to explore, but to do her best in every course that she takes. She may have to take core classes in something that seems irrelevant to her, but studying produces discipline and development and growth. Encourage her to do her best work in every class, and to approach them all with an open mind and a receptive attitude. She may discover that she has a passion and skill for medicine, or cancer research, or teaching, or music. Or she may continue in computer sciences and proceed along that path.

And trust her advisors and professors to guide her. Professors and employers and mentors look for character, reliability, dedication, attitude. They're ok with changing majors. If you asked someone who is successful in a demanding career, they'd be very likely to say something like "I started out planning to be a guitarist [or a dancer or a pro football player or a nurse] and in my junior year I met a teacher who helped guide me towards becoming the [astrophysicist, percussionist, kindergarten teacher] that I am today."

Help your daughter be excited about all that college offers, and don't worry for a second about changing majors during her first few semesters. The time to worry about changing majors is when they're a senior, 1 credit away from graduating, and they tell you they think that a degree is pointless and maybe they'll backpack through Australia for awhile. Then you worry.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

That's fine. I changed mine after my first year. I had gone in thinking I'd like taking what I had excelled at in high school, only to realize I couldn't fathom studying it for 4 years. I met a friend and I was always interested in her work and assignments, and switched. I enjoyed it much more. I was able to use (apply) my credits to my new major.

I ended up going back to school and adding to it later, after I'd worked for a time. These days, education is continual kind of learning. It's not set in stone unless you are 100% sure what you want to come out as, and then you need to get on a path to get there - counsellors can help. If she's not sure what she wants to be or study in, she has time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

I think the vast majority of students change their major at least once. That's why they're normally not even required to declare a major until their sophomore year., and the first few years are spent largely on general education requirements. I changed my major 4 times and still graduated in 4 years.

This is the time to really let her fly on her own. Under no circumstances should you talk to anyone at the college about her choice. Don't be a helicopter parent! If she wants to change, let her figure out who she needs to talk to and what the procedure is.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Change from computer science to what?
She's been working towards this all through high school - what's changed her mind now?
I really hope it's not because some friend has changed her/his mind and she wants to follow them.

I changed majors after my sophomore year.
I was going to be a pharmacist but Organic Chemistry culled me out.
I took intro to everything - learned I could draw - and ended up in computer science.
I took some aptitude tests - found out that you need similar talents for computer science, car mechanic and funeral home director jobs.
And THEN I discovered that while I loved computer programming - scientific programming wasn't for me.
I had to transfer schools to get into a good business computer programming program.
As a result it took me a total of 5 years to get through college - only had to do loans for one year which wasn't much to pay off.
I was a Cobol programmer for 15 years and then a business analyst.
It's ok to not know what you want.
It's really good to find out what you don't want - especially before you graduate and are stuck in a field you end up hating.

She probably should talk to a guidance counselor.
Changing majors does happen but you want to make sure she's not getting a Phd in underwater basket weaving.
She should get a degree in something that will pay her enough in salary to pay off her loans.
It might be ok but a lot depends on her motivation for wanting to make this change.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

As Jenny says, this is a question for your daughter to ask an academic adviser and also the admissions department.

She should e-mail and ask today, so she can go and enjoy the student orientation week with any worry about this change resolved and off of her mind.

I will note that though at most colleges, students are doing mostly general requirements the first two years or so, there are some places where the student is admitted directly into his or her major subject department as a freshman. Did your daughter actually get "admitted to the computer science department" as a freshman, with a specific path of courses that will start her freshman year and which would all be necessary for her to get a computer science degree? Or did she actually just say that her preferred major would be computer science, but she is not formally in the "X College School of Computer Science" yet and can't be until she declares a major at the end of sophomore year? It's an important distinction and one she should be sure about.

Even if she is already admitted to her major as a freshman -- she very, very likely can change majors. But the big question is whether this college has other potential majors in which she is interested. If this is a heavily computer/tech/science college, for instance, and she is wanting to go into arts (just for example), then she might have to reconsider. But if the college has other majors of interest to her, and a good reputation in those fields of study, she'll be fine. The admissions office or new student office will be able to help. Plenty of kids change majors and they surely have had this question before now!

Congratulations to your daughter on going to college, and to you on helping her get there!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Her first 2 years will be 90% basics anyway.

If she's changing from CEAT to another college within the university AND has scholarship money coming from that college then she has a problem.

I was housemom at Triangle Fraternity for a few years and I had guys in engineering, computer science, drama, math, and more.

The guys had all started out in their declared major but some found it too hard. One sat down one day and he was just shaking, he hadn't slept in days and had been drinking energy drinks to stay away to get a project in. He decided he couldn't hack engineering and went the next day and declared his major as architecture. Said he could at least go to bed every 3 or 4 days in that major. The one that went to drama didn't lose out financially because he got a scholarship from that department to replace his CEAT scholarship.

I would say, if financial aid is tied to her major that she just wait a year or two. She really doesn't have to declare a major to take basics.

If her money isn't tied to anything scholastic then she can change her major every day until she starts taking core classes in a couple of years.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

The first couple of years are based on the basic requirements of a degree. Most freshmen are not required to declare a major.

Lots of kids change majors.., as in all the time, it's very common.

It's important that she has a good relationship with her advisors. They are there for a reason.... guide her.

I don't know why you're so concerned about her future if she changes her major. Bottom line is the first couple years are basics.

My daughter, senior in college, will graduate a year late instead of the general 4 years. She's a 4.0 GPA and was offered an opportunity to fast track to her Masters. That was a no brainer.

It's no biggie to me that she chose to go longer and get an advanced degree.

Some kids change majors and it might tack on some extra time depending on the change of the major.., ex....Engineering School switching to Business or Medical, etc.

She's just a freshman... let her figure out her track for her education. I wouldn't force someone to stay and study in a field they changed interest in. That's a waste of money.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I changed majors and it was no big deal. At this point, she's doing her general ed requirements anyway, so it's an easy time to switch. I still got out in four years. There will be plenty of people at the university who can advise her on the process of switching, so I wouldn't stress about it at all.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Reading on

Why do people expect 18 year olds to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives and then want to throw tens of thousands of dollars at it? Of course, students change majors all the time. Would you prefer they spend 4 years on a major they already know they don't want? I mean, even if it meant not going to school this fall, I would never force a child into a major they don't want and pay tuition for it. Recipe for failure. But no, all students take core curriculum classes - many students don't claim a major until sophomore year.



answers from San Francisco on

Kids change majors all the time. IMO one of the best things about college is to explore different majors, not make up your mind what you want to do when you barely know anything about the adult world.

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