Higher education involves a significant investment of time, energy, and (of course) money. So about the last thing a student wants to fear is that his course of study isn’t leading to a desirable destination.
While virtually everyone gets fleeting thoughts about the road not taken, reoccurring feelings that a different educational path might prove a better match certainly should be explored. Consider these tips for approaching the situation:
Some catalyst usually exists that prompts students to start questioning their current plan. Identifying this trigger can provide valuable food-for-thought in moving forward.
Dana Saunders, director of the Students First Office at UNC Greensboro, suggests thinking about the following signs that a change may be in order:
- You have lost interest in the material being taught in your major coursework. Not every class is exciting, but a pattern can definitely be a telltale sign.
- You aren’t earning the grades you need (or want). College-level coursework is not easy, but your academic strengths should align with your major classes. Some majors require a certain GPA or minimum course grades, but even if they don’t, a series of C grades (or lower) may mean your major isn’t the right fit.
- You picked your major because of family pressure, money, or some other external factor. While keeping parents happy and/or financial stability are important values, these alone are not usually enough to maintain long-term satisfaction (or success) in an academic major or career field. Your major should be one that puts you on a path that leads to a career you love.
“Ultimately, an academic major is a deeply personal decision that should be driven by intrinsic goals,” Saunders says. “A student’s academic major should really be the perfect synergy between their personal strengths, academic interests, and career goals.”
If a different major or career path sounds intriguing, test the waters rather than jumping rashly. An accurate picture of what’s involved contributes to solid decisions.
Learn all you can about majors/occupations of interest. Start with the Internet, but progress to more “hands on” info collecting for better insight. Consider informational interviews with faculty members or current students. Seek out people in your proposed career for in-depth conversation or perhaps even to job shadow for a day or so. Never simply assume the grass is greener elsewhere.
Overwhelmed by the decision? You’re not alone. And because so many students experience this scenario, educational institutions abound with people who can help.
“Students may find it helpful to unpack their initial thoughts with a mentor, counselor, or someone they trust to give balanced feedback,” Saunders says. “It is also a great idea, especially if a student is leaning toward making a change, to talk about options with a career counselor or academic advisor. They can be especially helpful in students’ efforts to think through both short- and long-term impacts of making a change, particularly in regard to graduation timelines and career goals.”