5 Reasons Why Changing Majors Late in College Is Not a Good Idea

The fall semester is about to begin, so this post is for juniors and seniors getting ready to return to college. While there is no specific definition of what constitutes a junior or senior student in college, we’ll use the number of credit hours completed as a measure. Therefore, a student that completed at least 60 credit hours is a junior and one that completed at least 90 credit hours is senior. As a point of reference, a college degree typically requires the completion of 120 credit hours.

Therefore, here are some of the reasons why changing majors late in the game could backfire.

As a point of clarification, I am not saying that changing majors is bad, in fact changing majors is good. Studies showed that students who change majors are more likely to continue their college education and not drop out than students who don’t change majors. These changes in majors, however, are best to occur during the first two years rather than the last two years of college.

Therefore, if you think about changing majors during your junior year or later, keep the following reasons in mind:

  1. Changing majors can be expensive. If you are in the junior year that means that you already completed the lower level core requirements for your major. The number of credits associated with this requirement can be around 30. If you change majors you’ll need to complete potentially a similar number of credit hours in the destination major as well. Additional credits can translate into additional costs.
  1. Debt. If you qualify for certain state and federal loans and grants these funds are allowed to cover only a set number of credits. Once you are above that threshold you need to figure out how to finance your education on your own. Additionally, some schools want you to graduate as soon as possible so that other students can access education. Hence, once you reach a certain number of credits they may charge extra fees – sometimes double the cost – for each credit attempted.
  1. Foregone Income. Changing majors late in college can lead to delays in graduation. Studies have found that each additional year spent in college (after the 4 year mark) can cost up to $50,000 ($20,000 in tuition, fees, and living arrangements, as well as $30,000 in foregone income) and $150,000 over the course of a lifetime.
  1. College is Just College. Yep, that’s right. College is just a step along the way. Completing college does not mean that you stop learning that you won’t need/want return to school, say for a graduate degree, later on. But in order to do that you need to complete college and move on. On one hand, the fact that you complete a certain major, does not mean that you’ll get a career in that field. Ideally you will and everything will be great, but it not unheard of for college graduates to not work in the field of their study (I am one of them). Therefore, don’t get too hung up on the major.
    On the other hand, in many fields getting a graduate degree is the norm, so the faster you finish college and the lower debt you have associated with it, the better. As you know, graduate school is not cheap. And it may be that you don’t want to go to graduate school right after college, but in certain careers you’ll need a graduate degree to advance.
  1. Change the Major If You Must. So while changing majors during junior year or later is not advisable, sometimes it’s better to do it than to drop out. So if you feel that you really, really, really, cannot bear another minute in the major you are in then do it, but keep these things in mind.
    One current issue is that the number of students dropping out during their senior year (after they completed 90 credits – out of 120) is high. And the best case scenario is not not going to college, but going to college, raking in debt, and then dropping out without a degree.
    Therefore, if you absolutely must change your major this late in the game, go talk to an adviser and see what other major would accept the vast majority of your credits and would delay your graduation by the least number of semesters. Some majors out there are more lenient in terms of required courses than others and will let you count your courses towards the graduation requirements. The adviser will know which ones they are, so make sure you consult with them.

I hope you all have an amazing fall semester.

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