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Ariel Collatz, undergraduate programs supervisor and undergraduate advisor, standing behind a sculpture
Ariel Collatz, who changed her major twice in college, is the undergraduate programs supervisor and undergraduate advisor in the College of Letters and Science Arts Group at UC Davis. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Be Successful by Assessing Your Goals, Adjusting Your Focus and Exploring Possibilities

By Ariel Collatz on November 27, 2017

Thinking about changing your major? Join the crowd — you are in the majority of college students.

National statistics show that about three-quarters of all students change majors at some point during their college career. At UC Davis, over 50 percent of enrolled undergraduates change to a major in another college. The overall proportion of students changing majors is even higher when you add in switches within each college.

If you are facing this issue, I have some suggestions.

1. Assess your goals

Start by asking yourself:

  • Are you learning about a field that interests you?
  • What factors make you want to change your major?
  • What got you excited about your current major in the first place?
  • What changed?

You will need honest answers before you proceed to the next step.

2. Focus on either your major or your career

Sometimes students want to change their major because they are concerned about their job prospects, not because they don’t love the major they have chosen (see Steps to Take at College for Job Success for more ideas). I’d like to assure you that your major doesn’t have to be a direct line to your career.

Try one of these two ways to get to your goal:

Either way is valid, it just depends on your interests and how you approach life.

3. Gather information and explore your major options

Explore before making a firm decision about a major change! Read through the list of majors to understand your choices or complete the Major Card Sort for an interactive exploration. You can get more tips from “3 Paths to a Major When You Don’t Know What to Do.”

If you are a freshman, you have time to explore. At UC Davis, students are asked to make their major selection by winter quarter of sophomore year to stay on track for graduation.

Take classes in a new discipline that interests you, or get work or volunteer experience with an eye on the professionals you come in contact with. A good way to get started is by talking with people on campus with different perspectives and training who can assist you with the decision process:

Staff advisors: They know all of the rules and have experience helping students navigate educational decisions. To learn more, read “3 Reasons to Get to Know Your Advisor.”

Peer advisors: These students can share their experiences in classes, doing research projects and related student activities.

Faculty advisors: Our professors will help you with knowledge and perspectives from within their discipline.

Internship and Career Center: Visit our center online and at South Hall to find a variety of resources, including workshops, and to meet with career advisors.

4. Use campus resources to smooth the way

The process to change your major can be complex. Your decision may impact other aspects of your life such as time to graduation, your parent/family relationships or your well-being.

Students may be concerned about asking for help or admitting that they are unsure about what they should do. In my experience, sharing with someone that you are struggling with this decision can provide a great deal of relief. I urge you to take advantage of resources and services on campus to prepare yourself for the transition.

Our academic advisors are here to help the process go more smoothly and to help you proceed with more confidence about your decision. Also consider contacting the UC Davis Counseling Services, which helps 4,000 students a year on issues like this.

Ariel Collatz is the undergraduate programs supervisor and undergraduate advisor in the College of Letters and Science Arts Group at UC Davis. She received a bachelor’s degree in history (after changing her major twice) and a master’s degree in career counseling.  Ariel believes that growth, exploration and creativity are central functions of all human beings.

 

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