Sarah Abdelkahlek: Changing your major doesn’t have to be scary

For most students, the beginning of the semester is smooth sailing. But for some, the anxiety has already kicked in.

If you’re a student eager to switch majors, I’m talking about you. I know that even this early in the semester, you’re already feeling stressed about making a drastic change. I know this because I also switched my major – and along with it, what feels like my entire future. You shouldn’t worry too much, though, because it’s easier than you think and it’s possible to make the process of switching majors run smoothly.

From the exterior, my story does not seem too extraordinary – a sophomore who switched from a biology major to a psychology major. But that isn’t the whole story: I also decided that not only did I want my master’s degree, but I wanted a doctorate as well.

A few great psychology professors here at GW have really opened my eyes to psychology-related research and the field of clinical psychology. I have found that there are endless opportunities that come with a psychology degree, and I am embarrassingly excited to discover them all. Now that I have switched my major and I know I want to be a clinical psychologist, I finally feel like I’ll be able to contribute to an area I’m passionate about, and that’s a very satisfying feeling.

It’s important to understand that it’s perfectly natural to change your mind – no matter whether you’re a freshman or a senior. Just because you enter college with a certain major or career plan does not mean you will leave with the same mindset. The beauty of college is being able to discover your true niche.

While it may seem like you have to satisfy friends and family by following a certain major or career path, pursuing a passion is equally significant. Down the road, satisfaction and passion are what make “work” feel less like work. A decision like this should not be made hastily, though.

The first and most important task is to research, research, research. Explore the potential careers that align with your desired major and consider whether those careers require additional schooling. Through my own research, I learned that I’ll need to pursue a master’s and a doctorate degree in order to be qualified to become a clinical psychologist. That’s something I learned through my own research, and I would have been lost if I hadn’t.

Unfortunately, not all majors provide the best job opportunities and may not allow you to grow as a professional. That’s why it’s best to explore all of your options on your new career path and figure out whether they’re worth it.

You also should make a visit to your academic adviser’s office. Going to my adviser early on greatly relieved my stress and helped motivate me for my new path. Your adviser can also remind you that you’re not the first student to change a major. They can also guide you through the process of switching programs, helping you fill out paperwork or apply to switch schools.

Timing is also important to consider. While theoretically a student of any year can switch majors, in most cases, the earlier the better. This will save you the trouble of any discrepancies with your credit hours, and will keep you from having to pay extra to stay another semester. As soon as you start to feel hesitant about your major, introspectively look more into it. But don’t let one bad class deter you from your original path.

I was worried I would be incredibly behind as a sophomore who had completed over half of her credits, but that hasn’t at all been the case. It was very easy to transition and I had support from a wide range of individuals.

If you discover a passion, pursue it. Switch your major. Just be sure it’s what you feel is right. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”

Sarah Abdelkahlek, a sophomore majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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