Changing majors can help students discover graduate program, career

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With more than 250 undergraduate programs offered at K-State, students will inevitably face the dilemma of choosing a major. Often, incoming freshmen feel pressure to choose a major right away, whether from their parents, peers or society in general, and this can be counterproductive to their graduation track.

For Leah Baus, sophomore in open option, changing her major from architecture was a decision that she said changed her life for the better.

“The high school atmosphere made me feel like I didn’t have time to figure out all my options,” Baus said.

According to Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, only about 20 percent of students end up graduating with the major they started with. He also said the average student makes two to four degree changes during their time at K-State.

“It’s ludicrous to ask an 18-year-old to lock in a career choice for life,” Bosco said. “There are 60-year-olds that don’t know what they want to do when they grow up.”

Angelia Perry, adviser in the College of Arts and Science, spends countless hours talking to students who have not declared a major yet or are in the process of changing their major. A student can remain in open option for up to 60 credit hours, which creates a safe place for students, as they often don’t know that they are even interested in a certain area until they take their first course.

“Students often begin course work in an area and realize they aren’t interested or prepared to take on the material,” Perry said.

As an academic community, K-State recognizes that students need to explore a variety of different career opportunities and earn a marketing advantage by documenting a couple of interests through minors and secondary majors.

There is a wealth of resources available to aid students in their selection, including Career and Employment Services and the Academic and Career Information Center. Students are welcome to meet with a career specialist and take the free self-directed search at Holton Hall, or with their academic adviser trained to help them find the right path at any time.

“I realized my values weren’t lining up with my career choice, and my life was going in a different direction than I envisioned,” Baus said. “I wish I wouldn’t have ignored the signs as long as I did.”

According to the academic and career information center homepage, students who are ready to change their major need to go to their current designated office to start the paperwork. Advisers can help direct students to the right departments, which can provide them with remaining paperwork and inform them of any additional requirements unique to that college.

“My adviser was very helpful and supportive,” Baus said. “I had a new adviser in open option within two days.”

Perry said sometimes students realize they didn’t put enough thought into choosing their major in the beginning or they do not have the interest or aptitude for the classes they are taking.

After years of experience, Perry said she can usually tell that a student is ready to declare a major after feeling 80 to 90 percent sure of their choice for a few months, or they have taken an introductory class and shown an interest in pursuing that subject matter further.

“You’re not a failure if you change your major. That extra time it may take you is well worth it if you end up loving your job,” Baus said.

Both Bosco and Perry acknowledge that students often hesitate to change their major even if it’s not the right fit because they are concerned how it will affect their graduation plan both academically and financially.

“Changing your major can actually save you time rather than delaying a change for another semester from something that is making you miserable,” Perry said.

Many majors, especially in the arts and sciences department, require electives that can be transferred to other majors, helping students avoid a delay in graduation.

Certain majors like elementary education, however, have specific courses that won’t apply to any other degree, which is why Bosco said it is crucial for students in majors like this to gather as much information as they can before making a commitment.

“It’s kind of a mixed bag if you graduate on time or not because there are all different kinds of situations,” Bosco said. “But if a student makes a change in a calculating manner and isn’t just making changes serendipitously they can graduate on time.”

Bosco recommends students to stay open-minded to all possibilities and ask themselves several important personal questions that challenge them to take a hard look at their values and what they stand for.

“Ask yourself, ‘Where’s is my passion?’ and ‘What puts a smile on my face?'” Bosco said.

Though her grades were high in architecture, Baus said taking the career assessment helped her realize her people skills could translate into a career in public relations, which she has already begun to dive into. For her, it was helpful to separate what she wanted for herself from what others wanted for her.

“You have to think, ‘Is this a major that will grow with you?'” Baus said. “My advice for other students is to decide whether this [current major] is temporary or something you want to do for the rest of your life.”

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