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Can Switching Majors Delay Graduation?

While graduating in four years is the most efficient and economical path through college, some students get rerouted along the way. In fact, national statistics indicate up to 50 percent of college students change majors at least once.

Why Students Switch

Sometimes a student picks a major based on the advice of a guidance counselor, friend, family member or teacher, or from results derived from a testing program designed to guide students with career selection.

Once at college, a student may discover successes and limitations. For example, a student who did well in high school math might find upper-level calculus to be a struggle. Likewise, an individual who never took a sociology course before may find it to be intriguing and a natural career choice.

For these reasons and more, many students start college with an undeclared major or find themselves changing majors along the way.

Is it Time Wasted?

Fortunately, many students realize early on if they picked the wrong major and change after the first year of college. But even if your student is changing majors during the second year, it is possible to finish in four years. According to the college catalog, a student is asked to declare a major and minor by the end of the second year.

However, it is recommended that a student who is considering a major with many prerequisites talk with an academic advisor about getting started in those courses as soon as possible.

From a practical standpoint, a student who switches majors can apply courses originally taken for one major to core requirements or elective credits needed for graduation. In other cases, a student may elect to minor in the area that was the original major.

Will it Delay Graduation?

Depending on when a student switches majors, there are times when graduation may be delayed. While this may seem disappointing to students and their families, the important consideration is the final outcome.

Perhaps more difficult than seeing a student delay graduation is learning at commencement that a student was too embarrassed to switch majors.

Even in those circumstances, a student can still have personal and professional success. Sometimes the student elects to earn a graduate degree in another field and other times the person begins employment in an alternative career field.

As they transition through college, students benefit from knowing that a college major is only one prerequisite to a career path. Out-of-classroom opportunities like internships, co-curricular involvement, field experience and other experiential learning activities also play a major role. The key is understanding that college prepares students for a lifetime of learning and success.