I came to UO very sure of my future. I had a roadmap in front of me that I crafted in eighth grade. I was going to be a neuropsychologist, and no one could’ve told me otherwise. And then two terms of psychology classes hit me — hard. I switched my major to journalism and finally felt what it’s like to be passionate about what I was studying. As scary as that change can be, I’m here to tell you that switching majors isn’t as daunting as it might seem.
In elementary school, most of us are asked what we want to be when we grow up. In middle school, some of us start looking at colleges. And, once we get to high school, the idea of having our lives mapped out seems a lot better than walking into the future with no guidance. I’ll be the first to admit that taking the leap from safety to the unknown made me a complete nervous wreck. But, through it all, I’ve found resources, advisors and mentors that have helped emphasize that the choice I made was the right one.
I knew, before switching, that neuropsychology had opportunities for some well-paid positions. Journalism, unfortunately, is the opposite. It’s a field I had to know I was absolutely passionate about before I dedicated my future to it. I spent weeks analyzing the pros and cons. But, ultimately, I knew I would be happier. As a psychology major, I felt neither passion nor self-fulfillment, nor excitement about my future. I do now. It feels amazing to know that the pride I feel will follow me throughout my career.
The two biggest stressors I found when making the switch were financial pressures and self-doubt. I still have self-doubt. I still feel like an imposter. But I haven’t doubted my passion for writing. It’s important to identify where any doubt comes from and what it’s pinpointing — especially when making a decision that could shape the rest of your future. The fact that I have never doubted that I love to write is what keeps me dedicated in this field.
Another factor I had to think about was how long my financial aid package would help me. Some students only have four years of financial aid. Depending on when you switch majors, you may have to stay a couple extra terms to meet graduation criteria. I met with my advisor who showed me scholarships and aid programs that help students who study longer than four years. The Federal Pell Grant awards aid that can last up to six years. Some scholarships are specified for fifth-year students. I use ScholarshipOwl and Fastweb to search for scholarships that are tailored for my major and, most often, require no essay.
I’m able to graduate when I had originally planned, but I’ve had to take a couple summer classes. Scholarships that have helped me out during summer term have been a life saver! Financial burdens are a real and valid reason to hesitate switching. But try to think about the situation in the long term. There are resources that can help you pursue your passion without pursuing a shit-ton of debt. Don’t let finances be the reason you get stuck with a career you’re not passionate about.
However, just because switching majors worked for me doesn’t make it the right choice for everyone. I want to urge you to personally reflect before making any decisions. I don’t advise to make this decision impulsively. Azusa Pacific University has a great article about switching majors and some factors to consider before making the switch. Some include asking yourself if you’re too overwhelmed with current classes or if your future feels unsure.
And while there are many resources available for students who want to switch, it’s better to pinpoint temporary obstacles before you start on a new journey. Switching majors doesn’t mean you’ll never have another doubt or breakdown again. But addressing any lingering roadblocks will allow you to make life-altering decisions with a clear mind.
At the end of my first term, I realized the passion I thought I had for neuropsychology was actually passion for making the people around me proud. And I acted on that passion without taking my feelings into account. I never want to disappoint the people around me, and I definitely felt this switch would lead to that reaction.
But I had to realize the only person who lives my life is me. The only person who would feel stuck in a meaningless career is me. You are the only person who will feel the full effects of the decisions you make. Everyone deserves to put their passions before the fear of disappointing people — even you.
When I switched that spring term, I felt my confidence start to build. I felt passion for what I was learning and not for who I was impressing. I switched to a journalism major and it is, without a doubt, the best decision of my educational career — and switching your major just might be the major change you need in your life too.