Is Changing Your Degree or Major a Good Idea?

Sometimes, what looks like the worst-case scenario in college happens: you're halfway done, and realize you're in the wrong program. Do you switch, or keep going and finish?


High school students typically graduate when they're 16 or 17, an age when they're still very much figuring out who they are and what they want to do. And up until about a decade ago, Canadians had a bit of an edge, staying in high school for a fifth year called "OAC", or Grade 13. But the teenage years are generally not ones where people know themselves inside and out, what their skills and passions are, and how it'll translate to the next 50 years. NBC has quipped that if you "ask young children what they want to be when they grow up […] the answer will change three times before dinner."

With college enrollment at an all-time high, and a selection of different courses and majors to match, it hardly comes as any surprise that students are switching programs more than once during their university years. And with more students than ever before taking part in internships, study-abroad opportunities and extracurriculars, a four-year degree is finished in four years only about 60% of the time.

However, some schools aren't so keen on the idea of their students taking five or six—or even more—years to finish their degree. Colleges like the University of Wisconsin, according to director of communications Doug Bradley, are levying an "extra credit" surcharge. At UoW, 135 credits are needed to graduate, and the surcharge applies once students top 30 extra credits. Is it fair That's debatable, but it's a trend that's catching on with other schools.

Some schools, on the other hand, are a little more forgiving of students changing their majors, like the University of Texas-Arlington. On the website of their newspaper, there's an article titled "10 reasons why students change their majors", sympathetic to what teens go through in college. Ultimately, there's a good chance you'll be one of the many who's changed their major at least once. And though it may seem counter-intuitive at the time, it can be a good decision for you in the long run.

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