Changing Majors: My Story


If your college application experience was anything like mine, your eyes glazed over the endless possibilities of majors there were to choose from. If you were also like me, you didn’t really look into them much and picked one that sounded pretty interesting and fun. In my case, I picked psychology.

As a high school senior, I was thinking about working for a non-profit. I thought psychology would give me a good background to better understand the various forms of relationships I would come across as a social worker. Little did I know that it would land me in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and with a whole psychology advising department helping me!

What I also didn’t expect was that after a semester at the University of Illinois I was feeling psychology wasn’t the best fit for me. I enjoyed my college biology classes more than my psychology ones, and only realized this through taking a variety of courses in my first year at Illinois. I actually loved biology in high school, but for some reason it never crossed my mind to check that box instead of psychology! I thought majoring in biology would be a better choice for me.

Furthermore, through my service experiences I was beginning to rethink my career goals. At the non-profits I volunteered at clients needed healthcare before they could utilize any other social services. As a physician, I could provide these people the basic physical health they needed before they could begin to better other areas of their lives. Majoring in biology would give me the base of scientific knowledge and the type of critical thinking that would help me in medical school.

Still, thinking about changing my major was a little nerve wracking, as it was a big decision! I did what any confused student should do – call people who know what they are doing! I gave both the biology and psychology department a ring, and they told me I would make a visit to each of their offices. At the time, I felt like I was one of the few people I know who change their major. Yet this summer through working with administrators over summer orientation, I learned that nearly half of all students graduate with a different major than they came in as!

After a biology advisor confirmed that I could handle the course load through my academic record and a quick send off from the psych department – it was done! I was officially majoring in biology!

In short, take a wide variety of courses your freshman and even sophomore year. You never know – you might not just change your major but change your career out of it!


Please note that comments close after 90 days.


March 10, 2010, 4:49 pm

I didn’t realize that I was so unique in NOT changing my major over my 4 years of college. But, as I speak think about the academic tracks of my few friends, I do see how common it is.



March 27, 2010, 1:42 pm

Is it easy to transfer to other schools? (ex:NRES->Arts and Science)



March 31, 2010, 11:37 pm

I got into DGS as a freshman and I want to eventually transfer into the College of Engineering? Is that difficult? What will I need to do to make sure that it’s possible?



April 1, 2010, 1:55 pm

Hey Angela and Val,

You would both need to talk to your advisors for the specific requirements. My advice would be to get some gen eds done and take some courses in the major you would like to be in to see how you like it. Also, your advisors will look at how well you are doing academically, so work hard!