Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Pressure to choose leads to students changing majors

November 9, 2011

Not even partway through her first semester, French freshman Miranda Richardson already is planning on changing majors.

“I thought I wanted to be a French teacher, (but) once I got here, there (were) way more options,” Richardson said.

At 5 p.m. today on the first floor of Bessey Hall, the Undergraduate University Division, or UUD, is sponsoring the annual Marathon of Majors event for students that have questions about different majors and programs. There will be representatives from numerous colleges available to talk with students such as Richardson about majors, specializations and internships.

More than 50 percent of students change their major at least once during their time at college, according to Purdue University’s Center for Career Opportunities.

Gary Wood, coordinator for UUD, said he believes students change their majors so often because they are pressured into picking something they might not be sure they want to pursue.

“Sometimes it’s because the students didn’t know that a particular major was available,” he said. “Other times, it’s because the major they were in is not what they wanted. Other times they have a change of heart.”

The majority of students who change their majors do so in their first two years, he said.

“One of the things I do believe is that most students — when they’re in high school and as they’re leaving for college — are pressured in ways to have an idea about what they want to do,” Wood said.

The MSU Office of the Registrar does not keep universitywide numbers of how many students change their majors. Major changes are dealt with by the individual colleges, a representative from the office said.

Richardson said she hopes to have her major changed before the start of next semester and said she wasn’t prepared to make a decision on her major when she left high school.

“I really didn’t have a lot of information on what the majors were before I started, so I guess that was it — not being informed before I actually got here,” she said.

MSU alumnus Mike Nichols said the pressure from high school counselors led him to make a decision on his major before he was ready.

“I did not know what I wanted to do,” Nichols said. “I did feel a little bit pressured. I ended up just choosing something I enjoyed, like history.”

Nichols changed his major three times as an MSU student, the first of which occurred within weeks of moving to campus, he said.

Although MSU is a big university with a vast number of academic offerings, Wood doesn’t believe that flexibility is what attracts indecisive students to the university.

“I don’t think majors are the primary factor,” Wood said. “I think the fact that it’s big, it’s a prestigious school. … All of those things play much more into it.”

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