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Column: Changing your major, or not, during a pandemic and recession

Some tips on how to make your decision

October 22, 2020
Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

Recently, I’ve had a lot less motivation to write. As a reporter for The State News and a journalism major, this was not a position I wanted to be in. However, quarantine was causing me to feel overwhelmed and question everything I knew, and I know I'm not the only one. 

I’ve started to question future job opportunities. My work is also piling up, and I’m wondering if I’m fit for a career in journalism after all?

The Great Recession was bad for higher education, what’s not to say the current recession we are facing now won't be the same? 

The Great Recession which lasted from 2007 to 2009 led to an increase in home mortgage foreclosures and caused millions of people to lose their jobs, homes and life savings. 

According to a statement from private non-profit research organization National Bureau of Economic Research, the U.S. is officially experiencing an economic recession right now.

An unpublished study by three Yale economists shows that the pay gap widens between people in scientific and business professions and those in arts and social sciences during difficult economic times.

Another study published by the Institute for the Study of Labor has found that students who go to college during a recession pick majors that will get them high-paying jobs right after graduation. 

Although you shouldn’t change your major based solely on pay and the current economical climate, changing your major or even thinking about changing it, isn’t uncommon. 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics about one-third of students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs changed majors. About one in 10 students changed their major more than once. 

Now that’s a significant group of students, I’m sure even some of your friends have changed their majors. When considering a major change, there a few things that should go through your head. Whether you make the switch or not, think about these things and how they relate to your situation:

1. Make sure you love your major.

According to a 2015 Gallup-Purdue study, only 50% of alumni think their university education was worth the cost.

I don’t want to finish college thinking those long hours studying and all that money was not worth it and I'm sure you don't either. You should pursue something you love and if your current major isn’t that, then a change may be for the better. 

2. Make sure you have enough time to complete your degree. 

With switching majors comes new requirements and certain credits to fulfill.

Make sure you have enough space in your schedule to make the change and graduate on time. Degree Navigator has always been a big help in seeing what courses you still need to complete. Otherwise, you may need to do a fifth year which could cost anywhere from $14,524 for an in-state student and $39,830 for non-Michigan students. 

3. Think about adding a minor. 

Adding on a minor is a less drastic change and one that doesn’t have quite as many requirements.

If you are passionate about something but unsure of making it your whole degree, then this is the way to go. 

According to two national studies conducted by Northeastern University, nearly two-thirds of Americans along with almost three-quarters of business leaders think it's more important for job candidates to be well-rounded with a range of abilities than to have industry-specific skills. Taking this into consideration, adding a minor could help you pursue something you love and become more well-rounded.

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4. Are you bored with what you're learning?

Classes in your particular major may be too easy for you to the point where you’re cruising through and not being academically stimulated. If that’s the case then you may want to explore a major where you’re learning new things and enjoying it. According to a 2009 study by Public Agenda, 45% of recent college dropouts listed boredom as a “major” or “minor” reason as to why they left. 

If you're feeling this way, maybe a change is necessary.

5. Are your grades are suffering?

On the other hand, if classes are way too difficult for you, you are still uninterested or so uninvolved that you may not want to do the work, then you may want to look into a major that’s a little more your speed. MSU also has a policy where an undergraduate student can’t repeat more than 20 credits in courses in which they received grades below 2.0, so that’s something to keep in mind if you’re struggling.

After taking all this into consideration you still feel as though changing your major is the best option for you, then I say do it! We’re all making it through a pandemic one step at a time. Online classes feel like a lot. So, don’t be afraid to take a breather and care about your mental health. Decisions come and go but if you're considering it, really think about these things; You don’t want to regret not taking that leap of faith.

Change it or not, there's always another path on the other side, so fall forward. That's all any of us can do right now.


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