By Alayna Johnson, 2019-2020 SCS Student Advising Leader:
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 80% of students in the United States change their major at least once and the average college student will change their major three times. During my time at Illinois, I’ve considered at least six majors ranging from physics to materials science, switched majors twice, declared two minors, enrolled in a dual-degree program (which I almost immediately dropped out of) and eventually found my home in specialized chemistry. In this blog, I want to share my experience with the different types of major changes as well as some other great ways to learn about a new area of study without switching majors.
Intracollegiate transfer (also called curriculum change): This type of major change occurs within a single college, for example, from biology to chemistry (which are both in the college of LAS). Students in the college of LAS can request a curricular change at the beginning of the semester or mid-semester, although freshman must wait until the beginning of their second semester. Curriculum changes within the College of LAS can be requested using a form available here. I completed a curriculum change when switching from specialized physics to specialized chemistry and found the process to be straightforward and quick with the help of my SCS advisor. Keep in mind that some majors have specific requirements that must be met before initiating a curriculum change; check those out at the link above.
Intercollegiate transfer: This type of major change occurs between two colleges, for example, from chemistry in LAS to computer science in the College of Engineering. When I declared a dual degree in materials science, I had to go through the intercollegiate transfer process and found it to be more complicated than a curriculum change, so be sure to consult your advisor regularly. Resources for intercollegiate transfer can be found here, sorted by college and major.
Other options: If you don’t feel a major change is right for you, there are other ways to find and connect with new passions outside of your major:
- Double-major/dual degree: a double major involves completing two majors within the same college while a dual degree recognizes students who have earned two degrees from two different colleges. If you love two subjects equally and have a strong work ethic, this could be an appropriate option.
- Minors and certificates: The University of Illinois offers tons of minors and many certificates. Earning a minor or certificate is a popular way to explore your interests without needing to change majors. Check out my top three reasons to earn a minor here.
- RSOs: Discovering your passions isn’t limited to the classroom. Registered Student Organizations are an excellent way to hone skills outside of those in your major. For example, I have been a member of the Society of Women Engineers for my entire college career, despite not being an engineering student.
- Advanced degree: It’s possible to earn a graduate degree in a subject different than your undergraduate major. For example, a close friend of mine dreams of being a statistician but was unable to transfer into the statistics major. Instead, she is earning a creative writing major and minors in statistics and data science in hopes of pursuing statistics full time at the masters level.
Illinois offers excellent programs in a wide variety of areas, so you’re sure to end up in a great place no matter which major you choose. For the most accurate and up-to-date information about switching majors, always consult your academic advisor.