Ramona Moscatello, a sophomore and Fashion Studies major, spent her entire childhood wanting to be a teacher. Upon starting her college career, though, she was faced with a huge realization. “I took the basic Family and Child Studies class, and on the first day the professor asked, ‘How many of you guys want to be teachers?’ and everyone in the room raised their hand but me. I subconsciously didn’t even realize that I didn’t raise my hand, but that’s when I knew,” she says.
For some students, this realization can be a challenging and emotional process. When Moscatello was asked about the main factor that led to her deciding to change her major, she said, “My happiness. I wasn’t passionate about my previous major. It didn’t make me happy anymore. I didn’t want to do it.”
Sometimes students begin college having no idea of what type of career they would like to pursue, while others have had a particular path in mind since they were small children. Picking a major in college can be one of the biggest decisions a young adult has to make, and also one of the most difficult ones. Students at Montclair State University, just like those at universities across the country, are not excluded from this.
“They come in on day one and they are 17 or 18 years old, and then they’re here for a little while. They start taking classes, talking to people, seeing what else is out there, and they just realize that what they are majoring in is not for them,” says Adam Yellen, an Academic Advisor at Montclair State University’s Center for Advising and Student Transitions (CAST). “People change their direction and their interests, or they pick up different interests and go that way.”
Allison Zale, MSU student and Peer Advisor at CAST, seconds this by saying, “Sometimes they try something and want to do it instead… they realize ‘this is what I want to do with the rest of my life’ based off of classes or interests.”
Carissa Johnson, a senior and Family and Child Studies major, had always loved dancing and saw herself pursuing it, but she also wanted a career with more stability. It was hard for her to figure out what to do in this situation. Eventually, she found her niche in her current major, which will enable her to become a therapist and incorporate dance into her career, if she wishes to do so.
“It was very stressful because I thought, ‘Am I giving up what I love to do? Am I giving up because it’s too hard?’ I was going back and forth, back and forth. ‘Am I making the right decision?’ I wondered,” Johnson says. “I had to weigh the pros and cons and I had to figure out which one I am more passionate about and which one will make me happier.”
To other students stuck in similar dilemmas, Johnson says, “Embrace the change. You can take different paths and still end up where you want to be.”
“I’m more than content that I changed my major. I’m happy. I’m ecstatic,” says Amery Thompson, a junior who transitioned from Engineering to Marketing. His level of interest in the required classes was a huge factor in the switch. “I went from taking all of these courses that I did not know or understand to classes that just came naturally to me, that I actually had fun in, and that I wanted to go to. It actually made my college experience a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable,” he says.
Parents can also factor into why students decide to change their major. “A lot of students won’t admit this, but they feel pressure created by their families,” Yellen says. Many parents push their children to pursue a specific career, although it may not be what the student actually wants to do.
“They come in with these expectations from their family. Then they get a little bit more comfortable with their independence in college, and they’re maybe a year down the road and now feel comfortable with turning around and saying, ‘Mom, Dad, I want to do something different,’” Yellen explains. This can be a difficult conversation sometimes.
Thompson encourages other students to do what makes them happy. “For those of you who are thinking about changing your majors, there are people that you can talk to about it and they can help you make your mind up to do what is best for you,” he offers as advice.
“It’s really just about students coming in and finding themselves,” Yellen says. That is one of the biggest reasons why students decide to ultimately make the switch.
Montclair State | New Jersey