Sep 26, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Regret your major?  You’re not alone. A recent Gallup Poll found that 51 percent of U.S. adults would change a higher education decision if they could.  Of those, 12 percent would change the type of degree they earned, 28 percent would change where they went, and 36 percent would change their field of study.

Gallup conducted 90,000 interviews with the Education Consumer Pulse survey between June 2016 and March 2017.

The startling find? Across all education levels, adults in the U.S. are likely to say they wished they could change their major or field of study. Those who earned a bachelor’s degree are most likely to have regrets about their major—40 percent said that they would study a different major given the opportunity.

Guess what? You’re allowed to change your mind.

If you fall into this category of regret, fret not.  Let’s take a look at some proactive things you can do if you regret your major if you’re a student, and if you’re already working.

1. If you’re still a student…

Make a change

When you’re 18 years old and decide to go to school to study something, you may not necessarily be thinking of the future ten years—or even five years—from now.

It’s ok to change your major.

You need to do your homework though.

Figure out exactly why you don’t like your current major—and then figure out what you want to study

Understand the impact that this change will have on your finances—you may need to take some pre-requisites that you hadn’t taken in your first couple of years of school.  Do you have the time and financial resources to do this?

Do you understand the requirements for your new major?  Do you need some help? Talk to your current advisor about how you’re feeling—and then figure out the best way to move forward.

A word of caution: make sure you’re not running away.  Make sure you’re changing your major for the right reasons—and that you understand the steps you need to take.

Get an internship in your desired field

If you regret your major but don’t want to change it, it’s important that you set your sights on the type of work that you want to do. 

Not passionate about your major?  Contact your career services office and meet with a counselor.  Explain your predicament and what you think you’d like to do.  Don’t be afraid to approach your current advisor for your major, also, and tell them that you’re unhappy and would like some help finding some internship or externship opportunities that interest you.

Here’s why: an internship will give you valuable insight into the kind of work you might want to do—and the kind of work you probably want to avoid. If also boosts your resume and gives you some experience before you graduate.

Get a job

If you don’t have the financial luxury of an unpaid internship, get a job in the field that interests you.

Talk to someone in your career services office about what you’d like to do, and find some opportunities that might suit you.

Go for it.  The job you get now doesn’t have to be the “it” job for you.  Look at it as a stepping stone to your future.

2. If you’re working…

Take an online course or go back to school

If your field does not align with your degree, then you need to get more education.  How?

You can go back to school or—here’s a game-changer—take online courses.

If you want an entirely new degree, make sure that you can apply credits from the degree that you already have.  If you want to establish a new skill set, start with a few online courses and see how you like them.  Then, you can make an informed decision.

Pursue your passion as a hobby

While your job takes up large parts of your day, it doesn’t need to define who you are.  If you’ve always wanted to be a photo editor, but you’re working in business, don’t quit your day job just yet.

Start small, make time for what you enjoy, and see where it takes you.  You might be surprised.

It’s not the end of the world

So.  You made the wrong decision about your major.  You’re not the first person to do so, and you certainly won’t be the last.

Do what you do best: persevere. 

Your major doesn’t define you. Your job doesn’t define you.  You define you. And you know yourself best.

 

 

 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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