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5 Factors to Consider When You Want to Change Your Degree

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By Loren Germann-McClain
Senior Academic Advisor II, School of STEM

Are you considering changing your academic program? If so, you’re not alone. According to a study completed by the Education Advisory Board, “Most students – as many as 80 percent in some surveys – will switch majors at one point during their time in college.”

With so many programs to choose from at the University, it can be daunting to select a program that you are going to stick with to completion. We understand that your motivation and interests may change over time and that those changes can cause you to alter your educational pathway.

While it is okay to be indecisive about the path you would like to pursue, waiting too long to change your field of study can be costly – in both time and money. But there are five essential factors to consider before you change your academic program.

#1: Select the New Degree Program Carefully

It’s important to select a degree program that aligns with your career goals. Our Career Exploration Specialists and Career Coaches have resources to help you understand which academic program aligns with your needs and goals and can better serve you in choosing the right academic program. These resources include:

To request an appointment with a Career Exploration Specialist or a Career Coach, please use the Success Center’s Coaching Form. You will need to be logged into your ecampus in order to access this resource.

If you would like a visual aid for 10 factors to consider when looking at an academic program, review the infographic in the ecampus Success Center.

#2: Ensure Your New Program Is Aligned to Your Interests and Key Skills

Are you a strong writer or are you more inclined to excel at mathematics? Do you have an interest in history? Or maybe political science or psychology is something you enjoy.

Aligning your new academic program with your interests and key skills will help you to experience a greater sense of satisfaction, happiness, and fulfillment. Identifying your interests, skills and values early in your education is important. Enrolling in a program that fulfills you can be a key motivator in completing your degree.

When you enjoy the work you do for your new academic program, you will be more motivated to learn about it. This motivation can lead you to develop new skills, which is another reason to complete your program.

You often have more skills than you realize, so taking a self-assessment can be beneficial. As Anna Sommer, a Career Exploration Specialist at the University, explains in her article “The Role of Personal Self-Assessments in Career Planning”: “Most formal self-assessments are designed to ask a variety of questions that sort your answers into different groups. For example, a self-assessment on interests focuses on pulling out your likes and dislikes and grouping them into different career-based categories.”

You can take various self-assessments through CareerOneStop.

#3: Do Not Drop Any Active Courses If You’re Past Week 1

If you are already in a class and it is past the drop period of week 1, do not withdraw from or stop attending your course simply because it will not apply to your new program requirements. It is important to continue to do your coursework and earn good grades in order to keep your grade point average (GPA) strong.

Courses that are not a part of your general education, major or concentration may be utilized as a general elective course. For example, imagine that you are actively enrolled in PSYC101 – Introduction to Psychology, and it is not a required course for your new academic program.

We may be able to move that course’s location on your academic plan to help you maximize the credit you will earn once the class is completed. Just because a course does not fall into your major or concentration requirements does not mean that all of your hard work will be wasted. 

#4: Consider Converting the Credits You’ve Already Earned

If you’ve already completed courses that applied to your old major, consider adding a certificate or minor (if applicable) to make sure that those previous classes and hard work are not wasted. Completing certificates and minors are great ways to build knowledge and boost your resume.

Your academic advisor can also estimate how many credits you can apply to your new program, taking into consideration the transfer credit you have received and courses you have already completed under a previous program. Knowing how your credits may be applied can aid in determining which courses would be great starting points in your new program.

Please keep in mind that when you earn a degree with a concentration, certificate or minor, they will not be shown on your diploma. They will, however, be listed on your university transcripts.

#5: Be Sure to Change Your Academic Program Early

As a freshman or sophomore student (meaning that you’ve completed 60 semester hours or less), it is generally easier to change your academic program than when you are at junior or senior status. Changing at these lower levels allows previously taken courses to be utilized for the general education or lower-level electives requirements in your program.

In undergraduate programs (associate and bachelor’s), the general education courses are listed at the top of your academic plan. Lower-level elective classes are listed at the bottom of your academic plan and are often fulfilled by transfer credit.

If you utilize Federal Student Aid (FSA) to pay for your courses, you are required to comply with federal government rules, which only allow you to change or add a program when funds dispersed to you will not be impacted. But your academic advisor will be happy to assist with any questions regarding this policy and can provide you with more information on the best dates to make a degree change without it impacting your funding.

Remember That Academic Advising Is Here to Help You

Once your degree change is processed, your advisor can help you create a new course progression and tentative schedule for your new program. That will ensure you are on the right track to meet your educational and personal goals.

The goal of Academic Advising is to partner with you to provide clear guidance, answers and resources to help you achieve academic success. If you are unsure of your next steps, please reach out to Academic Advising. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about the new program or the degree change process.

About the Author

Loren Germann-McClain is currently in her second year as a Senior Academic Advisor II with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She holds an M.A. in English – Rhetoric and Composition from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, as well as an M.A. in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University.

Loren previously worked in human resources and public relations at a public library in Indiana, where she helped develop a project to bring mental health first aid and awareness to public and academic libraries across the state. She has earned grants to help develop coding programs for school-age children and develop free, extracurricular activities to help align with the Indiana State standards for computer science, technology, and coding. Her work has helped empower Hoosier students to be equipped with the critical and computational problem-solving skills they will need in order to succeed in a digitally powered and ever-evolving world.

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