Major decisions, minor worries

A contributor reflects on his choice to switch academic programs midway through university

Federico Palacios, ArtSci ‘15
Federico Palacios, ArtSci ‘15
Switching academic programs midway through undergrad can be a viable option, according to our contributor.
Switching academic programs midway through undergrad can be a viable option, according to our contributor.

Decision-making is tough. That’s a fact of life.

University is no exception. Here, making hard choices seems to be a lifestyle.

With what seems to be the world on your shoulders during plan selection — picking a major and minor or some combination of academic programs — this decision in particular stands out. To make the right decisions during your university career, you must realize that even if you make the wrong decision, there’s always the option to make a change. That change will often be a good thing.

As you continue through your undergraduate education, you might find yourself changing. The way you view the world and how you see your place in it may also evolve. This is personal growth. Don’t fear growth, but rather make decisions that will foster it.

New students should attempt to align their university experience with the beliefs of this emerging ‘you’. As you grow, you might find your goals begin to shift. If this happens, try not to stay hung up on what you had previously thought was ideal.

Take it from someone who, just last month, switched plans for the second time. I was once fully committed to my goal of attending medical school, but now I’d be satisfied with spending my years after graduation working on organic farms. I know — a full 180-degree turn.

As I began to see the world in a new light, I knew my place wasn’t in a hospital. My grades in life sciences courses reflected that, so I knew it was time for a change.

I figured I was more likely to succeed if my academics were in the same field as my endless Wikipedia search trails. After looking through my search history I found food security to be a common theme. Thus, I figured environmental science would be a better fit.

Only after switching programs have I felt truly engaged in school. From there, everything else seemed to fall into place.

Strive for this satisfaction. Never settle, because ultimately, it’s you that’ll be spending the time and money.

For some, this might take more time than others. If you must take an extra semester or more to complete your degree your way, then so be it. In the grand scheme of things, taking an extra year is truly nothing.

When attempting to find your path, try to be mindful of your individuality. You’ll find yourself being compared to others regularly. Just remember that your interests may not matter to the 500 other people in a lecture hall with you. Don’t simply make a choice based on popular opinion.

On this journey, you may want to stray from extremely precise five- or 10-year schemes. These may end up generating more stress, if the strict goals aren’t met on time.

Instead, try to live your academic life one semester at a time. Once you make a decision, stick to it and push yourself to finish the semester strong. If you find that things don’t work out, it might be time for some more change.

Finally, some of you may decide to transfer schools or drop out entirely. This won’t make you a quitter. If anything, it’ll make you one of the brave few.

These next four years (maybe five ... or six) are going to fly by. Take your academic career one credit at a time and never fear change. Chase every interest and don’t let your plan requirements stunt your personal growth.

If you strive for this, you might leave the Queen’s bubble ready to face the real world. But that’s another story.

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