Switching it up

Seasons change, so do majors

Aubrey Rhoadarmer, Falcon Navigator

Illustration by Gabrialla Cockerell

At 18, most people have no idea who they are going to become. And yet, college students are asked to choose their major—and their life path—at that exact age.

According to FAFSA, at least 80 percent of college students change their major throughout their college experience. Many Seattle Pacific University students fall into this group, including sophomore Josh Anderson, who agrees that young adults should not be pressured to create a plan for the rest of their lives.

“When you are 18 years old, you can’t be expected to know what you want to do with your life. Plans change and people do too,” Anderson said.

Anderson is currently pursuing a degree in nursing, but as a freshman he had a different vision for his future.

“My initial major was physiology on a pre-med track, and I switched into nursing,” Anderson explained.

Although both majors are in the healthcare field, Anderson felt that his true calling lies within the field of nursing.

“During my freshman year, I realized that my skill set and my desires for a career were actually better suited for nursing,” Anderson said. “I wanted to be able to have more patient interaction and less schooling so I made the switch.”

Senior Alex Okabayashi started his college career as a nursing student, but, just like Anderson, changed his major when he realized his passions did not align with what he was studying.

“I chose my major initially because I recognized that I was good at science,” he explained. “[And] the nursing field was pretty flexible about scheduling out your work week.”

However, Okabayashi eventually discovered his greater enthusiasm for a different industry. He decided to study something a bit more avant garde. This year, he is graduating with a degree in apparel merchandising.

Given the current tumultuous state of the healthcare system due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Okabayashi is content he chose a different path.

“I am glad that I switched out of nursing because the pandemic seems way too stressful for me. I don’t think I could handle it, especially the way that for-profit hospitals operate,” Okabayashi said. “I would’ve gotten burnt out, but shout out to all the nursing majors out there doing their thing.”

Some students may even shift their plans more than once, twice or even three times. Junior Madi Stephens is currently on her fourth major.

“I went from computer science, to communications, to political science, to studio arts,” Stephens said.

As a freshman, Stephens felt pressure to pick a ‘profitable’ choice rather than pursue her artistic passion.

“Originally, I was doing a major that I thought would please my family and I thought it would give me a good job and make some good money,” Stephens said. “But then I realized I hated it. And I didn’t want to do something that I hated for the rest of my life.”

It may have taken her a few tries to find the right major, but Stephens is finally satisfied with her decision.

“I’m doing something that I like, and when I wake up in the morning, I actually don’t hate what I’m studying,” she said.

Just like Stephens, senior Reagan Lyle changed plans because her original major was not what she had dreamed. Lyle started off as a biology major, but switched to philosophy after her first year.

“During my freshman year, I experienced high levels of anxiety and distress in my biology classes,” Lyle explained. “Even though I was successful in my classes, I wasn’t happy. Although it felt like I was losing an important part of myself by changing majors, I knew it would be best for my mental health.”

While Lyle never guessed she would study philosophy, she is confident with her decision. She also agrees with Anderson that students should not have to stick with the first course they choose.

“College is a time where students can grow and explore potential career paths. It’s absolutely not a bad thing to change majors,” Lyle said.

Making a significant shift can be stressful, especially when there are outside pressures from parents or family. But Stephens thinks life is too short to spend it being miserable.

“Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to know what you want or need to do with your future career,” Stephens said. “I’ve learned we really can’t know the future or plan out the rest of our lives, so it’s ok to change, and often through change and growth we get to learn more about who we are and who we’re meant to be.”