Whether you are switching from English to Engineering or Biology to Biochemistry, transferring programs is an important decision. Coming directly out of high school, it is hard to know if you’ll like your program. About a third of university students switch their major within three years. It should be a carefully thought out decision discussed with friends, family, and, most importantly, academic advisors. Transferring programs after first year was one of the best decisions I have made. But sometimes it doesn’t work out well. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself before making a final decision.
1. What are your current dissatisfactions with your program?
If you are genuinely disinterested in what you are learning and feel you would not like the type of jobs that this field offers, then it may be the correct decision to switch. Nonetheless, you must realize that what you learn in class, especially in the early semesters, may not give you an accurate and complete sense of typical careers. Trying a co-op or summer job related to your program is an excellent way to help assess whether this field is (or isn’t) for you. Also, you should never leave a program solely because of the program’s perceived easiness or lack of prestige. There are no hard or easy programs; university students all have different skill sets and where a program could be easy for one person and difficult for another. Focus on your own skills and interests.
2. Have you given your current program a fair shake?
It may be enticing to immediately leave a program that you don’t like so as not to fall behind your graduating class. However, if you leave the program after your first semester you may not have a fair representation of what the program entails. Many programs have large introductory courses that can be boring to some students. In upper years, classes begin to specialize, class sizes shrink and learning becomes more interesting. A helpful strategy is to read the course descriptions of upper year courses and see whether they pique your interest.
3. Will you succeed, enjoy, and be able to transfer into a new program?
The first thing you should always do is check how hard it is to transfer into a given program. Often highly competitive programs are very difficult to transfer into and some of them may only be feasible to enter directly from high school. Is this new program something you will enjoy and have the aptitude for? Don’t switch into a program you have no experience in. You should have taken at least a couple courses in the new field at high school and preferably at university to have a basic understanding of what it entails. You should only transfer into programs you have proven success in or know you are proficient at. Without proficiency you may struggle in the program which can cause lots of unwanted stress.
At university age, adding a year or more onto your degree by transferring seems like a lot of extra time to graduate. University students often want to complete their degree as soon as possible and nobody wants to graduate too late. However, in the long term an added year (or two) is a sacrifice you might be willing to take if it means making you happier. You do not want to spend the rest of your life working a job you dislike because you wanted to graduate on time. Know that I am not trying to persuade you to switch programs if you feel your program is right for you. If you are having second thoughts though, don’t make a hasty decision. Before switching programs, ask yourself the above questions, talk to an academic advisor, and make a very informed decision.