How to Switch Majors Without Taking on More College Debt

 June 29, 2020
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Many students in the midst of their college careers decide to switch majors for various reasons. Having this kind of flexibility can be an advantage. However, a change from one major to another can contribute to increased student loan debt.

Looking into other forms of educational financing or accelerating your pace to graduate earlier may help keep the debt load down. Here are some things to consider, including the pros and cons of switching majors, and more information on how to avoid an increased debt load if you choose this path:

Pros of switching majors

1. You may get closer to your professional goal

When you first enter college, especially if you’re coming straight from high school, you may not have clear career goals. Or you may think you do, but then you discover that, in fact, you want to do something entirely different than what when you graduated high school. Perhaps you entered college thinking you wanted to be an electrical engineer. Then you realize you’d rather work in early education and help shape young minds. There’s nothing wrong with that. Part of being in college is figuring out who you are and what you want.

2. You will broaden your knowledge

Education is never a waste of time. Even if you do decide to change majors, that doesn’t mean the classes you took before are now worthless, or that you should berate yourself for taking them. No matter what, you have likely learned new things from those classes, and you will learn even more as you explore your new degree path. You can consider this priceless.

3. You may have a better college experience

If you decide to change your major in the middle of your undergraduate experience, you may feel you’ve already come this far, so you might as well finish the degree you started. You might tell yourself it’s too late, and that you should just live with your original decision at this point.

However, going forward with a degree you no longer feel passionate about may make the remainder of your college years far more unhappy than they would have been otherwise. And paying for a degree you no longer want, especially one that may not further your professional goals, isn’t ideal — even if it means you spend less money overall than if you switched majors. It’s not just about the amount of money you spend, but the ultimate value of what you are spending that money on.

Cons of switching majors

1. Changing majors may delay your graduation date

Spending more than four years as an undergraduate isn’t unusual. In fact, a 2019 report by the National Center for Education Statistics said only 41% of undergraduates earned their degree in four years, while 56% took five years to get their bachelor’s.

Additional time in college doesn’t have to be a negative. As noted above, gaining more knowledge is a wonderful thing. However, the more time you spend in school, the longer you may delay your career dreams and earning capabilities.

At the very least, if you change your major and know that it will lead to additional time as an undergraduate, you should be truly sure that you want it. This should not be a decision made rashly or multiple times. It should be one made with the full understanding of all the implications.

2. Switching majors can create more college debt

If you’ve gone the federal route and taken out direct subsidized loans to pay for tuition, your maximum loan disbursal eligibility is 150% of the time you’re enrolled in school. For a four-year bachelor’s degree, that means you’re eligible to receive subsidized federal loans for up to six years. After that, you can only receive unsubsidized federal student loans, which can cost you more in the end. You might also consider private loans.

And, of course, the more years you go to school, the more debt you might incur. If you transition from one major to another that requires a lot of additional coursework, that may mean additional tuition and more college debt on top of what you already owe your lenders. Changing your major also generally means the subsidized loans you received in your previous program will count against your maximum eligibility period as you pursue the new program.

You can encounter a similar financial dilemma when trying to transfer college credits to a new school. If your new college or university doesn’t accept coursework from your alma mater, you may need to retake them (or the school’s equivalent curriculum), imposing more tuition costs to your balance owed.

Even if you do find taking on more debt makes sense, it’s important that you don’t over-borrow just because the money is available to you.

3. Changing your major may not be necessary, or even, advisable for your chosen career

Not only will it likely take you longer to graduate if you flip on your major, but it may not even be necessary for your ultimate career goals.

Your major may be more transferable to other careers than you think. For example, you don’t have to be a journalism major to have a career in journalism. Media outlets may hire people from all kinds of educational backgrounds in order to have a more diverse workforce whose skills can translate. So if you are going for a biology degree and decide you want to be a reporter instead of a scientist, think about whether you might want to be a science reporter. If so, that biology degree may be just as, or even more, useful than a degree in journalism, and switching majors will not be necessary.

Similarly, if you’re an education major but really want to switch to psychology, see if you can take on some psych courses (or even go for a minor) to get some academic experience in another discipline without fully abandoning one major for another.

How to switch your major without taking on too much additional debt

1. Exhaust other financial resources first

Qualifying for scholarships or grants reduces the amount of college debt you take on. And there are all kinds of scholarships out there, from needs-based to skills-based to those centered on a specific field of study.

First, of course, you can consider federal grants, mostly needs-based, such as the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant and the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant. You can receive one Pell Grant for each academic year, for up to six years. Just be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for each year you are seeking assistance, for as long as you are eligible.

Learn more about ways to get money for college.

2. Seek out extra income

It could be a part-time job or an on-campus work study program subsidized by your school, but earning some side-hustle money can be a smart way to ease any financial burdens of attending college.

If your school schedule makes employment hard to fit in, get creative in the ways you can spend less to free up some money. For example, set a budget, track your expenses and cut down on discretionary spending on non-essential items. Stick with it and you may be able to use the money you save toward paying down your student loans.

3. Accelerate your academic pace

If changing your major is an absolute must and the added loan costs are a necessary evil, there’s no better time to hit the books and aim for an early graduation. See how many extra classes you can take per semester without spreading yourself too academically thin. Can you manage to finish six years of classes in five?

Also consider whether the major you want to switch to will, in fact, credit some of your earlier major studies toward your final degree.

Finishing your studies early can mean lower overall costs and fewer student loans borrowed, saving you money now and in the long run — no matter how many times you’ve changed majors or transferred schools. And the faster you graduate, the faster you can start on your path to making an income, rather than spending money on schooling.

Steps to take to switch your major

Every school will have a slightly different process when it comes to changing your major. This may also depend on factors such as what you are changing your major to and your unique situation. For example, you may have to take additional classes just to qualify for entry into the new program, or you may have to have a certain grade point average.

In general, however, you should consider these steps to changing a major:

  1. Ensure you understand what the new major entails. Read the description fully in the course catalog.
  2. Have a discussion with your college advisor regarding your new plans, so you can hash out the pros and cons and get some guidance in making your decision. Your advisor should also be able to tell you what you need to do to apply for your new major.
  3. Talk to department advisors in your new potential major to discuss the specifics and further explore whether this choice may be right for you.
  4. Talk to your career services counselor about the career paths associated with your potential new major.
  5. Apply to switch majors based on your college’s specific guidelines.

Consider everything before switching your major

When considering switching your major, take the time to consider the pros and cons, and to think about whether it really is the right choice for you.

If you are starting to feel antsy in your current major, check out six reasons to consider making a change.

Rebecca Stropoli contributed to this report

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Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

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Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of May 4, 2022.


2 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Student Loan Refinance Interest Rate Disclosure Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 2.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Let us know if you have any questions and feel free to reach out directly to our team.


3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

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Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.


4 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
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  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
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Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

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This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


5 Important Disclosures for Navient.

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You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.99% – 8.24% APR (2.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (1.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.


6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 5/17/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.05% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


7 Important Disclosures for PenFed.

PenFed Disclosures

Fixed Rate Loan Terms: 5 years/60 monthly payments, 8 years/96 monthly payments, 12 years/144 monthly payments or 15 years/180 monthly payments. Annual Percentage Rate is the cost of credit calculating the interest rate, loan amount, repayment term and the timing of payments. Fixed rates range from 3.29% to 5.43% APR. Rates are subject to change without notice. Fixed APR: Fixed rates will not change during the term. This rate is expressed as an APR. Since there are no fees associated with this loan offer, the APR is the same percentage as the actual interest rate of the loan. These rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.


8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

CitizensBank Disclosures

Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure:  Variable interest rates range from 1.99%-8.38% (1.99%-8.38% APR). Fixed  interest rates range from 2.99%-8.63% (2.99%-8.63% APR).

IS Variable Rate Disclosure:  Variable Rates advertised are based on the one-month London Interbank  Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business  day, of the preceding calendar month. As of December 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.09%.  Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will  vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. Your final variable rate may  be based upon the 30-day average SOFR index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.  The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.

ERL Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of May 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 0.29%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.

Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.

Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.

Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits:  Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
 
Citizens Student Loan Eligibility: : Applicants must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution.
 
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DC, DE, FL, MA, MD, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, VA, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
 
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure:Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount. Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on  their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan  servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to  successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month  period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.