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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
- Cons of switching majors
- How to switch your major without taking on too much additional debt
- Steps to take to switch your major
- Consider everything before switching your major
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Ensure you understand what the new major entails. Read the description fully in the course catalog.
- 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.
- Talk to department advisors in your new potential major to discuss the specifics and further explore whether this choice may be right for you.
- Talk to your career services counselor about the career paths associated with your potential new major.
- Apply to switch majors based on your college’s specific guidelines.
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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1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
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.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
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 October 1, 2020.
2 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.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.49% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.34% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 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% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of October 26, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 10/26/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
5 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
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 11/13/2020 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.97% to 8.54% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.95% to 8.77% Fixed APR with AutoPay.