By: Breanna Hoffner '22, Sarah Smith '22
Switching majors is not uncommon at York College of Pennsylvania, with the most recent data showing 33.4% of bachelor-degree seeking students (including new first-time and transfer students, full-time and part-time students) having their bachelor degrees in a different major than their starting major.
The College offers more than 70 majors and minors to aid students who may be considering changing their majors, and also equips advisors with the tools and understanding needed to help students through this process.
Marissa Boyles ’22 reflected on her time at the College and how transitioning from an Accounting major to a Business Analytics major was a positive process for her. Upon entering college, she wanted to go into Forensic Accounting. However, after a few years in the program, she realized that she did not want to work in public accounting or be responsible for taxes.
“I still enjoyed learning about financial statements and working with numbers, but felt that an accounting degree was geared toward preparing me for the CPA exam, which at this point in time I was unsure about. After taking an Intro to Analytics course, I started thinking about switching my major,” she says.
Boyles began looking into the Business Analytics major. “I was still able to work with numbers the way I wanted to, without the focus on taxes and public accounting, and I was able to keep Accounting as my minor.”
For her, the process of switching majors was simple. Many of the general business courses overlapped with each other, so she was not far behind. When planning the switch, she met with her academic advisor Karen Robinson and discussed her intentions.
“It was an absolute pleasure working with Marissa and assisting with her matriculation,” said Robinson, who is an Assistant Professor of Accounting in the Graham School of Business. “As much as I love accounting I do realize that it is not a fit for everyone, and I am very happy when a student (especially a good student like Marissa) finds a major and potential career that is the perfect fit.”
Then, Boyles filled in the proper paperwork and took it to the Academic Advising Center.
She says, “My new advisor, Wei Chen, has been super helpful too, seeing as I came in late. He always made sure I was taking the right classes and staying on track, which I really appreciated, since my undergraduate catalog looked a little different compared to the new one.”
“Marissa is an enthusiastic student,” says Chen, who is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Accounting, Finance and Business Analytics. “Her curiosity always motivated her to see new challenges.”
Boyles credits her academic advisors and the College for making her switch so seamless.
“Switching to my new major opened a world of possibilities post-graduation. I will be working at Ernst and Young as a Technology Risk Consultant, combining the skills I learned from accounting and business analytics to achieve this.”
Jalil Dixon ’23, enrolled at York College as a Philosophy major. He now studies Professional Writing, and is currently being advised by Dr. Emily Murphy Cope. “Coming into college, I disliked the idea of being enrolled as ‘Undecided,’ and since I had some interest in philosophy, I decided to major in Philosophy and minor in Creative Writing,” he says.
At first, he did not know of the Professional Writing major offered at the College. However, after hearing York College President Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith talk on his first day about all of the College’s newer programs, she mentioned the major, and his interest was piqued.
“A few days later, I grabbed a Professional Writing major pamphlet and changed my major– all before even attending a single class.”
He has always enjoyed writing, and it has become a part of who he is. “I've always cherished the idea of turning a passion into a career; for me, that's writing.”
The process of switching majors was also easy for Jalil. Since he switched before even starting classes, he did not have to think about what classes would count toward a new major.
Changing majors has impacted him in a big way. Enrolling in the Writing program has allowed him to see that he can have a successful career in the field of writing.
“Entering college, the people around me weren't sure that attending college for a degree in the arts would be a good decision,” Jalil says. “Being a Professional Writing major has meant so much to me, as I have been provided so many opportunities to incorporate my skills, learn new skills, communicate with established people in the field, and just be in a conducive and open avenue for me to exercise my passion.”
Dr. Cope loves advising students just like Jalil. She says it’s normal for undergraduates to go through multiple major changes. “It’s important to take a wide range of classes your first two years,” she says. This helps students find their interests and what works for them.
Kathryn “Kat” Goedeke, who graduates in December 2022, originally planned on graduating with a degree in Psychology. She chose the major because she had enjoyed psychology in high school.
After speaking with professors and her grandmother, she realized that she may need to stay in school longer to achieve a lucrative career in the field. “I personally wanted to find my career without going to graduate school,” she says.
She chose to change her major to Criminal Justice after discussions with a police officer. “He persuaded me to switch into criminal justice by teaching me all of the benefits and different details about his field,” she says. Her former advisor, Dr. Carla Strassle, Director of Experiential Learning, Internships, and Practica for the School of Behavioral Sciences and Education, helped her with this move and her current advisor, Dr. Barbara Hanbury, has also offered guidance.
“Academic advising can be so rewarding, especially when you have advisees like Kathryn Goedeke,” Dr. Hanbury says, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. “Over the last few years, we have had numerous conversations and meetings related to her academic goals and degree requirements, her aspirations, the various types of internships available in Criminal Justice and [her] career plans.”
When it came time to change majors, Kat also went to the Career Development Center for assistance.
“As students explore and experience more coursework and co-curricular opportunities, they often realize their initial major choice was not as well-informed as it could have been, or perhaps that they were focused on the long-term outcomes of a major and not the specific coursework and steps needed to get there,” says Beverly Evans, Assistant Dean for Career Development. “Career Development professionals are a key resource for students (and alumni) since we are one of the few places on campus that understand the academic requirements of all of our programs, how those correlate to a variety of career paths, and can help students see the connections and steps to take.”
“I was lucky, and realized I did not belong in the major I initially picked during my very first semester as a first-year at YCP.” Kat says. “I have settled into my new major very well, and can still graduate a semester early.”
The College makes it easy for students to switch majors, with several saying this ease helped with their decision process.
Dr. Gabriel Cutrufello, Associate Professor and Chair for the Department of Communication and Writing, School of the Arts, Communication, and Global Studies, says that there are several ways that a student can go about exploring majors.
“They can sit down with their current Academic Advisor, which is a good idea. We know all of the faculty members (or can find them) at the school and know about most of the majors. We can also guide students to do some career pathway exploration to see what majors fit their interests,” he says.
Sometimes students choose to switch to majors in different schools. In that case, advisors can introduce students to faculty members in that school.
Switching majors has become a common practice, and the College offers many avenues and resources for students to make the switch less stressful than they anticipated.