How I stopped everything and switched programs

After spending two years studying something I thought I was interested in, I finally followed my passion and started over.

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If you're thinking about exploring other programs, majors, minors, etc. (or just want to see what your options are) you might want to check out Dal's Academic Exploration Series workshops throughout February.

Picking a university major is one of the most stressful decisions you’ll have to make. If you’ve ever been a multi-tasker, a well-rounded kid, or that stereotypical "kid that doesn't fit into just one group," you’ll know that picking a major can feel nearly impossible because you're interested in learning about all of it. So if it’s so hard making the decision for the first time, how do you think it feels when you change your mind?

When I was entering university, everyone expected me to go into a major along the lines of physics or math, even though I felt passionate about many other fields. That’s how I spent two years pursuing a neuroscience degree and ended up exhausted from staying up all night trying to find any bit of motivation to study a field I wasn’t really interested in.

I’m not saying everyone should take the path that their family and friends encourage them to follow, but sometimes the people closest to us know us best and maybe we should listen to them a bit more. I made the mistake of not doing this and ended up hating the program I chose. So, on the Friday before Winter Study Break, I finally had enough of the frustration and hopped on DalOnline to apply for a major change into engineering.


This is real life

Now if this were a rom-com, that would be the end of the story and this would be a "looking back on it all" kind of article. But this is not a movie. In real life, most parents aren't too keen on the idea of their child “throwing away” the first two years of university. I was terrified to tell my family that I’d applied without telling them. Surprisingly enough though, most of my family were relieved that I finally switched into something they knew I loved. I understand this won't be everyone's experience, but I genuinely think that if you’re passionate about the program you’re switching into, and they've heard you rant endlessly about your current program, they’ll come around to the idea sooner or later.

After making sure my family and friends were onside with my decision, the next big hurdle was accepting that not all my credits would transfer. In fact, only two out of my 20 hard-earned credits were transferrable. The thought that once I switched majors all my hard work in previous years would count for nothing made me feel helpless.

If you’re ever in the same circumstance as me, my advice is to ask questions. I spent hours on the phone with an engineering advisor trying to wrap my head around what my next few years at Dalhousie would look like. He advised me that by the time I received my engineering diploma, I could also qualify for a 90-credit-hour B.Sc. That way my two years in neuro would not go to waste and I’d still be on track for engineering. I was ecstatic.


Now what?

Now that I am here, starting this new adventure in engineering, my excitement is at an all-time high. In my heart, I know I can do well if I work hard because I’ll be doing something I’m passionate about. But I have no idea what I’m in for and I’d be lying if I said that all this excitement is without fear. At university, your major becomes part of your identity, so starting all over is scary. Going into an entirely different field is scary because no matter how confident you are, there will always be a fear of failure or a fear of regret. But I think the best way to deal with this fear is to face it head on.

If you’ve thought it through, if you have a support system behind you, and if you’re truly passionate about the program you're switching into, then everything will work itself out. I’d choose this fear of failure over the fear of "what could have been" any day.

If you're contemplating switching degrees, reach out to an academic advisor. There is never too much information, and they’re all there to help.