Can I really switch what I'm studying?

I'm halfway through my first year of university and have no idea what I want to study. But that's OK—change can be good.

Male student sitting in front of a laptop looking stressed That's OK, you'll figure it all out. (photo:
Dal hosts the Academic Exploration Series throughout February. Check out some other programs and workshops that can help you decide what you really want to study.

My first semester of university is behind me, and now, looking ahead to the rest of the year and beyond, I can’t help but feel anxious. It’s not the same as the exciting nerves that came with the beginning of the year—it feels deeper and has been lingering for a while. These are the feelings that come with trying to decide what to study.

Some people may have come to university knowing exactly what they wanted to study and exactly what kind of job they wanted to pursue after getting that degree. I’m happy for those people but I’m not one of them.

I entered Dal this year in the Bachelor of Science program, intending to double major in marine biology and sustainability. This was something I was interested in studying for a long time, with the marine bio program at Dal being one of the main reasons I chose to come here in the first place.

The truth is though, when I was choosing a university, I had lots of—perhaps too many—ideas of what I wanted to do. I was a mess in high school, always changing my mind and wanting to study everything from architecture, to film, to international relations and, of course, marine biology. Leaving high school, I can’t say I was 100% certain about the path I’d chosen in science but, if nothing else, I hoped going to university would provide me with clarity.


Well, one semester in, and it’s definitely clear to me that I still don’t know what to do with my life. In fact, I’d say that I’m less certain than I was before starting university. Is that normal? Acceptable even? I’ve heard arguments on both sides but thankfully, yes, I believe it’s OK to still not know.

At the end of the fall semester, I dropped the science classes I’d planned for winter, opting instead to enroll in some general arts courses that interested me. Surprisingly, with all the uncertainty surrounding what my future holds, choosing to leave science behind was not all that hard of a decision. If nothing else I knew that I was profoundly unhappy in my studies, and three more years of experiments and lab reports was just not something that I wanted.

I’m excited about the courses I’m taking now and hope they lead me to find something that I’m passionate about.

If I learned one thing from my semester it’s that you have to listen to yourself—to your gut. Forcing yourself to enjoy something in order to fulfill a fantasy you created in your head won’t satisfy you. If your path doesn’t feel right, you have to acknowledge that feeling even if it’s uncomfortable.

So, do I know what degree I’ll have at the end of all of this? No, I do not. But that’s OK, and I’m excited to find out.