Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Major
Written by: Johann Cardenas, Second Year Bioinformatics
I remember when I accepted my offer of admission to Medical Sciences at Western, the decision weighed heavily on me. I was just finishing up high school and still had no idea what future career to pursue. I enjoyed all the subjects I learned, and only had a vague sense of direction of where I wanted to go. Now, all of a sudden, I had to make a massive decision that will dictate the course of the rest of my life. I had the misconception, like many students, that your major and school you attend is a choice you only make once, however, I came to learn that was far from the case.
Ultimately, I ended up choosing Medical Sciences at Western because I heard it was a well-respected, competitive program that was also close to home. Medicine and the human body were also subjects that immensely interested me. I heard that a large proportion of Medical Sciences students ended up attending medical school, so the program would be ideal if I wanted to enter the medical field. However, I wasn’t completely happy with my decision. While I was interested in a career in medicine, I felt nervous that I was locked into a degree where my main option was to attend medical school, an incredibly competitive process in Canada. It wasn’t until I attended O-Week that I fully realized how I should remedy my worries.
The main catalyst was a presentation given by Dr. Maxwell, a professor for Biology 1002, gave to incoming Science students. He showed a slide representing what most students think their career path would be like: a straight line from their first year at University to their ultimate dream career. He showed another slide, which represented the path that most students would take: one that is long, winding, and messy. I realized I wasn’t alone in my worries, and that my path wasn’t set in stone. I decided to take my time in university to explore my options.
After O-Week, I ended up changing my schedule drastically and dropped Psychology and Biology in favour of Philosophy and Computer Science (I had transfer credits for Biology from high school). These were subjects I had never formally taken before but sounded interesting, and ended up enjoying both significantly, Computer Science especially. The courses exposed me to coding for the first time, and I found that the problem-solving and creativity I had to demonstrate in my assignments to be very fulfilling. Out of my interest in Computer Science, while still recognizing my interest in medicine, I ended up switching out of Medical Sciences and changed my major to Bioinformatics. I figured that the degree will give me some flexibility for my career path. I would become exposed to enough Computer Science courses that I can get a job in software, while also keeping my options open for a career in biology or medicine.
In the end, the degree you enter Western planning to major in is not necessarily the degree you’ll be graduating with. Most students attend university right out of high school, and that means you have very little life experience to choose your future career. If you’re still just starting out at Western, I would recommend taking courses in different subjects that you think might interest you. There are many brilliant professors at Western who are experts in their field - it’s valuable to explore them. Alternatively, if you find that your major isn’t what you thought it would be, don’t feel like it’s too late to switch. I remember when I considered switching majors, I was afraid of what all of my peers in Medical Sciences would think of me. Ultimately, it’s your life. You shouldn’t let the opinions of others dissuade you from following your interests. Chances are your true friends will support you anyway.
At Western, it’s fairly simple to change your major. As long as you take the prerequisite courses, it’s simple to change your major for the following year when you fill out your Intent to Register. Even if you’re late into your degree, that doesn’t mean you’re trapped in a specific career path. It’s not too late to change your degree or get further education that leads to a career you would be happy with. If you’re unhappy, the sooner you change your degree, the better. It’s much better to take some extra time for a job you’re happy with than to settle for a lifetime of what-ifs. One of the most remarkable things about humans is that we have the capacity to change. There’s no one single road you must follow; we have the agency to choose. It’s okay to stray from the path to explore what’s beyond it - you might even discover another path you didn’t even know existed.