The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 36.0°F | Partly Cloudy

Declaring Is Not Final

Many Change Majors

By Eun Lee

associate features editor

As freshmen shop around for majors, they should remember that choosing the right one is a purely personal decision. It is important to realize that the choice of what to major in should be based on more than deciding which department will provide the largest quantity of free food or have the “easiest” classes.

As freshmen and upperclassmen look ahead to their future at MIT and beyond, they should remember that their choice of major won’t unconditionally decide their life’s path.

However, it is important to keep in mind that the declaration of a major is not a binding contract. Even after a major is declared, there is still a lot of time to switch without becoming a “super senior.”

“You can declare a major, but don’t feel bound to it if you don’t like what you’re doing,” said Sarah S. Wu ’01. “Don’t be afraid to switch -- it’s relatively easy with a good adviser and good planning.”

Some switch majors several times

Wu has changed her major twice during the course of her MIT career. As a freshman, she declared Course XV (Management), and then switched to Course XIV (Economics) at the beginning of her sophomore year.

It was not until the beginning of her junior year that Wu changed her major to Course VI, (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), which she hopes to finish by the end of this term. “I switched because I felt it was very important to get an engineering foundation in my education,” she said.

Jay F. Bacow ’02 formally changed his major over this year’s Independent Activities Period, moving from Course XVI (Aeronautics and Astronautics) to Course VIII-B (Physics).

“I was pretty unhappy with my old major. The required classes weren’t that stimulating and I was losing interest,” said Bacow.

Changing major can be easy

The formal process of changing your major is relatively simple. It includes meeting with your adviser to discuss the change and filling out a few forms. Since advising programs are particular to each major, those students who change their major must also find a new adviser.

“I think I was lucky with my advisers. They were very open-minded and supporting and also understood that we don’t always know what we want to do at this age,” said Wu.

Bacow also said that he was pleased with the help that his advisers gave to him. “My new and old advisers were both pretty helpful in terms of letting me know what to expect and what I had to do,” he said.

For most, the difficult part of changing majors is catching up on the required classes to get a degree. “It was pretty hard catching up; I had to take some pretty intense terms where I crammed a lot of pre-requisites,” Wu said. “I learned the material, but not as well as I would have liked.”

Bacow specifically chose Course VIII-B because it allows him to graduate on time. “I would have had to stay an extra year if I were in 8,” he said. However, his schedule has been far from easy since he switched majors.

“I’m trying to make up some classes, so I’m taking 8.03 (Physics III), 8.04 (Quantum Physics I), and 8.044 (Statistical Physics I) at the same time. Unfortunately, their schedules overlap so I can’t really attend all the lectures and recitations,” said Bacow.

Students happy with switch

In the end, both Wu and Bacow are happy with their decisions to switch majors.

“I am happy now that I switched because I have found that my engineering degree was very important in opening up options that I wouldn’t have been able to have without a technical degree,” Wu said.

Bacow also said that he is pleased with his decision. “I’m happier now than as an Aero/Astro major, but the work is harder,” Bacow said. “I’d tell freshmen who are looking at majors to pick whatever interests them the most, since it gets really hard to stay motivated if you’re not interested.”