Australia’s leading international student news website

When change is good for you

Aun Ngo

Wed May 20 2009

SA & Chris

Sarah-Ann Tay and Christopher Law made the bold decision to change courses to pursue their passions, and have not looked back since. Photo: Aun Ngo

YOU are one year into your university degree, and you hate what you’re doing. The lectures are a drag and you wish you were doing something else. Like a different course.

“Think hard and long, and think about it early,” Christopher Law, 18, of Melbourne University said.

Christopher was doing a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Engineering Systems, but dropped the major by semester two, taking up Human Structure and Biology instead.

He said he had chosen to do Engineering at first because many of his family members and relatives were in the field, and he “didn’t know what [he] wanted” at the time.

But he soon realised his interest was in optometry, and immediately applied to change his major to one that would provide him a pathway into optometry in postgraduate studies.

“I feel more interested and passionate about the subject, as opposed to the last time when I was stressed, pressured, uninterested and agitated because I just did not get it,” Christopher said.

“I’m very happy now after changing courses… I know I’m definitely on the right track.”

Sarah-Ann Tay, 21 of Melbourne University has a similar story.

She was doing a double degree in Arts and Law, but decided to drop the Law component to concentrate on her Psychology major.

“I realised that both courses demanded 100 per cent of my commitment, and after my first year exams I knew that my real motivation and interest was in Psychology,” Sarah-Ann said.

“The reasons for taking Law in the first place were wrong. I did it for the prestige of the degree rather than real interest, and it was really just my security blanket.

“I learned that sometimes letting go is necessary for the greater good,” she said.

Sarah-Ann is now in her first year of undertaking her Masters and PhD in Clinical Psychology, and on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a psychologist.

Both Christopher and Sarah-Ann have not looked back since they made the decision to switch courses, but the troublesome and difficult administrative process they had to endure as a result of it made them want to give up at times.

“I was being shuffled around between faculties and among student advisors. Everyone was helpful but in the end there was a lot of confusion,” Sarah-Ann said.

“I almost had to stay back a semester to make up for lost points during the transition because of conflicting information from different student advisors. It was really frustrating,” she said.

Christopher had a lot of difficulty changing majors.

“It involved a lot of permission-seeking from lecturers and course coordinators because I missed some prerequisites,” he said.

They advised students to weigh out the costs and benefits of keeping or switching courses before taking the plunge.

“Self-evaluation is very important, because the decision ultimately involves a lot of time and money,” Sarah-Ann said.

“And the administrative process gets harder the further you are into your degree,” Christopher said.

Melbourne University’s international careers and employment manager Christine Enker, said it was normal for people to want to change direction in the middle of their course. As students mature, they may be more certain of what they want to do in life, she said.

Ms Enker said many students changed courses because they were not doing well academically in their present course. What they don’t realise is they actually needed to do well academically to change courses.

She said it was a “must” for students to do research and get information before deciding to change courses, and to explore their career options.

“Be very sure of things and talk to people studying in the course so that you have a better understanding of what you’re getting yourself into,” she said.