Student sitting at desk in dorm room, thinking
March 26, 2019
4 mins read

The 5 emotional stages of switching majors

It takes a lot of courage to reroute your path. Things that used to be certain are no longer grounded in certainty…and the future originally imagined is erased and rewritten.

That’s how I felt when I took a leap and switched my major a few months ago.

I’m a 3rd-year student at Sauder, and I recently switched from Accounting to Marketing.

This was despite the fact that I’d invested over a year in my Accounting career, which included taking difficult CPA prerequisites, going through CPA recruitment, and getting an internship at a Big 4 Accounting firm. (Half of that probably made no sense to you…)

So why did I switch?

I had chosen Accounting for good reasons. I was doing well in my courses, it was a stable career route, and I was inspired by mentors who had taken this path. I was quite certain (and happy) with the career I was building for myself.

However, I’d forgotten to integrate my inner passions. I love being the creator, the ideator, the strategist, the influencer—and unfortunately, Accounting couldn’t offer me this. But Marketing could.

I considered switching my major to follow my passions (cheesy, I know!)—but I didn’t foresee the emotional roller coaster ride that followed. Buckle in...

Stage 1: Decision making

I still remember a defining conversation I had with a friend last fall.

When she asked me how I was doing, I had replied, “Not very well. I’m not enjoying my courses and it’s hard to find motivation.”

What she said next made me pause: “Why?”

We dug deeper into the “why,” and I realized that my path was straying me away from my passions.

I had many more conversations with mentors and friends to solve my mid-uni crisis. Then one day, I found my Eureka! moment. Creativity? Strategy? Ideas? Influence? Marketing was the specialization that tied everything together with a bow. So I visited the Sauder Undergraduate Office and made the request.

“Are you sure? If you switch, you won’t be able to switch back,” the advisor informed me. I hesitated—but certainty won over. I nodded. “I’m sure.”

Stage 2: Fresh excitement

It was like stepping into a new life. Different faces in my classes. Different coursework. Different job applications. Different future ahead.

I was filled with utter adrenaline, and so proud of where my courage took me. Almost instantly, I dove head-first into the world of Marketing. The possibilities were endless, and I was free to explore them all.

I filled my Google search with all things marketing-related. I attended marketing events and conferences. I revamped my resume to make it marketing-specific. And oh, not to mention that satisfying feeling of changing my LinkedIn profile to say “Marketing Major” instead of “Aspiring CPA”.

I had stripped away the ‘old me’ completely—and every day, I was excited by the possibilities of my new path.

Stage 3: Uncertainty

But wait a second.

My classes were filled with unfamiliar faces; I could no longer relate with friends over Accounting struggles (why did I miss this?). I was also diving headfirst into a completely different job-search world.

Scariest of all, everyone around me seemed to know exactly what they were doing—but then there was me.

Product management? Account management? Brand management? What? What’s the difference between digital marketing and UX design? Why am I so confused?

I was back at square one. (Well, not exactly; my credits from Accounting transferred to electives so that was fine, and I was still in business school, but…) I felt like a clueless Dory in a sea of big, smart, and talented Marketing fish.

But, just like Dory, I told myself to just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Stage 4: Regret

I kept swimming, but I suddenly wondered if I was going in the wrong direction.

I remember a distinct moment of regret. I was attending the Christmas party of the Big 4 Accounting firm that I had an internship lined up with. The party was filled with awesome people, exchanging ”Cheers!” to the start of their careers at the prestigious firm. But I couldn’t celebrate the same way; I had chosen to leave the CPA life behind.

I remembered how much effort I’d put into Accounting, and suddenly asked myself: Who in their right mind would throw this away? What was I thinking? Was switching into Marketing an impulsive mistake?

It didn’t help that while I was struggling to learn the ropes of Marketing, my peers were already landing summer internships.

Thankfully, the feelings of doubt and regret disappeared as quickly as they came, when I reminded myself that there’s no such thing as progress gone to waste.

Every experience I’ve had and every accomplishment I’ve achieved has shaped me and will continue to shape me, into exactly who I need to be—as long as passion never leaves my sight.

Stage 5: Empowerment

Whenever I felt doubtful, I went back to my why.

I reminded myself of why I made the switch in the first place: Marketing reminds me of what I love.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in Accounting, it’s the concept of sunk costs. This means that investments that have already been made are irrelevant for decision making. Thanks to this concept, there’s no point in wishing I could turn back and no point in regrets.

Empowerment rushed over me. This is the stage I’m in now.

Switching my major would not be easy—I knew this for a fact. But great things don’t come easily, and success isn’t a straight line. When I’m motivated by passion, obstacles turn into temporary roadblocks that I have the power to overcome.

The excitement from stage 2 has returned—but now, it’s excitement with direction. I’ve experienced the roadblocks that make switching majors difficult, and I’m back on my new road, wiser than before.

So if you’re going through the same journey or dilemma, here’s one thing that continues to serve as my guiding compass:

As long as I’m chasing what I love, working hard, and using grit to tackle obstacles—everything else, I believe, will fall into place.