Pressure increases on undeclared students as credit cap drops five

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Recent changes to the BYU credit cap for switching majors makes the decision all the more important to figure out as soon as possible.

According to BYU’s 2013–2014 undergraduate catalog, 60 earned credits (excluding language exam credits) is the cap for changing one’s major without special permission, five credits fewer than it was in previous years.

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Graphic by Lizzie Jenkins

The change means that choosing a major early on is more important than ever, especially for the large amount of BYU students who are still undecided.

“Currently we have over 2,300 students who are open-major or undeclared students,” said Karen Evans, PhD, director of the university advisement center. “We also know that only 17% of the students who come to BYU with a declared major actually graduate in that major.”

With nearly 200 major choices at BYU, it isn’t surprising some students are finding the task daunting.

“The hardest part in choosing a major, for me, is that there are so many choices out there … or if I choose one I won’t enjoy it and won’t have time to keep changing my mind,” said Emerald Shen, a freshman and undecided major at BYU. “My major will impact my job, my life and happiness in general.”

The credit limit, however, has some unexpected benefits for current and future students.

“We turn away thousands of prospective students every year who would like to attend,” Evans said. “More students could be admitted and given the opportunity to attend BYU if students who are already here would graduate within a reasonable length of time.”

Evans also said students who select a major are more likely to graduate and do so with less student debt.

In addition to the Academic Advisement Center in the Wilkinson Center, BYU also offers Student Development 117, Career Explorations, which is a two-credit class designed to help students select a major.

Malissa Jones, a licensed psychologist in counseling and psychological services, teaches the class and gave some advice to undeclared majors as well:

“Students worry that they have to find the one perfect major and any other choice would be a failure,” Jones said. “In truth, academic and career interests are one part of your future. You will also have hobbies that will fulfill different parts of your interests and abilities.”

Overall, the credit cap is a typical tool of many schools in the country.

“The federal government and university accreditation policies also reflect a greater interest in ensuring that students make satisfactory progress toward graduation, thus reducing student debt,” Evans said.

In the end, students are still able to switch their majors after the 60 earned credits at BYU but must get special permission to do so.

“Just get moving — start on something and see if you like it,” Jones concluded.

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