January 18, 2023 | , ,

Thinking of switching majors? Here’s some advice, from the person who did it.

Temple-University-Sullivan-Hall-Philadelphia

Hi, my name is Cathy Nguyen and I am a Senior marketing major at Temple University. I’m originally from Quakertown, PA, but I’ve been visiting Philly my entire life—from eating Dim Sum at Ocean Harbor in Chinatown or going grocery shopping in Little Saigon with my parents.

I’m Campus Philly’s Social Media & Editorial intern, and it’s always been important to me to be transparent with my peers and in my community. Time and time again I hear stories of students struggling with their major or confused about what they really want. So I want to tell you MY story.

I am here to tell you about my journey of switching my chemistry major to a marketing major during a global pandemic.

It’s never too late. Cheesy and cliche I know, but it’s true. Throughout our lives, we’ve felt rushed to make these big decisions. At an age where we are discovering ourselves with a brain that isn’t even fully developed, we were barely adults making these decisions that will lead to student debt. We had to choose the right major that will decide the rest of our lives. Well, not exactly… 

B.C. (Before College) 

I was a STEM girl throughout grade school. I excelled in mathematics and sciences, and was struggling with reading and writing. I was consumed with crime shows like Bones, iZombie, or White Collar, and it piqued my interest in forensics. So I took a forensics course in high school and fell in love with forensics instantly. I thought if I went to university only for forensics I would be restricted, so I studied something broader: chemistry. 

Fall 2019 

On my own. Navigating new territory. Surrounded by people who are doing the same thing. I had my first semester as a chemistry major and everything was fine. Classes were similar to AP chemistry so I felt like I was relearning the basics. I pass the semester with no issues. 

Spring 2020 

Nothing much happens this semester except a GLOBAL PANDEMIC hits the entire world and shuts down everything in the middle of the semester. Nevertheless, more chemistry and people were learning to adjust to the new normal. 

Fall 2020 

We got to have one week on campus. Classes were either hybrid or online. Then Covid cases were up and we were booted. All classes were online. You were stuck at home. You saw the same wall. Same desk. Same laptop and that dreaded Zoom link.

I had a stacked course load that semester. I took organic chemistry, physics 2, and calculus 2 all at the same time. So basically, weed out classes. I had to learn new course material from professors who were learning how to teach an online course for the first time.

At home, I was miserable. I had no motivation or discipline to pay attention since these courses were difficult and the professors were trying to adapt to the new territory and learning styles. Everyone had a learning curve to the new normal.  

Then it happened. I failed my first course ever. It was heartbreaking and I felt like a complete failure. I was freaking out because I didn’t know if that was going to set me back a semester and I didn’t want to be more in debt because of it.

I had a conversation with my friend at the time, talking about how I was struggling that semester, and she told me maybe chemistry isn’t for me. Then I told her it was too late. I can’t change my major this far into the game (mind you I was a sophomore at the time). Then she told me these beautiful words that I will never forget: “Says who.”

Our entire lives we have followed this path that society has forced us to follow. If we strayed far from the path, we would be shamed, doubted, fearful—you name it. I was all of the above. 

I grew up in a family where we didn’t admit if we were struggling because admitting it meant that we failed. So rather than admitting it, I would rather suffer in silence in the wrong major. My friend brought me back to reality and told me no one cares and it’s your life; I should switch to a major I enjoy and graduate a semester or two later, rather than be stuck in a major I don’t enjoy or wait to be burnt out. Finally, by the end of the semester, I made the executive decision to switch to marketing. 

Spring 2021 

I am now a marketing major that has switched from two completely different colleges: science to business. That meant I had a lot of catching up to do.

I took 19 credits that semester to make sure I would graduate on time. I was taking your basic lower-level business courses so it wasn’t too bad. Even though I was on track with coursework, I felt more behind compared to my peers in other areas, such as my work experience. People at the business school already had internships at the time and the only work experience I had were odd jobs from high school that didn’t relate to marketing.

The same friend that convinced me to change my major helped me get an internship at the place she was interning at the time. Even though it was unpaid, I was grateful to at least put some marketing experience on my resume. 

Fall 2021 

Finally, we are back in person on campus. I had one goal that semester: to strengthen my resume.

First, I joined a student professional organization, SPO for short. Basically a business school club. Temple offers over 30+ different organizations that focus on different majors throughout the Fox School of Business. So I looked up the biggest marketing SPO and joined Temple University’s American Marketing Association

I was sold on joining when I heard they had their in-house consulting firm where you can gain real-life marketing experience with real clients. I was in desperate need to add more experience to my resume. 

Because I felt like I was lacking in my resume compared to others around me, I took a chance and applied to be an associate project manager on a client project for Cherry Consulting, the in-house consulting firm. I was surprised to find out they offered me the project manager position and I gladly accepted.

I learned so much through that experience—from leadership and communication skills, to actual marketing experience that made a difference to a local boutique in Philly called Fason De Viv. Joining the SPO was the push I needed to feel more confident in my decision on switching majors. I found that passion and drive I was missing when I was a chemistry major. 

Spring 2022 

I wouldn’t have believed it. The goal I had when going to a university became a reality. I’ve always wanted to study abroad during my time at Temple, but because I switched my major I thought that goal became a mere fantasy. Until my friend looked at my schedule and said I can actually study abroad and still graduate on time.

So I booked a ticket to South Korea and did an exchange at Sogang University. If you can study abroad, I highly recommend it. I tell everyone that I thought once you become a college student you learn so much about yourself. Well try studying abroad; you learn so much more about yourself at a whole different level. 

Present Day

Now I’m back on Temple’s campus finishing up my senior year and getting ready for the “real world.” I’m currently the Director of Cherry Consulting at Temple University’s American Marketing Association and the Social Media and Editorial Intern at Campus Philly. And you wouldn’t have guessed it—I’m on track to graduate on time (hopefully). If I told freshman Cathy about the journey she would go through, she would truly be baffled. 

Words of Wisdom 

It’s never too late. Really. Nothing is set in stone. Change your mind and change it again. Change is scary, but it’s also inevitable. So adapting and trusting your instincts is crucial because you only know yourself.

If you are struggling, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone you are comfortable with about how you are struggling. Confidence and not doubting yourself are key.

If I was a marketing major throughout my four years at Temple, I know I would have cruised through and wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself to put experience on my resume or apply for leadership positions. So if I could do it over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

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