Essays & Criticism 6

Changing Your Major

Hannah Craven thought she had it all figured out. When she was in middle school she started remodeling rooms with her mom and developed a passion for interior design. In the fall of 2010, she enrolled at Ball State as an interior design major. Having gotten an early acceptance to the program, Hannah took entirely interior design courses, with one or two core-curriculum classes. She loved it – making her major such a long time passion of hers was great decision.

At the end of her freshman year, Hannah was second guessing her decision. She was turning in projects that were completely different from everybody else’s and was constantly falling behind. Worried, Hannah spoke to one of her professors. He confirmed her biggest fear – she wasn’t cut out for interior design as her major. She knew he was right.

Right after finals week, Hannah decided to change her major. She joined the 75 percent of college students who change their major at least once before graduation, according to an article written by the Penn State University division of undergraduate studies.

Hannah remembers standing outside of Woodworth residence hall waiting for her dad, Dan Craven, to pick her up in his white Suburban. It was the Friday after her last final and she couldn’t have been more annoyed at her situation. She just kept thinking about her professor telling her that she wasn’t cut out to be an interior design major. The thought of changing her major had been sitting in the back of her mind for most of her second semester, but her professor’s words had been the last straw.

She just wanted to get home and tell her mom, and it didn’t help that her dad wanted to visit a friend on their way home and drive an hour out of the way. She thought it was going to be the longest car ride of her life. When she got in the car her dad greeted her.

“How’d your finals go?” he asked.

Hannah started telling him that she did well on her finals. But she also blurted out what had been bothering her.

“I’m changing my major.”

Her dad didn’t skip a beat.

“Okay, what do you want to do next?” he asked, unfazed by her confession.

She couldn’t have been more relieved. She remembers it feeling so good to finally tell someone, but she remained quiet for the rest of the drive home.

Dan saw no problem with Hannah wanting to switch her major so early in her college career. He believes that most students right out of high school don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Contrary to most people, Dan preferred that Hannah and her four siblings go into their first year of college without declaring a major and give themselves a chance to explore and figure out what they truly like to do.

By her sophomore year, Hannah was an architecture major. She chose architecture primarily because she didn’t want to waste her interior design credits, but she soon realized that majoring in architecture wasn’t for her, either. The classes were way more intense, and she knew that by continuing she would’ve been backtracking even more. Unlike other architecture students, it was something Hannah wasn’t wholeheartedly dedicated to. It was something she wasn’t sure about doing for the rest of her life.

For the second time, Hannah was indecisive about her future, but she isn’t the only one.

Most incoming students are still trying to figure out their identity, and having lived under someone else’s guidance for most of their lives, may not be ready to pick the right career path for themselves. First year college students may not be mentally prepared to decide a major, according to the Penn State article.

Associate director of Ball State advising, Mark Parkison, said that roughly 10 percent of Ball State’s freshmen changed their majors in the fall semester of 2015. Many incoming freshmen think they know what they want to major in, but once they start classes, realize they want to do something else.

On the other hand, several students come to Ball State without any idea of what they want to do. An estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as undecided. For these students, Ball State requires them to choose a major by the time they reach 30 credit hours, which is typically at the start of their sophomore year.

At the end of her second year, Hannah’s older sister was diagnosed with cancer. Hannah decided that she couldn’t stay focused on school and her family, so she took a year off. During that year, Hannah was encouraged by her parents and four siblings to finish school. She used her time off to reflect and try to figure out what she wanted to do. Since her parents agreed to pay for her first four years, Hannah was constantly worried about wasting their money.

The total cost of one semester at Ball State is approximately $9,000 for in-state students who live on campus and are full-time, like Hannah did. Hannah’s parents had already paid for two years of her education along with putting three of her four siblings through school. To Hannah, tuition was just a number. It wasn’t until she returned after taking her break, that she realized the true price of going to school.

Taking a break ended up being a good thing for her. She took a few core classes online through Ivy Tech and also picked up a business course. She thinks taking the business class was one of the best things she could’ve done to help her decide what she likes to do. When she returned to Ball State, she became a business major. This was her third major change in four years. Hannah thought she was close to graduation, but after meeting with her advisor, she was told she needed to stay an extra year.

Hannah choked back tears when she was told the news, but her situation isn’t uncommon. In 2012, only a third of students in public universities earned their degree in four years, according to the U.S. Department of Education. By 2014, less than a quarter of students at public universities were finishing in four years. Education policy experts now use a standard of six years to obtain a bachelor’s degree because the of the lengthy time it takes to graduate today.

A little less than one fifth of the 2010 incoming class of freshmen would graduate in five years, according to the Ball State University Fact Book.

When she returned, Hannah joined those students. She was constantly reminding herself that her parents would only pay for four years of tuition. Dan’s goal as a parent was to put all five of their kids through four years of college. Hannah knew that she would have to pay for her extra year somehow.

Once Hannah turned 24, she was able to claim herself as independent. This meant that Ball State no longer took her parents’ money into account when determining Hannah’s financial situation. Hannah was able to apply for financial aid that she wasn’t eligible for before. Her senior year, she received a Pell Grant that gave her $8,000 to cover two semesters. The amount of money students receive from Pell Grants is dependent on how much financial aid they need, according to an article by the U.S. Department of Education. For Hannah, the Pell Grant covered nearly an entire semester of tuition. To pay for the rest of her tuition and fees, Hannah worked two jobs and took out both subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

The amount of money students receive from subsidized loans are determined by the school, and interest on these loans are paid for by the U.S. Department of Education. Subsidized loans are only available to undergraduate students with financial needs. Unsubsidized loans, on the other hand, are given to both undergraduate and graduate students, and the school determines the amount of money provided based on the student’s cost of attendance and other financial aid the student already receives.

Hannah will graduate with approximately $10,000 of student debt after staying one extra year. For most universities, two extra years on campus increases debt by nearly 70 percent, according to a study done by Temple University in Philadelphia.

On top of taking 20 credit hours, Hannah pays her rent and utilities by working a couple of nights a week as a server at the Blind Owl Brewery in Indianapolis and as a brand ambassador for 180 Promotions. While her schedule may seem hectic, Hannah believes it is actually well-balanced. She thinks working on top of the extra course load keeps her motivated.

Hannah has already paid interest on her loans and isn’t worried about paying them off after graduation. She has a payment plan set where she intends to pay $300 a month, which is double the minimum.

Hannah advises her younger sister and younger friends to take more core classes when they start. She thinks it would have been much better for her to really figure herself out instead of diving into something she thought she was sure of.

While Hannah’s additional year was a financial setback, she believes that her extra time in school made all the difference. Before taking out loans, she didn’t appreciate the fact that her parents were paying for her education. Now that she’s paying for it on her own, she holds herself more accountable for her money. She recognizes that she has to find ways to pay back her financial aid.

Hannah is grateful for taking her time to complete her degree. She believes that going into college as a freshman, she wasn’t completely prepared for choosing a major. She didn’t know herself enough to know what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Hannah will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in the department of professional sales and marketing, but has the same amount of credits as someone graduating with a masters of business administration degree. By not knowing what she wanted to do for a career, Hannah suffered financial repercussions. But she also knows she made the right choice by taking her time to obtain her degree. It caused her to graduate with student debt, but to Hannah, it was worth it.

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  • Jenny Blevins says: May 2, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Great information for high school students! Good job Jackie! Congratulations Hannah!

    • Jackie Miller says: May 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks, JP!
      I’ve worked hard and I really appreciate you reading this! It means so much to me!

  • Donna says: May 2, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    Great job and well done sis!! We are so proud of you!!

    • Jackie Miller says: May 3, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks, Mom!!

  • Ken Miller says: May 2, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Jackie, The article is very informative and well written. Prospective students could definitely benefit from reading it. Congratulations on being published!

    Hannah, way to stick with it and get that degree. Congratulations!

    • Jackie Miller says: May 3, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks, Dad!!
      I’m glad you think others could benefit from reading it, that was my goal. Hannah shares a common situation with a lot of students.


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