Can I Change my Major in Grad School?

Application Strategy

Can I Change my Major in Grad School?

In this post I share four tips on how you can change your major in grad school: 1) Join the campus club 2) Read books on your target subject 3) Ask your professor for advice 4) Earn professional experience.

As an undergraduate I thought a lot about this question. I studied international relations at UChicago and very much enjoyed my coursework but I knew that it would be challenging to find meaningful work in the subject after graduation.  As a Freshman I discovered my interest in business and began preparing myself to eventually apply to B-School. Here’s how I prepared myself to change my major in grad school. I think it will work for you too!

1) Join (or start!) the campus club in the academic field you’re interested in. Getting involved in the physics, accounting, or economics society is a great chance to learn more about the subject while making new friends. This may strengthen your interest or demonstrate that the field isn’t quite right for you – either way, very helpful learning. Though I was an international relations student, I was interested in learning more about business and finance so I joined The Blue Chips, UChicago’s investment club. In TBC I learned about balance sheets, EBITDA, economic forecasting, equity investing, and portfolio management.  It was a tremendous opportunity for professional growth and the place where I met many of my close friends in college.  My first university mentors were Joshua Sommerfeld and Elsa Sze, senior club members, and they encouraged me to pursue my interest in business, a key turning point for me.

2) Read books on your target subject. This will help you get up to speed quickly on your target field and provide a solid jumping-off point for further study. Few things demonstrate interest like reading and researching independently. A good place to start is by researching the professors in the department at your dream school. Select one of their recent books and read it carefully. Write down questions as you read so that you can send the professor a smart question via email before you apply.  The professor will be flattered a student is independently reading her book and may just message you back to begin correspondence.

3) Ask your professor for advice. As you pursue your new academic path, it will pay big dividends to have a sounding board to ask questions. Many professors have navigated paths similar to the one you are aiming for. The best way to profit from their experience is to ask them for advice! “Professor, do you have any book recommendations?” “Professor, do you know of any research opportunities in the Biology Department?” “Professor, I am aiming to study abroad, do you have any advice?” Charles Lipson, my international relations professor, gave me tremendous advice about my business and academic goals.  This was only possible because I asked!

4) Earn professional experience to demonstrate your competence in a new field.  A successful term as a laboratory technician, research assistant, or intern in your subject can alleviate concerns from the admissions committee.  I bet my internship at Merrill Lynch helped convince the MPhil Admissions Committee at Cambridge Business School to take a chance on me. Of course, the first professional experience is the hardest to earn so spend extra time polishing your CV and target accessible opportunities, the “low hanging fruit” that will propel your studies forward.

If you aim to change your major in grad school there is no time to waste. Begin preparing today by getting involved in the campus club, by reading books from your target field, asking your professor for advice, and seeking professional opportunities. Over the long-term, you can achieve anything you set your mind to… but only if you’re willing to work for it.


Greg Nance

ChaseFuture CEO