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Insight Paper

How Late Is Too Late?

Conventional wisdom holds that major-switching can delay a student’s time to graduation. But because 75% of students switch majors before they graduate, the Student Success Collaborative decided that it was time to re-examine this belief.

Questioning conventional wisdom about major switches

To increase four-year graduation rates, many institutions have implemented policies that encourage students to declare a major as quickly as possible and stick with it. Most advising professionals consider undeclared students, especially those in their second year or later, to be at elevated risk of leaving school before they graduate.

But if three out of four students change their major before they graduate, is major changing derailing student outcomes?

Major switching does not necessarily delay degree progress

EAB data scientists analyzed major declaration patterns and graduation outcomes using data from more than 78,000 students. We looked primarily at the impact of the timing of a last major declaration on two key student educational outcomes: graduation and time to degree. We focused exclusively on the timing of a student’s final major switch.

Our analysis provided insight into three myths about switching college majors:

  • Myth 1: Major switches hurt likelihood of graduation.
  • Myth 2: Switching majors increases time and cost to degree.
  • Myth 3: Students who settle on a major early are better off.

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