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The process of changing a major should be easier

Many students end up feeling dissatisfied with their current program, and those who do may pursue the option of changing their major. Students also have the option of declaring a minor. While the process of declaring a minor or changing a major can definitely be worth pursuing, it is far from convenient. It requires filling out a paper form, which can be considered basically archaic when compared to every other aspect of the University of Maine experience, which is handled almost entirely online. The current major change process needlessly complicates the experience for students who are already feeling burdened with their current academic program.

The first problem with the form is a lack of clarity. It has many different boxes, and it’s unclear what needs to be filled out for which process, as it’s used for declaring a minor or concentration as well as a change of major. It also asks for signatures, and it’s unclear what signatures need to be obtained. For example, the Minor Department Chair’s signature is only needed when declaring a minor in the College of Earth, Life, and Health (ELH). The advisor’s signature is only needed for a change of major, not for a declaration of a minor which the form does not indicate. Students in the College of Education and Human Development likely won’t encounter this form if they’re changing within or outside of the college, as the advising center will handle the paperwork for them. They will also handle the paperwork to declare a minor or a concentration. This contrasts with ELH, who have extra barriers for a student to jump through to transfer. The form being treated differently by each college can create inequity both for students and advisors. The form is also used by UMaine Machias students, which requires signatures for minor changes that UMaine Orono doesn’t. 

The second problem with this form is the fact that it’s still done on paper. There’s no reason that this form can’t be filled out online through Mainestreet, for example. Doing so online can verify forms are sent to the appropriate offices, ensuring equity in how students interact with the form on their end regardless of academic college. Moving this process to an online form would enable students to take the decision into their own hands without having to print out or stop by several offices to fill out the form while still ensuring it goes through the proper administrative eyes. Several other schools have already modernized and digitized this process, so there’s no obvious reason this shouldn’t be built into online software like MaineStreet rather than handled through paper.

Students who are looking into changing their major are likely already experiencing a significant amount of academic stress. It’s not a decision made lightly, and they’ve likely already thought through it before filling out the paperwork. Having to go through several other offices just to fill out the form isn’t likely to make them change their mind, but it might make them more likely to procrastinate out of confusion and frustration. Increasing the academic burdens on a student already burnt out enough with their program to change it just increases their stress.

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