So you’ve chosen the wrong program, now what? 

Navigating post-secondary school can be tough, especially for those stuck in a degree they no longer enjoy 

 Choosing which major or degree to pursue can be very difficult, especially considering it’s a decision that is typically made in the final years of high school. That being said, it’s common to feel unsure about the program one has chosen to study. 

Patrícia Dela Cruz, 21, was accepted into Ryerson/X University’s fashion design program during her final year of high school. 

“I love anything arts-related—and that includes fashion design, so I was beyond ecstatic when I got accepted,” she says. “The program is a difficult one to get into and being one of the students selected felt like such an accomplishment.”

However, Dela Cruz says that she had gone into her first year of university in a “really bad headspace,” which then took a toll on her daily life.

“I was super anxious about being in a school environment and it affected how I performed at school and how I interacted with people,” she says. “Among many other things, it became painful and very difficult for me to continue making art and be surrounded by it.”

A few days into her second year at Ryerson, Dela Cruz decided that fashion design was no longer right for her and she withdrew from the program altogether.

“I knew it was what was best for me and my mental health. So instead of going to class one day, I filled out all the required paperwork and cut my ties with fashion design,” she says. “It was the lightest I felt in a while.”

Dela Cruz took a year off to recuperate and then enrolled at Centennial College’s esthetician program, which she “immediately fell in love with.”

“It feels more like me and it’s more aligned with my values and what makes me feel good,” she says.

Nicky Law, 22, had a similar experience with his post-secondary education. He was initially enrolled at the University of Toronto’s media studies program, which he’d been interested in because of his love for sports entertainment.

But despite his ambitions to branch out into sports media, Law found himself overwhelmed by the workload that the program required from him. He soon realized that he wanted to study something that would better fit his work ethic.

“I’m more of a hands-on type of guy and I just didn’t see myself ever completing a degree where it’s all just essay-writing,” he says. “Writing was never my strongest suit.”

Since withdrawing from the University of Toronto, Law has been studying at Humber College to pursue a real estate license. 

“It’s a program where I can learn at my own pace and there’s also in-person simulation learning, which I’m more geared towards,” he says. “Also, no essays!”

What to do when you’ve chosen the wrong program

With daunting choices to make, two young adults break down some steps to help get you through the turbulent changes. 

Don’t feel pressured to continue

It’s inevitable to feel like you have to continue in a field of study, especially because of parental expectations, expenses, time and effort. 

When Dela Cruz first told her parents about her plans to change her major, they were apprehensive about the decision.

“They were overwhelmed by the time and expenses that would be wasted if I left,” she says. “[But they saw] how miserable I was and how easily I became burnt out, so they decided to support me and what would make me happy.”

Come up with a plan

College and university isn’t for everybody, but some career paths will require post-secondary education. It can be useful to have a plan for the future, even if it does take a while to conjure up.

Law’s parents were concerned that he wouldn’t be able to settle in a financially-stable career path, but he assured them that he would come up with a solution.

“I told them I’d work full-time until I get my real estate license, then I’d get a proper job with that,” he says.

Take your time to find your passion

When choosing a new program or degree, it may feel discouraging to see former peers from high school graduating from post-secondary school. But focusing on others and their accomplishments will only hinder your future ambitions.

Dela Cruz encourages students to put aside social expectations and seek out what makes them the happiest.
“It’s your time that you’re dedicating to your program, so it might as well be a program that you enjoy and love spending time on,” she says.

About the author

Alyssa Bravo is a former reporter for Youth Mind. She is a coffee fiend and likes music, movies and food. She wishes to travel to Italy and Greece, and hopes she’ll live to see the day the Toronto Maple Leafs win their 14th championship. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her watching videos of dogs or baby pandas.

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