Institutional Research

Oct 2021 - Major Switching Across Colleges and Effects on Six-Year Graduation Rates

While some students may enter college with a clear sense of what type of degree they want to pursue, and are able to maintain that same goal throughout their college career, for others their choice of degree may change as their educational goals are shaped by the various challenges, opportunities, and experiences they encounter during their college careers.

In this month’s By the Numbers report, we ask:

  • What have been the most frequent changes of major across Chico State colleges?
  • And what are the effects of switching majors between colleges on students’ academic success?

To investigate, we use institutional data on major switching activity across Chico State colleges within first-time freshmen cohorts between 2012 and 2018, and examine changes in six-year graduation rates for those who switched majors across colleges, compared to those who remained in the same college of major. 

Chico State By the Numbers

Between Fall 2012 and Fall 2016:

29% of first-time freshmen changed to a new major within four years that was in a different college from the one they matriculated* into.

29% of first-time freshmen changed to a new major within four years that was in a different college from the one they matriculated* into.


21% of ECC first time freshman and 46% from NSC change majors into a different college.

Within four years of enrollment, 21% of first-time freshmen majoring in Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management (ECC) and 46% of first-time freshmen majoring in Natural Sciences (NSC) had changed to a major in a different college.

Read a short report (PDF)from the Office of Institutional Research that further explores these trends, and how major switching across colleges has historically affected graduation rates.

Further Reading

Data Point: Beginning College Students Who Change Their Majors Within 3 Years of Enrollment (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2017) (PDF)

How Late is Too Late? Myths and Facts About the Consequences of Switching College Majors (Education Advisory Board, 2016) (PDF)

Changing College Majors: Does It Happen More in STEM and Do Grades Matter? (Journal of College Science Teaching, 2015)