It doesn’t make you cool or intense to double major. If you enjoy and feel you will benefit from two areas of study equally, consider majoring in one, and then just taking some of the courses in the other.
Before I went to college, I always thought I would major in English.
But after taking and loving psych 101 my freshman year, I was torn between majoring in English and majoring in psychology. At the time, declaring a major seemed like a life-altering decision, and clearly something about which to be stressed.
I felt that I would be giving something up if I picked one major over the other – committing to one destiny over another – so instead, I finally decided I should do both. I would double major! If one is good then two is better, right? I was excited to tell my advisor about my plan, and consequently, I was surprised when he told me it was a pretty dumb one.
To be fair, he probably didn’t use the word “dumb.” But he did question me about why the need to do both and what I felt I would gain from doing so. I was shocked that he didn’t see the seemingly obvious value and prestige in double majoring. Instead, he encouraged me to think about what might be lost by double majoring — namely, the flexibility to take more electives and dabble in various disciplines — and made me realize that there might not be a point to double majoring after all.
Long after college (if you call six years long), that conversation has stuck with me.
Why? Because I was so wrong, and my advisor was so right. I ultimately decided to major in English and ended up with a minor in psychology (after taking all the psychology classes I chose to take), but some of the best courses I took in college were outside of my major and minor.
I didn’t even know what art history was before college, but I liked the first class I took so much that I took a second. I took courses in film, philosophy, political science, sociology, and Spanish. I took extra creative writing courses because I had the room. Had I double majored, and thus been bound to additional course requirements for a second major, I wouldn’t have had room for all of those extra courses, and would have had an arguably less well-rounded academic experience than I had.
The other reason that conversation has stuck with me is because I have worked in undergraduate and graduate admissions, and questions about majors are understandably common.
“What job can I get with that major?”
“Can I get into your grad program even though I had an unrelated major?”
What one majors in does not determine one’s fate for the rest of his life. If a student knows exactly what he wants to do after college, then it certainly makes sense for him to choose a relevant major that will help him prepare to enter that field.
But in large part, nobody really cares what you majored in, and nobody cares at all if you double majored, majored and minored, majored and double minored, and so on. (By the way, nobody cares what your SAT scores were either, so it’s time to take them off your resume, everyone ever.)
During college I would hear people brag about their rigorous course load due to their double major. I have even heard several-years-out-of-college graduates similarly reflect on their experience double majoring.
Guys! It doesn’t make you cool or intense to double major. If you enjoy and feel you will benefit from two areas of study equally, consider majoring in one, and then just taking some of the courses in the other. What’s the difference, really? Being able to say you double majored? But we’ve covered that already. Nobody cares.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge that in some cases, it might make sense to double major.
There may be certain industries and organizations that care a bit more about what a student majored in, and might even care that he or she double majored. Perhaps my perspective is a bit skewed based on my personal experience and my affinity for liberal arts education.
My advice, then, is to not double major for the sake of double majoring. Take courses that are interesting to you, and allow yourself the flexibility to take courses you didn’t necessarily plan to take. College should largely be about learning for the sake of learning.
But fear not, I have practical advice, too.
Throughout college, spend time thinking about your post-college career. Get internships, go on informational interviews, and do research about the field you wish to enter. Maybe you will find out that your dream employer or graduate institution cares a whole lot about your major. Maybe they would even prefer that you have a double major. Now that would be a good reason.
But double majoring so that you can say you did, or because it seems badass, or because you can’t make up your mind?
Well, that’s a pretty dumb plan.
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