BY SOPHIA ANDERSON
Many students have the same questions on their minds: “Should I bother graduating with a double major? If I opt for a double, I’ll have to study harder and take extra classes. If I get only one major, I’ll have to take some useless classes just to get the credits. What’s the better option?”
A double major is definitely useful. When the two majors are from related fields of study, such as math and statistics for example, the admissions committees in graduate programs will look favorably on your application for an MA or PhD in statistics. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll get a huge advantage over other applicants.
We’ll clarify few things you need to consider when opting for a double major.
A Double Major? What Does That Mean?
A double major means completing two sets of undergraduate degree requirements throughout the same period of time. You will not get two Bachelor’s degrees if you have two majors, but both majors will be listed in the degree you get. A 2012 report from Vanderbilt University showed that the trend of double majoring was increased by over 10% at the most selective schools at that time, and some schools reported that 30 – 40% of their undergraduate students were double majors.
Richard Pitt and Steven Tepper, the authors of that report, explain: “Many students report that their double major combination helps them think differently, solve intellectual puzzles and approach assignments more creatively. These gains are greatest when students major in two disparate domains of knowledge, especially combining science with art and humanities.”
That’s an interesting finding. Any additional major related to writing, art, or music can boost your skills in any career. However, you can also gain those skills through extracurricular activities and individual practice.
Is A Double Major Always a Good Choice?
There are certainly things you need to consider to know if a double major is right for you. Get to know these factors and you’ll be closer to a decision.
- The future perspectives
If you opt for related majors (such as law and social sciences) the employers will appreciate the versatility of your knowledge. However, you’ll also need more time to complete all courses needed for each major. In that time, you could gain experience that employers would also appreciate.
- The combination of courses
You must be certain that you can maintain the interest for both areas of study not only throughout your studies, but throughout your professional growth as well. If you lose interest, it makes no sense to waste that time and effort into a double major.
- The advice from your college advisor
If you have any questions or doubts, that’s where you should address them. Get information about all requirements you need to meet in order to declare a double major.
- Your time-management skills
A double major means you’ll have more mandatory courses, and most of them will be really challenging. Are you willing to sacrifice the parties that everyone else will be attending? There are different tools that can make that process easier for you: iStudiez Pro to plan your studies activities; Essaysontime when you get stuck with writing assignments; RescueTime to fight online distractions.
- Double major = double efforts = double stress
Everything doubles. You will have to study more, take more challenging courses, and be more committed to the studies.
- A double major may prolong the studies
If you’re majoring in related fields (such as chemistry and biology) many classes will overlap and the difference won’t be too great. However, it will take you longer to meet the major core requirements.
- Experience from other students
Do you have any double-majoring fellows? Ask them to share their experience. Their tips will teach you how to manage a double major better.
If you stay at college longer for the sake of getting a double major degree, it means you’ll be spending more money. You’ll be taking extra classes and buying more books. Think: will the expenses pay off?
Is There an Alternative that Makes More Sense?
Having two majors may be unnecessary if you don’t intend to use them both to build a career. Kathryn Favaro, an independent college counselor, explains that a second major doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a job after graduation: “There are many jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, so we know that’s the importance of going to college in the first place. But there are very few jobs that specifically require what that bachelor’s degree is. Yes, major is relevant in some situations, but largely not.”
If you’re interested in majoring in two subjects that are related to one another, maybe you should opt for an interdisciplinary program. If, for example, you’re interested in politics and social sciences, a public administration major might be a good choice. That would enable you to explore both areas of study without investing more time, effort, and money in the degree.
Another alternative would be an internship in the other area of interest. That can help you gain experience that future employers will appreciate. If you still want to get a degree in that area of study after you graduate with your first choice of a major, you can always go for an MA degree.
The important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to major in two disciplines. It is an option, and it’s useful for students who intend to pursue a PhD degree. However, it’s not mandatory and it doesn’t necessarily pay off. Consider all factors before making the decision.
Sophia Anderson is an associate educator, tutor and freelance writer. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Get in touch with her on Facebook or LinkedIn.