Undergraduate study is a rigorous journey no matter what school, no matter what major. For those considering a double-major, though, the stakes are just that much higher. Here are three tips to keep in mind if you are making a decision about double-majoring:
1. Take a little time. Deciding whether a double-major is right for you is not something you can know until you have spent some time in school. On top of all of the normal pressures, students declaring double-majors as they enter college have inflicted upon themselves the added stress of trying to succeed in multiple fields before they fully understand what is required or expected. For example, at our school the pre-med program is very competitive and most of the students within it are Biology-Chemistry double-majors. The joke around campus is that sixty percent of each class start out double-majoring in Bio-Chem and sixty percent leave double-majoring in Business-Marketing. Give yourself a couple of semesters to really have a handle of the professors and classes available in each department, and weigh your academic options then.
2. Don’t forget your friends. Your undergraduate days are about more than studying. Too many students majoring in more than one field or in heavy-load interdisciplinary majors find themselves strapped for time to spend socially with friends or meeting new people. While there is no quantitative measure for the value of the friendships you create and maintain during college, most people know that it is important. By no means is it normal for double-major students to leave college with few close friends, but the sheer loss of time due to studying can easily be a detriment to your social life.
3. Is it really what you want? Many double-majors are crosses between something the student loves to do, and something they think will be more employable (think Art-Business or Music Theory-Chemistry). While this may seem like a good idea, the academic and social pressures outlined above may outweigh whatever positive is achieved by double-majoring. Think about your reasons for combining the two majors, are you doing it to satisfy a parent? Are you trying to keep alive an interest you don’t plan on employing professionally? Interests don’t always translate easily into majors, and forced-on majors are rarely a good fit.
With all of these cautions in mind, let me say that double-majoring isn’t a bad thing at all. Unfortunately, many people don’t give the decision as much consideration as it warrants, leaving them in poor shape socially, academically, or otherwise.