April 24, 2014

Deciding if a double major is right for your future

Deciding if a double major is right for your future

Thinking about a double major? You’re certainly not alone. In an effort to make themselves more competitive in an increasingly difficult job market, many college students today are choosing to double major – either in fields that already have some overlap or in completely different departments. If you’re doing a double major just to impress future graduate schools and employers, though, you might actually want to reconsider.

If you’re still trying to decide if a double major is right for you, here are some things to consider before you choose your college career route.

Why do you want to double major?

Examine your reasons for doing a double major carefully. If you want to double major simply because you can’t decide which major to choose or just because you want your future resume to be more impressive, you should probably clarify your academic goals and focus on excelling in the best major for your career.

The best reason to double major is that you’re extremely interested in two complementary majors that will help further your life goals.

Will you love both majors?

Students who choose to double major simply to beef up a resume are most likely to choose a second major that they don’t really love, which can make completing the coursework a drudge. While you won’t love every single course you take in college, you should only choose to double major if you’ll enjoy the majority of your coursework for both your majors. If there’s really only one major that you’ll enjoy throughout your college career, then just go with that option and focus on really excelling in it.

Do you have clear career and academic goals? Will the coursework further your academic or career goals?

You should only double major if you’ll be accomplishing clear career and academic goals with your two majors. If you don’t already have clear goals, consider taking a year with an undeclared major, getting your prerequisites out of the way, and focusing on figuring out what you want to do. Starting a double major track without clear goals – or without being certain that both majors together will further your life and career goals – is a recipe for burnout, wasted time, and wasted money.

Do you want to take a wide variety of classes?

If you’re the type of person who likes to dabble in many things, a double major might not be a good idea for you unless you want to be a career student. At most universities, a double major will fill all of your course requirements, leaving you without much room for electives. If you want to use your college career to get a broad perspective on many subjects by taking electives from different academic areas, then choose a single major that appeals to you, and use your elective credits to take other classes that interest you.

Will you be able to finish in four years?

Most college students these days don’t finish school within four years. According to USA Today, 53% of four-year colleges in the nation graduate their students in six years, and most students these days are in school full-time for over four years. However, students who manage to graduate in the traditional four-year time period tend to graduate with less debt and are more likely to stay focused on academic and career goals.

While students who are extremely focused on succeeding academically can graduate in four years with a double major, they usually carry a full course load every semester – and sometimes get special permission to take more than eighteen hours of course work in a semester. Only choose a double major if you’re willing to put in this type of work; otherwise, you’re likely to drag your college career out to five, six, or even seven years.

If a double major is very important to you, you may not be able to work and attend school – at least not if you expect to graduate in four years and make good grades. In this case, you could check out credit cards for college students to supplement your student loans. Use a credit card wisely for your necessary personal expenses during the semester, and then work during long breaks to pay down your credit card debt. The key is to make sure you are responsible, only spending when you have to and that you aren’t putting too much debt on your credit card.

What’s the procedure for a double major at your university? What are the other options?

Of course, you definitely need to learn what your university’s procedure for having a double major is. Some are more flexible than others. In fact, at some universities, you can use courses to fill requirements in such a way that a double major in two related areas won’t cost you any more time or money to complete than a single major with all your electives.

These days, though, many universities are offering alternatives to double majors – including a wide variety of minors and even interdisciplinary majors that combine courses from different departments into on single major.

Choosing a double major is a big decision, and you need to put plenty of time and thought into deciding whether or not it’s a good choice for you before you decide to double major. Thinking carefully through all of these questions will help you choose a double major only if it’s right for your needs.

Guest Blogumnist Daniela Baker helps parents and college students evaluate student credit card offers at CreditDonkey.com.

 

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