Double Your Major, Double Your Worth: Why Students Should Pursue Double Majors
As increasing numbers of Americans enroll in universities, students often find themselves concerned that they either do not stand out or have the necessary knowledge or skills to make themselves highly desirable to employers and grad schools. This is because, as the number of Americans attending college grows, so does the amount of degrees given out. Although on the face of it it seems a good idea, having a larger number of people going to college has the unintended side effect of lowering the perceived value of bachelor's and other undergraduate degrees. After all, if everybody has a bachelor's degree now, what makes you so special? This has lead to many of my friends and relatives lamenting that undergraduate degrees have become like high school degrees, in that whereas both once guaranteed employment in certain kinds of work, neither can assure any such thing in the current economic environment. One way is to participate in extracurricular activities like student government and community service to demonstrate you have aptitude and interests outside of the academic sphere. But what about students who went to go on to grad school or straight into fields like journalism or writing? What can one do to stand out from thousands of other students who took the same classes, got the same grades, and ultimately got the same diploma? The answer is to widen the scope of your diploma, something that can be accomplished simply by enrolling in a double major program.
Of course, young undergrads may understandably be loath to consider such a course of action. After all, many feel they have enough work and stress to cope with as it is, so why double the burden? Well, for one thing, the benefits may very well outweigh the costs. While it is true you will have more requirements to complete, you will also have more information to draw from multiple areas of study, something that employers and grad school admissions officers will look favorably upon as it demonstrates that you have knowledge of and competence in multiple subjects rather than just a single, narrowly-defined one. A magazine that covers political news and events will be up to it's ears in applicants who studied political science, but how many of these applicants studied political science and, say, English? Not only will someone who studied these two topics have the knowledge of politics necessary to write for such a paper, but their knowledge and experience with English means they will be able to write in a thoughtful, engaging manner that attracts readers and thus revenue. You would also increase the amount of grad schools you could apply to, as you would have a degree that establishes your capabilities in two subjects. This is, considering the highly competitive nature of graduate programs and likelihood that you won't end up at your dream school, something aspiring grad students should keep in mind. Another edge you would have over your peers is the wide network of contacts you will build over the course of your double major program. Grad schools require applicants submit up to three letters of recommendation, with many usually clarifying that said letters should be from professors. As a double major student, one would have the opportunity to cultivate lasting relationships with professors in two departments and by extension, have many options when it comes to requesting letters of recommendation. Options being, essentially, the fruit of the hard work that comes with a double major.
I say hard work not to discourage students, but to make sure they understand what is expected of them in such a program. The process of entering such a program varies from college to college, but applying is nothing compared to the requirements of such a program. On top of your general education requirements and those of your original major, you also have to complete all of the requirements of whichever secondary program you are enrolling in. This could mean taking summer classes or attending school for five years rather than four if you do not stay on top of your progress. I would like to note that these two scenarios are not necessarily bad: indeed, I myself completed work for my bachelor's degree during the summer, and I can hardly find anything bad to say about it. If you plan to graduate within the four years it takes most students to graduate, however, then you must take it upon yourself to make sure each class you enroll in brings you closer to completing your studies in either subject. This means planning early on, with freshman year being dedicated to getting as many as general elective courses out of the way as possible before you start doing pre-req's for either field you wish to pursue. Taking to a counselor or department advisor about your schedule and overall academic progress is highly advised, since they can identify any shortages that might arise as a result of doubling your degree requirements, and doubling your responsibilities. I know newly-admitted undergrads might not like to hear that word (believe me, I was one once), but think of it this way: if you have to eventually learn responsibility, why not learn it in a way and at a time that gives you a head-ups over others? It requires a lot of commitment and a lot of thought, but if you can muster either of these, then why not go for that double major?