The True Cost of a Double Major

By Tien Hoang , Class of 2017

Having another major is often a cause of college-anxiety and results in unwarranted stress. (Photo Courtesy of Sidney Dills)

Why do students choose to double major? For many students, their reasons and justifications for double majoring boil down to one simple concept: status anxiety. Apprehensive about getting a job after graduation, students hope to make their college transcripts more desirable to employers. In light of this, is it worth it to double major? Maybe not as much as one might think.

College students live in a bubble of anxiety. They are anxious because they do not know where their passions lie. They are anxious to make the most out of their education. They want to join the activities that will bring them enjoyment while brightening their resumes. They fear (deeply and secretly) that their GPAs are not high enough. They want to know the average grade in their classes for every single test. They want to increase their chances to get into competitive graduate school or great internship programs. They want to be successful, acknowledged, and loved.

This anxiety flows throughout campus, prevalent in graduate school and career fairs that remind students to be cautious and to choose wisely. It is promoted by a world where people continuously experience depression after crisis, unemployment after long lay-off period, one market trend after another. It is undeniable that we live in a world where there is no guarantee that people will earn what they deserve. Anxiety is fostered by our society which requires results and productivity, by employers looking for competitive applicants, by parents anxious to maximize the return on investment they made in their child’s education. This anxiety is driving Furman students to save themselves and find a secure ground.

Having a double major might seem to be the key to unknotting this anxiety. A double major seems to indicate that students will have two career options to choose once they graduate from college. A double major demonstrates a level of rigorous academic performance, discipline, and time management. Students are able satisfy their passions and make themselves marketable to employers. These reasons only touch on the tip of an iceberg as to why having a double major seems to be beneficial. However, are these claims true? Not always.

Employers and graduate admissions do not care much of what one’s major is much less how many majors one graduates with so much as the courses that one has taken while at school, one’s GPA, and one’s experience.

Secondly, the desire for a double major title seems to blind students to the fact that they can get the same number of courses they want in a major without finishing all that major’s requirements. While double majoring, students will inevitably encounter classes that they find dry, useless and overly time-consuming, courses they could skip by simply unofficially double majoring without completing all major requirements.

Finally, one can never get the best of both worlds. By this, I do not mean that Furman students could not handle the course load or that they could not get 4.0 for two majors. With double majors, however, students have less time to take electives that might benefit their focus of study. For example, a student might not have enough time to turn a good economic research paper into a potentially published or acclaimed because she was too occupied with a 300-level Modern Language course she did not care very much about. In short, as double major, it is easy to miss the chance to become highly acclaimed in one particular field.

This is not to discourage everyone from choosing to double major. It all depends on specific situations: What will be the student’s second major? What will the student have to sacrifice to double majoring? Will it be social life, spiritual life, family life, or a whole summer interning for a dream company, traveling to different places, and volunteering to help those in need through a non-profit organization? It takes time to understand the full picture of what it means to have a double major because at the end of the day, double majoring is a lot more than just adding more ink to one’s transcript. Just as the conditions for being an efficient double major are based on individual circumstances, so is the outcome and result of declaring that second major. Whether the decision is worthwhile or not is a subjective topic, but before making rash decisions concerning how the rest of your Furman days will be spent, think twice.

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