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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Multiple majors misses the point

Published: November 9, 2012
Section: Opinions

Brandeisians’ deep need to major and minor in many subjects is so ingrained in our campus culture that it was featured in the popular video, “Sh*t Brandeis Students Don’t Say, Part 2.” A girl is shown going to the registrar, saying, “Hi, um, can I declare my one major and zero minors?”

Whether it is a double major, a triple major, or multiple minors, it appears that everyone here pursues more than just one field of study. In fact, this multitude of majors is something with which our school prides itself. I remember a Brandeis representative who visited my high school during my senior year and made it one of his selling points. And I’ve passed by more than one tour group as the guide explains how easy it is to double or even triple major. The most common combination, I’ve found, is the double major and single minor. But why do we, as Brandeis students, feel the need to have so many majors and minors?

Perhaps it’s because it’s so easy to just pick up another minor or major here. I’ve gone to several “Meet the Majors” events where a professor or student will tell me, “Well, if you’re interested in it, you should just minor! The requirements are easy!” But it’s at times like those when I wonder why I would minor in something just for the sake of having that extra minor. It seems to me that many students end up trying to build their resume with many minors and majors simply because it is easy to do so. Ultimately, this practice creates shallow understandings of subjects. At Brandeis, instead of students prioritizing and focusing all their energy on one or two subjects, they spread out their focus in order to try and add on another major or minor.

It’s not that Brandeis students don’t care about or are not interested in their majors—it’s just that choosing to have three majors instead of one forces you to limit the amount of time you spend on each major. Why not choose the one you really love and then just explore the other subjects? Why does having as many majors as possible take precedence over the in-depth, expansive education you could achieve with just one major?

Choosing one major would allow you to focus on your passion. It is hard to truly delve into your area of passion if you are stretched-thin because you must fulfill all of the requirements for the three minors and two majors you are pursuing. One major exemplifies what it is you want to concentrate on and you can explore all other subjects to whatever extent you wish.

Not too long ago, I was talking to a professor about studying abroad and whether or not I should go for one semester or two. What if I want to pick up a second major, I asked, and couldn’t complete my requirements (should I study abroad for a year)? The world doesn’t care how many majors you have, my professor told me. And to give up studying abroad for a whole year, just for that reason? He recommended I not worry about it.

If your main worry is to build up your resume, there are different (and better) ways to do that; you can put down specific classes on your resume to show how you are prepared for a job, you don’t have to have a major in that area. You can study abroad for a whole year and truly master a language. You can get a super awesome internship during the summer. You don’t have to major or minor in something as a way of proving that you are interested in a subject and prepared to tackle it in the real world—you can be perfectly prepared to enter the job industry without majoring in everything relevant to your field.

There are also things more valuable than having multiple majors; there are things in getting a college degree that are more important than being able to succeed in the real world. Education and the process of learning in themselves are incredibly valuable, regardless of whether or not you end up majoring in your career field. Exploring topics in a way that doesn’t include pursuing three majors—just taking an environmental class, a class on gender studies, or a politics class once or twice during your college career can have an incredible value. You can take what you learned in those classes and apply them to your field of interest, instead of having multiple fields of interest and never getting any different perspectives. Two majors and a minor? Unless you’re deeply passionate about all those things, I would say don’t do it.