Picture yourself at a restaurant with your friends. The huge menu leaves you bewildered, and you really can’t decide between a delicious burger and tasty pasta. Why not both? you think. But unless both your wallet and stomach are bottomless pits, two entrees might not be the best idea. You finally decide to order both, and guess what? You feel sick. Too many options can often overwhelm us, especially when we talk about choosing a college major. We can choose from so many subjects, so taking on two majors may seem enticing. More is always better, right? Think again. Contrary to popular belief, student experience and studies show you can get a lot more out of college by sticking to just one entrée supplemented with a few side dishes.
While many students think that a double major gives them a richer education, it may actually limit their studies. Most universities advocate for depth and breadth in education. In double majoring, you gain depth in two subjects, but you miss out on a well-rounded, broad education in the process. When I entered college, I made up my mind to double major in Media Studies and English. I figured since I paid thousands of dollars to attend college, I should get the most comprehensive education possible. I soon realized that in order to complete both degrees in four years, I’d have to take four classes every semester, leaving myself no wiggle room to take any other random class that interested me.
Realistically, you won’t have enough room in your schedule to take classes all across the major gamut if you plan to fulfill required classes. So if you decide to double major in political science and English, you’ll gain a deep understanding of both subjects, but you won’t be able to fit in classes on science, anthropology or hospitality. If you decide to major in just one of those subjects, however, you gain a deep understanding of one subject and leave yourself room in your schedule to explore a broad array of topics on the side.
“Breadth and depth are key to a good education. Confucius knew that way back in the days of ancient China. He advocated for a true understanding of one subject, supplemented by a broad array of different subjects. And I wouldn’t know that had I not taken a class on Confucius, which is way outside of my major,” said chemical engineering freshman Ramiro Rojas.
But won’t a double major help you with job prospects? In reality, your field of study and your real world experiences boost your resume more than just two degrees. “I’m a chemical engineering major at Cal and there is so much work. There’s no way I can take on anymore. I know STEM makes the big bucks, so this is the sacrifice I have to make,” said Rojas. “I really enjoy literature so I take a few classes in the English department, but I don’t want to major in English. I don’t want to take the Chaucer to Milton survey course requirement. I mean that stuff isn’t even in English, man. The single major life is the best life,” said Rojas.
Additionally, job recruiters find double majors much less impressive than a well-rounded student with good real life experience. “Double majors usually make no difference to me in reviewing a candidate’s resume. I look at the totality of the resume and for relevant experiences. Someone with a minor in a particularly relevant course of study or who has an internship experience in a particular field is given just as much weight as a double major,” said UC Berkeley alumna and philanthropy consultant Lynn Alvarez.
Research universities aren’t vocational training, and a degree equips you with the prerequisite skill of thinking analytically, but does not give you all the other traits needed in the workplace. Therefore if you double major, both of your majors inevitably train you in analytical thinking but fail to provide real life experience. Instead of supplementing your major with another major, go for experiences like clubs and internships to help your chances of employment.
If you want to graduate on time, get the most out of your education and gain the freedom to take classes you want, take up one major. One major will allow you to boost your resume, save you time and allow you to get involved in internships or clubs pertinent to the job you want. “An undergraduate education teaches you how to think critically. But my club involvement and internships are what have really taught me to put what I learn in class into practice,” said Rojas.
While filling up on a burger and pasta may sound enticing at first, do yourself a favor and order just one. Get a side of French fries, or maybe get an appetizer you’ve never tried before. It’ll be worth it.