The Downfalls of Double Majoring

The Downfalls of Double Majoring

College is a time where you learn what you're going to do for the rest of your life, but studying multiple things at the same time isn't going to help you succeed quicker.
July 23, 2017
8 mins read


In a competitive job market, college students need to do whatever they can to stand out to future employers. Combined with ever-increasing tuition costs, this way of thinking often leads students to feel obligated to pursue more than one major in order to get the most out of their education. Lisa Ward, writer for the “Wall Street Journal,” writes that “by gaining expertise in two different areas, many believe, students will have a significant edge when it comes to launching and advancing a career.”

However, depending on the circumstances, pursuing two majors can actually leave students worse off. It usually means sacrificing experience for coursework and can lead to a lower GPA. For this reason, a student contemplating double-majoring should only do so if they are passionate enough about both subjects to make the necessary sacrifices, or if each major teaches unique skills that lend themselves to the career that the student wants to pursue. Otherwise, the choice probably won’t pay off.

Having a double major will mean that most of your coursework is dominated by major classes. As a result, you’ll have less time for electives, a fact that has two major drawbacks. You won’t have the flexibility to take some easier courses to lighten up your schedule—which, in turn, means that your course load will generally be heavier—and you’ll have less time to explore non-academic interests such as painting or yoga.

In addition, having to constantly go back and forth between subjects during your classes and while studying may negatively affect your grades, as doing so prevents you from giving the necessary attention to your coursework. Constantly transitioning between two topics can be tough, and could impede your ability to concentrate on each. According to Kelsey Sheehy from “U.S. News,” double-majoring will force students to juggle two sets of academic requirements and splitting their focus could result in lower grades in both areas.

In addition to the extra stress, the heavier course load that comes with having two majors will leave you with less time to dedicate to your social life and extracurricular activities on campus, especially if you’re trying to pack in extra classes to graduate on time. Extracurriculars provide an additional opportunity for students to specialize in the area that they want to pursue following graduation, as well as help them to learn skills that wouldn’t be picked up in class.

For instance, if you join a club and take on a leadership position, you’ll be able to work on your public speaking skills and your ability to effectively organize and manage events, an experience that you could later brag about on your resume. When double-majoring, however, you run the risk of missing out on the practical experience that would set you apart. You’ll also find yourself less focused on internships, which are crucial in getting ahead when applying for jobs after graduation, a fact that is especially true if you’ll need to take summer courses to graduate in four years. As a result, double-majors are often less marketable to employers than students with only one specialization.

Especially when you’re pursuing two relatively unrelated subjects, a double major can make your resume appear unfocused. Instead of being seen as an expert in one area, employers will see you as spreading yourself too thin. Other students will prove their dedication to the subject by taking part in professional fraternities and other related campus organizations that you may not have had time to participate in. You’ll have to put some extra work into targeting your application to a specific field and demonstrating your interest in it. Otherwise, your potential employers might be confused about your interests and career goals and disregard your application in favor of someone more demonstrably dedicated to the area.

If, on the other hand, you decide to study two similar or overlapping subjects, such as Communications and Business, the skills that you’re learning in each area probably won’t be diverse enough to make it worthwhile. According to Lisa Ward, “part of the problem…is that while double-majoring is fairly common (at about twenty percent, according to the 2010 National Survey of College Graduates) most double majors are in related areas that provide limited educational diversity.”

When double-majoring, students should be learning information and skills that are varied, but that can both be applied to one sector. If your majors are too similar, you’re wasting your time; on the other hand, if they’re too different, you’ll end up having to choose one to pursue, rather than being able to combine them.

While a lot of students pursuing two majors are still able to graduate on time, this is only made possible by taking extra courses during the semester or over the summer. Again, that’s time that could otherwise be spent interning or even taking on a part-time job. If, on the other hand, you decide that you don’t want to over-pack your schedule and instead space out your coursework, this would mean spending an extra semester or year in college.

As a result, in addition to the time that you’ll be sacrificing while staying in school, you’ll also have to incur the extra cost of tuition—while simultaneously putting off the prospect of obtaining a full-time job. If the benefit of your double major is not going to pay off in the long-run in terms of the type of job that it will allow you to secure, the extra time and tuition costs probably aren’t worth it.

College is a stressful time, regardless of what you’re studying. Adding a second major will undoubtedly increase the pressure as you try to fit in two sets of course requirements, sacrifice the opportunity to take fun classes and struggle to maintain grades that are competitive with those of students studying only one subject. In addition to taking more demanding classes, you’ll also have less time to gain outside experience. The benefits of double-majoring come in only when you have a strong reason to do so; if you’re not sure about it, it’s best to just focus on one subject.

Christine Ascher, USC

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Christine Ascher

English & Economics

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