Is it worth getting a double major?
Whether you're a shell-shocked first-year student or a second-year student who is moderately seasoned, whether you should do a double major is a question you might be asking yourself. In Bangladesh, only private university students get the chance to complete a dual degree owing to the open credit system.
As a double major student myself, I have mixed feelings on the issue. Completing a double major has its benefits; it looks great on your portfolio and will leave any employer impressed that you can handle twice the pressure that most students do. However, at the end of my undergrad life, I found myself asking if the end goal is to get a lucrative job or to get into a good graduate school abroad – is doing a double major justifiable?
"Getting a double major gives you an edge for Masters"
The answer is both "yes" and "no", since it depends on the university you'll be applying to.
"In the UK, advisors won't let you do a dual major in a similar discipline. They always recommend getting complimentary degrees so that your second major adds value to your first degree. For example, a computer science degree paired with economics adds a lot of value since, fundamentally, both subjects deal with data in varying fields. But of course, having a double major gives you an edge," said Prinon Elom, a chemical engineering major at the University of Newcastle.
On the flip side, Anuva Annanya, a Ph.D. student at the Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration, sheds a different light on the matter.
"In my experience, it doesn't really make or break anything if you get a double major. And if one is pursuing a double major, it really depends on what you do with it or how you showcase it in your applications. For graduate schools in the USA, a double major is not a determining factor for an incoming student. I graduated with a double major in Geology and Anthropology in my undergrad. While applying for grad school, I've found some universities do not care about my double major at all, while at the same time, I've also come across planetary scientists, coming from a pure science background, commenting on how valuable it is that I've also majored in Anthropology," she said.
"It's easy to get a double major done within four years if you're determined"
The statement is an oversimplification, and determination isn't the only thing that is required for you to get a double major. Not that it isn't possible, but more often than not, universities in Bangladesh are not equipped to provide students with the right ecosystem to complete a double major. Different departments have different metrics under which they consider a dual major to be complete, which means that while some departments require an additional 18 credits, it might be the whole 120 to 127 credits for other departments. For a student interested in a double major, the very first order of business should be to clear out the details with the academic advisor.
Secondly, if you are choosing to do a double major, you must know that you do not have the option to take things slow if you want to finish within four years. This means that every semester you must register for a minimum of five courses to stay on track. This obviously puts students in a pressure cooker. While there will be faculty members and seniors constantly talking about the pros of a double major, as the person having to go through with it, you must practically consider if you can handle the pressure.
"A double major helps you develop skillsets in two disciplines"
First of all, you need to consider what your priorities are. Is it to get ready for graduate school as soon as possible? Then a double major shouldn't be your priority. Rather, it should be to consistently maintain good grades throughout your university life and focus on building skills and requirements in the fields you want to apply to.
However, if you're the sort of student who needs to be held accountable, then a double major is extremely helpful in that regard since you have to constantly show up for classes and exams; otherwise, you will falter in your grade.
On an ending note, it must be said that in university, it gets tough to handle one major, let alone two, and you shouldn't ever beat yourself up for it if you eventually decide not to get a second major. You shouldn't look back and regret your decision either because there are many ways to meet the edge that your double major contemporaries have. And for those of you deciding to get a dual degree, drink loads of water and get enough sleep; you'll need it.
Nazifa Raidah is a student at Independent University, Bangladesh.