Thursday, November 08, 2007

An academic question

I was talking to a student during office hours, and I asked her what she was studying. Her answer: Two majors (Anthro and Soci) and two minors (Poly Sci and Philosophy). Now, she's an extreme case, but it seems to be relatively common for UConn students to have multiple majors or multiple minors.

As an undergrad, I only knew one person with a double major, so my impression is that multiple degrees are getting to be more common.

Two questions, then:

Is that your impression?

If so, why the change?


Doing Better Than I Deserve said...

My daughter started as an English major, then she wanted to double-major in English and Drama. She ended up writing her own degree plan that combines English and Drama into a one-of-a-kind degree. The job title of her ideal job / career is "wife & mother", BTW.

I think that the reasons she semi-double-majored are 2:

(1) Because she easily could
(2) Because she had been brought up with more self-confidence, more self-awareness, more self-sufficiency, more SELF than previous generations. So she wants to self-actualize (or at least she thinks she does).

So I agree with your impression. And the reasons are (1) and (2) above.

There are good and bad sides to this. (No surprise there.) The good is that younglings are getting better at training themselves for a career in what they do best. The bad is that they are focusing more on self.

My $.02

Nate Loucks said...

I double majored (Biblical Literature & Christian Ministries) and double minored (philosophy & Biblical languages). I think I did it for the same reason as stated above me; it was easy to do it. There was so much overlap that I just had to give up most of my electives and it was done. I was only three classes away from a tri-major (my philosophy minor) but I finally realized that a philosophy major really only qualifies you to work in a factory.

Matt Wiebe said...

My guess is that the multiple majors is expressing a drive towards interdisciplinarity (I likely invented that word, but you should get the gist) in academics generally speaking. I think people are tired of the hermetically sealed walls of the disciplines and this is finding expression in things like double majors. I'm doing a B.A. Honors in the Humanities myself, which could nearly be called a quad-major.

Casey said...

I double majored in Accounting and Business Admin. My college made it easy to double major. At that time, it was the only double major they set up to be fairly easy to achieve in four years. So, I guess I did it because it was fairly easy to do...and because it looked, that makes me sound like a great person.

Dan Myers said...

We have the same thing going on at ND. My impression is that there are two main factors--one structural and the other cultural. The cultural one is a credentialing craze brought about in part as people try to get "more for their money" out of their degrees.

The structural one is that AP credits have expanded radically since you and I were in school. Back then you could get credit for maybe 1-3 classes. Now, people are stepping foot on campus for the first times with enough credits to be sophomores. That frees up a lot of time in the schedule to add another major.

Brad Wright said...

Interesting ideas... Summarizing across the comments, it sounds like

1) Multiple degrees are easier to get, in part because of AP credits.

2) Multiple degrees are desirable to get for credential purposes and inter-disciplinary interests.

Related to the second point, I wonder if it's part of what appears to be the growing trend of waiting later in life to choose a career. That is, don't want to be locked into something.

Nate Loucks said...

This is just a side question to this: They put my double major on one degree certificate. Did anyone else get this? I did two majors so why not give me two pieces of paper! It's not THAT much to ask.

Anonymous said...


I had the same experience. And also wanted two degrees (I'm now collecting more in grad school, so maybe that makes up for it).

As to why: I'd agree with earlier commenters. I majored in soc and history, and did so because it was structurally fairly easy. It did take one 19 credit hour semester and one 16 or 17 semester; aside from those thoug the way my pre-reqs fit together it was really easy to finish off two.

And that was with me finishing in 4 years. Now that I'm teaching undergrads, I've talked to students that are taking significantly longer and have even more majors.

sapience said...

Another aspect in some cases may be the professionalization of the university. More students are looking for degrees that they can parlay into a job. However, there is still a strong liberal arts tendency, where you ought to take a degree with some humanistic value, but not necessarily one that correlates to specific jobs (like English!).

Anonymous said...

Also, a lot of work is interdisciplinary now. I am getting a second graduate degree in stats to complement my first in marketing, but most of what I do combines both.