Opposite major/minor

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tommyboy611
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Opposite major/minor

Postby tommyboy611 » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:35 am UTC

Is it feasable to, say, have two very different major/minor concentrations in college; for example: if you took a Physics major and an English or Lit minor at the same time. What I mean by feasable is things like: course workload, not having enough depth in either subject, etc. Also, if it would be okay, then which would be a better to major in?
(I'm asking from the point of view of a highschool junior who wants to be ready and not waste time once I get to college.)

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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 03, 2011 2:58 am UTC

I'm sure, but I wager you might have trouble with conflicting class times.
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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby KestrelLowing » Wed Aug 03, 2011 6:21 am UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:I'm sure, but I wager you might have trouble with conflicting class times.

It really depends on your school for that one, but I've found (sample size, my friends at about 3 colleges, so small) that humanities classes are more often Tuesday-Thursday and STEM classes are more often Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Of course this will vary tons between schools and it's by no means a general rule.

Getting an opposite minor is possible, but you just have to do the math. Generally, most people feel most comfortable with 12-18 credit hours (12 is the minimum for full-time student most places). However, if you do a minor that has basically no overlapping classes, you'll always be on the top end of that, possibly in the 20 hour range. Note that usually to take that many credits, you have to get permission, so you probably will not be able to do so your freshman year. Just for a reference, I'm definitely working hard at about 18 credits with a full load of engineering classes (no introductory ones) and I think that's about the right amount for me. I was a straight A student in high school and spent nearly all the time I had either at robotics or marching band. Basically, I'm saying that 18 is actually a fair amount, even if you're used to having a somewhat above average work ethic. While I could handle more, I wouldn't want to as I'd like to enjoy college. Once again, this will depend on your classes and your profs.

If you haven't picked out a school yet, just pick a convenient one that you know of that offers what you're thinking of. See if you can find their course requirements and see if you can hash out a plan to see how long it would take you at ~18 credits per semester to graduate (make sure to factor in any credits you may have already received, and don't forget about prereqs - sometimes the minors assume you have a similar background so some prereqs aren't actually required for the minor, but required for other classes you take for the minor). If you think that amount of time is acceptable (think about how you're going to pay for it), go for it! Having both 'sides' of academia will certainly not count against you later on in life and will likely be a benefit.

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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby B.Good » Wed Aug 03, 2011 6:59 am UTC

It is certainly possible. I know someone who is majoring in Physics, astronomy (which is basically six classes beyond the physics major here), and classics (i.e. ancient Greek and Latin) he says he wants to be like Galileo but knowing him I'm convinced he has a sincere interest in all three subjects. He seems to be coming along very well (I think he's a rising senior) and, as far as I know, he has never had a conflict with scheduling. In fact, it may be in a sense easier to double major in two different fields of study. In most schools, you have to do more than just fulfill the degree requirements for both majors. I'll use my home institution as an example, here every additional degree you wish to obtain requires at least 30 more credits. This may make a physics/astronomy major a bit more difficult than I made it seem earlier since there are so few unique courses required for an astronomy major, one may have to go on to take graduate physics/astronomy classes although I know of quite a few people who do this anyway.

One a slightly different note, only double major if you are sincerely interested in both fields of study. If you want to go to grad school or get a job in one of those fields of study in particular, it may be more beneficial to go as far into that field of study as you can in the four or five years that you have. Although, I'm not completely belittling the applicability of the skills you may gain with one of those degrees to the other. For example, the skills you acquire with an English degree may help you write papers and grants and so forth. Also a physics degree may help you if you wanted to be a sci-fi writer you could come up with some cool and scientifically accurate ideas.

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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed Aug 03, 2011 7:36 am UTC

B.Good wrote:One a slightly different note, only double major if you are sincerely interested in both fields of study. If you want to go to grad school or get a job in one of those fields of study in particular, it may be more beneficial to go as far into that field of study as you can in the four or five years that you have.

I don't think this is true; grad programs might be impressed by someone who minored or doubled in something totally different because it means that person cultivates an academic interest and pursued it. More often than not, an interview will include questions about things outside of what you're interviewing for; if you can demonstrate yourself to be able to talk about things outside of science, you'll probably connect better. I'm not saying sacrifice depth at the behest of breadth, but don't think the only path to success is writing a Nature paper worthy senior thesis and focusing on nothing else.

KestrelLowing wrote:It really depends on your school for that one, but I've found (sample size, my friends at about 3 colleges, so small) that humanities classes are more often Tuesday-Thursday and STEM classes are more often Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Of course this will vary tons between schools and it's by no means a general rule.

I would say that varies quite widely. What I meant by time conflict is that if what you are interested in has labs or discussion sections, which is pretty much any course in the handbook, it's likely that some of those labs are going to conflict with courses from different subjects.
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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby Bakemaster » Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:43 pm UTC

Often the classes for a minor can be taken openly without having to make an official declaration as is usually done with a major. Once you have taken a certain combination of core classes and/or electives, you can have the minor noted on your transcript and diploma. However, the main benefit of this minor notation is in advertising yourself to grad schools and employers. If you're only interested in the coursework, there's a very good chance you can just take the coursework when it becomes available and fits into your schedule, and if you complete the minor before graduation then that's a little extra bonus; if not, you took the courses you wanted and were able to take. You can still note relevant coursework outside your major on an application or resume without having a minor explicitly listed on your transcript and diploma.
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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby podbaydoor » Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:32 pm UTC

I majored in journalism and minored in Information Technology. I was one of maybe three students who were halfway in the journalism school and halfway in the engineering school - normally the two fields don't overlap and the students don't mingle much. Anyway, yes, it is totally possible, but like any consideration in college, you have to take into account the amount of time and work you want to put into it.
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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby charolastra » Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:23 pm UTC

I have a friend who double majored in neuroscience and theatre (arguably the most demanding-of-one's-time major). He's in grad school for neuroscience and working in professional theatre now. It can be done.

But you have to be smart about the university you choose. For instance, I double majored (international studies and politics) and double minored (Latin American studies and environmental science) in a 3 1/2 years with little AP credit because my university, Brandeis, made it fairly easy to do. Gen eds could mostly be fit into your majors and minors as long as you had at least one arts based field of study and one of science (which was probably the biggest reason why I could do what I did). I was one class away from making one of those minors (LALS) a 3rd major and 1 class away from 2 other minors (anthropology and history). I probably would have triple majored/triple minored if not for picking up environmental science my senior year with only 1 class from abroad in the field prior.

I specifically picked my college because they mentioned on the tour that it's the NORM rather than the EXCEPTION for people to at least double major. Mine were interrelated enough that I could do so many. I really describe it as just a very focused program of study (land and water rights/sustainable development in Latin America) versus 4 disparate programs. My year abroad complimented them. To be fair, from day 1, I knew I wanted to at least double major and have a minor so I made sure to max out on classes every term, find complimenting internships and programs abroad, and take the right classes.

I knew lots of computer science/social science double majors and my RA was a physics/politics double major with an environmental science minor. And he was an RA which takes up TONS of time.

Make sure when you go on tours and talk to admissions departments that you talk about the feasibility of double majors. Look at the course catalogs. Look at gen ed requirements. Most departments have undergraduate representatives who are students - seek those people out and email them with your questions. They'd know best what life is like on the ground.

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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby Andromeda321 » Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:11 am UTC

Seeing as I did a physics major with a history minor, yep I'd say it's entirely possible. :D

Firstly it worked out well because I needed to take some humanities courses anyway so I got some history ones in there to fulfill the requirement (I already knew I was going to do physics). It's true that there are some conflicting course issues but the trick of a science vs humanities crossover is the science ones couldn't really budge so I just had to filter the history ones accordingly so I could find things that interested me in my free time- which was cool because I ended up doing things like Viking History, or a Pacific History course when I was doing my semester abroad...

I will point out I easily could've majored in both physics and history, but the trick is there were rather minimal requirements for the minor whereas the major had several required courses I wasn't interested in, so I really didn't see the point. And I'm so happy I did the history classes- for one thing they were easy compared to physics so they helped my transcript, and second they kept me sane as it's nice to have something completely different to think about I think. :)

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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby KestrelLowing » Fri Aug 05, 2011 11:52 am UTC

Andromeda321 wrote:... and second they kept me sane as it's nice to have something completely different to think about I think. :)


That is something really, really true - at least for me. If you've always been more of a 'well rounded person' (aka, interested in more than one subject), college can be a little intense. I ended up minoring in German and I'm still very active in band. I think if I didn't have these other things, I'd go nuts! Obviously you don't need a minor or anything to not always focus on one thing, but it can be a nice break - either from too much math or too much writing!

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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby clever_username » Sun Aug 07, 2011 2:37 am UTC

There are also schools which let you design your own major, if there's some connection between the subjects you're thinking about. Look into the Echols program at UVa, too, or other programs like it. They waive all gen ed requirements and let you focus on what you want from the first semester, so you'd have more time for your minor. That's what I'm doing, and it's very liberating.

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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby doogly » Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:54 am UTC

The thing that can either make or break such a plan is distrib requirements. If you do, say, physics and english, and you are at Dartmouth (my undergrad, only place where I know the distrib requirements offhand), you might have to scramble for your ART, SOC, SOC, TMV (or PHR, if you graduated back when I did), since everything you take is either LIT or SCI. If instead you do physics and classics, it's much easier to get a variety of things that count for different distribs all as part of one major. This incongruity is something that is very dependent on each school's distrib requirements, and the major requirements of the things you are interested in.

So, certainly plausible, but highly context dependent.

And actually, even without these forces helping you, you can probably still pull it off. It is harder though if your idea of a physics major is "grad school readiness" rather than just "minimal requirements for the degree."
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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby mcvoid » Fri Aug 12, 2011 6:55 pm UTC

In my institution two majors in opposite ends of the spectrum will get you two degrees (BA/BSc), though you'll have to use different classes to fill the requirements beyond the core cirriculum. Two majors both in Arts or Science will get you a single degree in two different fields and the classes are allowed to overlap both requirements. Minors are the same, and it's easier to get something related to your major because there's fewer classes to take overall. For instance, my major is CS, but to get a Math minor I only need linear algebra and diff. eq. and it makes the CS major's "optional 6 hours of UD math elective in place of UD CS electives" mandatory instead. Of course, the two are so close, it's almost cheating.

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Re: Opposite major/minor

Postby acablue » Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:25 am UTC

Everyone I've talked to who's already graduated has told me that graduate schools (especially law schools) love double majors, even if they're not related at all. In fact, it seems like you can take anything and tack on mathematics to it, and law schools will cream their pants. I guess people in both the humanities and sciences are considered well-versed.


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