Do or don’t: Deciding to double major

The question college students most often hear from adults is definitely, “What are you studying?” It’s a difficult question, made no simpler by all the choices Barnumbia offers. Deciding on one major is hard enough, but what happens when you have the option of choosing two?

Every year, two-thirds of Columbia sophomores declare more than one program of study, but only one-third end up actually accomplishing what they set out to do. A lot of our schedules are already taken up by Core/Foundations/9WoK requirements (not to mention any of you overachieving preprofessionals), so double majoring would mean having even less elective space and (more importantly, imo) free time.

If you decide to double major, you may end up taking five, six, seven classes per semester to make ends meet. So, before you commit to the long term, think about the reasoning behind your decision.

You have multiple very strong passions

If you’re so enthusiastic about two subjects that you really want to explore in depth (and potentially have the opportunity to do some advanced research in), then double major, but seriously consider the amount of time you’ll have to sacrifice to do work for two majors. You really do have to love both fields so much that you don’t mind the extra work you’re putting in. (As a poster in my local library said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”)

Alternatively, you could choose to declare one major and one minor, or (if you’re CC) two minors, to lessen the required course load. You can still study both subjects in greater depth, and still have extra time for yourself. However, if you’re deadset on majoring in both subjects, then be sure to take everything below into account.

If your two majors are really different, none of your courses will overlap, meaning that you’ll be taking on nearly double what a single-major student would do in their four years. If these two fields are somewhat aligned, however, you might be able to double-count some of your courses (if you’re in CC or GS). If anything, at least a lot of the material you’ll be learning will be somewhat similar—that way, you don’t have to constantly jump back and forth between molecular biology and music theory.

You think it will make you more appealing to [insert employer here]

In today’s topsy-turvy world, the future is uncertain. One big source of concern is the age-old “What am I going to do when I graduate?” If you think that double majoring is the solution to your working woes, think again. The CCE (and pretty much any college advisor you’ll talk to) says that it won’t make you more attractive to employers (yes, this even pertains to you pre-meds and pre-laws).

You don’t necessarily have to commit to an entirely new and additional major to learn marketable skills—taking courses in those fields is usually good enough to show off your smarts. You’d probably benefit more from going in greater depth in a single field and taking some other courses than from trying to learn a lot about two simultaneously.

You want to be knowledgeable in multiple fields to prepare you for your future career

We’ll use an example for this one: Let’s say your childhood dream was to work for the EPA. If you really think that being the best EPA-er means learning the full curriculum of both political and environmental science (instead of just choosing one and taking additional courses in the other when you can), then you can give it a try. (If it’s been your childhood dream, the subjects are probably two which you are very passionate about.)

However, for most careers (even the EPA, which has over 15,000 employees in science and humanities), listing more than one major is only an attempt to boost your résumé (which, we mentioned before, doesn’t really work). And there’s nothing wrong with that—you just have to ask yourself if it’s worth investing a lot of time that you could spend elsewhere (job hunting, joining extracurriculars, enjoying the city, etc.).

You can, so you are

You have 15 AP credits and you’re convinced that 1.) You’re hot shit, and 2.) It frees up enough space for you to double major. (News flash: It doesn’t.) This is probably the worst reason to double major because you don’t even have any motivation behind it. Just don’t even bother.

It’s a lot of extra work to double major, so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. (And even if you’re doing it for the right reasons, make sure you can take on the extra course load and won’t regret not being able to spend as much time doing other typical “college” things.)

Are you double majoring? What do you think about it? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Victoria Yang is a SEAS first-year and Spectrum staff writer. Since she is in SEAS and does not want to spend five years in college, double majoring was never an option. Reach her at


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