Twenty nine percent of Wesleyan seniors graduated with degrees in more than one major in 2011, a nine percent increase from 10 years ago, according to Assistant Director of Institutional Research Rommel Guadalupe. The number of double and triple majors has been steadily increasing for over 10 years.
Dean for the Class of 2013 Louise Brown explained that, for many students, the decision to choose more than one major may be a result of pressure in an increasingly competitive job market.
“Sometimes, it’s really true that a [decision to] double major is out of a student’s academic love of two different subjects,” Brown said. “But it’s not always motivated by love of subject but rather, or also by, this notion of marketability. As the job market gets more competitive, people think having more than one major will make them more marketable. I think students find that they don’t get the kind of breadth that they’re looking for in a liberal arts education.”
Evan DelGaudio ’12, a mathematics and theater double major, has had a generally positive experience double majoring.
“At this point, it looks like I’ll be pursuing theater full time when I get out of college, but I’m glad that while I was here I was able to study something so removed from my future career,” DelGaudio wrote in an email to The Argus. “Having two majors has been a pretty straightforward experience for me. It did prevent me from taking more non-major courses, but just having two disparate courses of study provided enough variety in my courses for my tastes.”
There are advantages to declaring more than one major, such as access to specialized classes in multiple disciplines. However, some view double or triple majoring in a more negative light. Sarah Wolfe ’12, formerly a religion and theater double major, dropped the religion major when she found herself overextended.
“I don’t regret either declaring two majors or dropping one, but my advice to underclassmen would be to choose a major to focus on and then take a lot of other classes,” Wolfe wrote in an email to The Argus. “Even though it seems that by double majoring you are broadening your academic experience, to me it felt like I was being confined to only two departments, instead being able to focus on my major but still have open to me all the other available classes. I think it’s a stronger liberal arts choice to focus on one major. ”
Jason Lee ’12, a philosophy and molecular biology and biochemistry (MBB) double major, feels similarly about the experience of double majoring.
“[Having] more than one major has been easier because I genuinely love both subjects, but it was very tough to sacrifice other classes that I could have taken during those semesters,” Lee said. “Since I am a pre-med philosophy and MBB double major, it has been even tougher to take classes in music and classics, which I hope to take more of next semester.”
President Michael Roth said that while having more than one major may be the right choice for certain undergraduates, it was not the right choice for him.
“If I had decided to triple major, I would have closed off everything,” he said. “I would have had to do three things in a certain order,” Roth said. “For me, that wouldn’t have worked out very well. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be allowed, but I do think that the pressure of adding something to your transcript seems to be not all that productive. The desire to follow your interests and passions, that’s productive.”