A junior gets up early on a Tuesday morning for her Philosophy of Mind class. Though she had hoped to not take any classes before 10 a.m. this semester, she needs the credits to fulfill the requirements for her College of Social Studies major. Immediately afterward, she scurries off to Allbritton for The Economics of Developing Countries, a course that will allow her to complete her second major in Economics. She grabs a quick lunch and then is off to Olin for the afternoon; she has a paper due tomorrow in Violence and Representation: German Drama and Prose, 1810 to 2010, a rigorous German Studies course she is taking in the hopes of completing, that’s right, yet another major.
At Wesleyan, double majoring is as popular as going vegetarian or getting a nose ring. While much more rare, triple majoring also seems to be a trend: this year, 11 seniors will graduate with degrees in three separate majors.
Kerry Klemmer ’13 knew when she matriculated that she wanted to study physics and studio art. The next year, she fell in love with astronomy after taking a class in the subject and soon declared it as her third major. Luckily for Klemmer, studying astronomy (which she described as “cooler physics”) requires a heavy physics background.
“It made sense to combine them,” she explained.
Klemmer’s art major may seem like an outlier in her otherwise science-based curriculum, but she finds that thinking creatively allows for more innovation in her scientific studies.
“It’s a bizarre comparison, but in a way my artistic process lends itself to having a scientific mind,” she said.
Senior Emma Leonard’s areas of study are similarly interconnected: she will graduate with majors in biology, earth and environmental science, and environmental studies. She didn’t plan it that way. In fact, she didn’t know until last semester that triple majoring was even an option. Leonard knew she wanted to major in biology as a freshman and decided to major in earth and environmental science during her sophomore year.
During her junior year, she found out that she was only a couple of classes shy of completing the environmental studies major and figured it made sense to declare.
Since Leonard’s third major wasn’t planned, she doesn’t feel overloaded academically.
“It’s just normal class stress,” she said of the anxiety she sometimes feels as a result of her schoolwork. “Everybody at school is kind of freaking out anyway.”
Many triple majors would disagree, however. Jessica Jordan ’13, a theater, classical civilization, and English major, finds choosing her classes incredibly stressful.
“You can only take so many classes each semester, and there are so many classes required for each major,” she said. “You have to figure out what can be cross-listed.”
The registration process is only the beginning of triple majors’ worries; most take more than four classes every semester. Last year, Klemmer took three upper-level courses between physics and astronomy.
“I basically didn’t do anything except study,” she said. “That was the worst semester ever.”
Nandita Vijayaraghavan ’13 declared a triple major in English, government, and East Asian Studies as a sophomore. During the first semester of her junior year, she decided to drop her English major in part due to academic stress. Since all of her majors were writing-intensive, Vijayaraghavan was unable to get a reasonable amount of sleep and had medical issues as a result.
“It’s a lot of reading and writing, which takes up a lot of time,” she said. “I feel like if I had done something like music, English, and East Asian Studies, it would have been doable.”
Professor of Russian Language & Literature Priscilla Meyer, an academic advisor, thinks that pursuing a triple major can be stifling, since requirements often prevent students from studying subjects outside of their three main fields of interest.
“Having more than two majors seems undesirable when you have such a wide variety of choices,” she said. “You could still take a cluster of third interest group courses but you wouldn’t need it to be a major.”
Still, she admires those who pursue triple majors for their intense and varied academic passions.
Vijayaraghavan finds that triple majors are often dismissed as dabblers who are unable to choose a primary field of interest.
“They’ll say you’re a jack-of-all-trades, master of none,” she said.
However, Vijayaraghavan prefers to think of triple majors as being so passionate about three different areas of interest that they are unwilling to narrow down their curricula. She encourages those contemplating a triple major to pursue it if they are inspired, but warns that others often respond to the news with skepticism.
“People look at you like you’re crazy,” Vijayaraghavan said. “It’s only at the end, when you’re about to graduate, if you’ve done all three majors and you’ve done well that people respect you.”