Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Students weigh costs of double majoring

Illustration: Erika Zinser

For many students, a liberal arts degree means majoring in one subject and taking a breadth of additional classes. However, 85 students are currently declared double majors. Because they need 76 of their 126 degree credits to work towards two separate majors, double majors are often limited in the amount of non-major classes that they can take.

“You give up some options that a single major doesn’t necessarily give up. When you decide to double major, you make a conscious decision to limit yourself in terms of the breadth or variety of classes you can take so that you can  take two disciplines you care about to study in depth,” said senior BBMB and philosophy major Fritz Siegert.

Being a double major often requires extensive planning, particularly to help students avoid having class conflicts.

“I usually have students plan out, on a four year planner, the major they have completed the most work in first, and then we fill in the second major. An art major and a science major might be difficult, as there is a good number of afternoon classes in each and as such labs and longer studio classes often conflict. It isn’t impossible; it just takes some very careful planning,” said Director of Academic Resources Juli Dunn.

Senior biology and philosophy major Kyle Moen feels that up until this semester, being a double major has been manageable, especially in regards to concerns about applying to graduate schools. Moen was able to finish his law school applications before the end of fall semester.

“The real serious kind of butt-kicking of being a double major comes in your spring semester of your senior year, when portfolio, thesis, orals start really hitting home. Before then, you’re just taking classes,” he said.

For senior BBMB and English major Kel Peyton, being able to look back at class schedules from previous years helped her figure out where conflicts might be. This past fall, there was a conflict between her English senior seminar and an essential BBMB lab. She was told she had to drop one of her majors, but instead the English department changed the time of their senior seminar.

Peyton expanded on how stretching herself over two disciplines has led to feelings of isolation.

“I feel abstracted from everybody in [my] two majors. The lack of overlap in my majors is definitely a big part of why I feel abstracted from both, but I would also attribute it to the fact that I have to divide my attention between them. I’ve never been able to ‘fully devote’ myself to either of them,” Peyton said in an email.

However, for senior Seth Dawson, who is a double major in politics and philosophy, the experience was just the opposite.

“[Being a double major] definitely enhanced my experience, especially because politics and philosophy are so compatible. The best moments in a liberal arts education are the ones when you make an unexpected connection between different classes, and I think the double major makes that happen more often,” he said in an email.

Because of the sheer amount of classes that double majors need to take, on top of the potential late addition of the second major, double majors most often do not go abroad. The amount of work and planning that goes into a double major degree is often a cause for concern for  advisers.

“Double majors are asked ‘why are you doing this?’ more than single majors,” said Peyton, who emphasizes the importance of asking herself that question throughout her Whitman career.

Almost every double major interviewed for this article admitted to being called ‘crazy’ by other students because of the double major path that they chose. However, many claim that it is worth it.

“You really have to consider whether or not you want the major because you enjoy studying, or if you just want to have that major. It’s not worth it if you’re not super dedicated,” said senior politics and Spanish major Mehera Nori.

Many double majors also emphasized that even though they chose to double major because they loved the two fields, it was also a point of pride.

“The label’s nice. I’m not going to say it’s not cool to be a double major,” said Moen.

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