Double major in subjects you’re interested in — especially if they’re wildly different

An empty high school classroom. Photo via Pixabay.

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

To be frank, a large part of why I chose University of Maryland was its generous policy regarding AP exams. AP credit has given me the freedom to academically explore and pursue niche subjects; not only do I have fewer general education classes to take, I have the opportunity to explore multiple majors and minors. In addition to majoring in physiology and neurobiology, I plan to double major in economics, and potentially minor in philosophy. 

However, it appears a certain demographic of fellow students with substantial AP credit is adamant on adding a major or minor closely in line with their primary major. Some examples are students in the business school who major in accounting and finance, or students on a pre-medical track who major in psychology and one of the biological sciences. There is nothing wrong with double majoring in related subjects if you’re genuinely interested in both. But it’s naive to assume that all your other interests must derive from a singular major.

Speaking from personal experience, at the beginning of college I felt pressured to study chemistry or psychology, because I’ve always labeled myself as a STEM-oriented person. Luckily, during first semester I was inspired by some of my close friends and professors to explore disciplines beyond my comfort zone.

College is the ideal time to branch out and explore unfamiliar subjects. In high school, students often have to follow a rigid outline of courses, and most teenagers have yet to fully develop the intellectual maturity and discipline to legitimately pursue their academic interests.

Looking back on high school, I would often find myself incurably bored and unmotivated to complete my assignments. Unsurprisingly, it seems a majority of people can relate; a 2013 Gallup Poll found “nearly eight in 10 elementary students who participated in the poll are engaged with school … By high school, only four in 10 qualify as engaged.”

The lack of engagement may come from a variety of factors, notably the obsession with standardized testing, the monotonous learning environment and the tedious and tiresome assignments. In college, however, classes are often a completely different experience; not only do college classes have qualified lecturers, professors hold weekly office hours and teaching assistants are usually available to help. While there is still an emphasis on tests, “busy work” is rare and assignments usually reinforce key concepts.

For those who are considering adding another major, take the time to introspect and consider where your passions truly lie. Do you really only like science? Or is it because you only took science classes in high school and your English and history classes inadvertently caused you to fall asleep? More often than not, you may find you have a diverse range of interests — college is the time to realize and explore them.

Kevin Hu is a freshman physiology and neurobiology major. He can be reached at kevxhu@gmail.com.

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