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Planning ahead: what does a double major look like?

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#1 mathnerd


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Posted 12 May 2017 - 03:34 PM

My son is still young (9 years old) and I think that it is too early be considering college majors. But, I am sure that the wisdom of the Hive will help me with some early research.

Both Music and STEM subjects come naturally to him. He is a very enthusiastic learner. He has been saying that he would like to do a Double Major in college (math and music) for a couple of years now because he cannot think of a future without both :) This year, he has cemented that idea. I am worried that the workload would be too much especially if he lands up in a competitive college. Even though this is far into the future, I would like to listen to any BTDT experiences that any of you can share.

Edited by mathnerd, 12 May 2017 - 03:37 PM.

#2 regentrude


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Posted 12 May 2017 - 03:52 PM

It depends entirely on the college and the way the majors are set up.


At the university where I teach, quite a few students do a double major. Most have two subjects that have some commonality and some overlap, like physics paired with math or computer science or electrical engineering. This way, some required foundational classes will be the same and they can double dip. Also, students  double majoring here typically take more than four years.


In contrast, my DD is at a highly selective school that prides itself in a large common core requirement that covers about a third of the credit hours. Also, this school does not permit students to stay longer than four years plus the summer after 4th year; if you don't make it in this time, you don't graduate. She is double majoring in physics and an interdisciplinary humanities major and it requires extreme discipline and organization to fit everything in. No room for electives or study abroad.


What would concern me about the major combination STEM/music is the immense time committment a music major requires. Often, ensemble participation that costs several hours per week garners only one single credit. Some posters here have written about this. So it would be combining two non-overlap and extremely time consuming majors, which would most likely be impossible to complete in four years.

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#3 GailV


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Posted 12 May 2017 - 04:31 PM



What would concern me about the major combination STEM/music is the immense time committment a music major requires. Often, ensemble participation that costs several hours per week garners only one single credit. Some posters here have written about this. So it would be combining two non-overlap and extremely time consuming majors, which would most likely be impossible to complete in four years.


I don't have personal experience with music majors, but I recall reading several comments like this -- that music takes an incredible amount of time.


Dd started out working towards dual degrees in Tech Theatre and Electrical Engineering.  It takes work to find a university that will even allow a student to try this.  The place she went had a couple of other students succeed, and was small enough for personal attention -- you really want to have professors and advisors on your team if you're going to try this.  They were also impressed with the amount of dual enrollment credits she came with.


She has now dropped the EE degree, saying she can't imagine a future in which she would work anyplace that wants that particular degree.  However, the EE emphasis she still lists on her resume is very eye-catching and probably helped her land her summer internship -- having studied lighting design plus math plus programming sets her apart.  And dropping the rest of the EE classes will allow her to take some theatre classes she really wanted to take but didn't have time for  (such as labor law), and develop better relationships with people in the theater department who are pivotal in landing future jobs (because they know the right people in the world outside of campuses).  


It probably would've been more "doable" if she hadn't tried to complete both degrees within 4 years. 


Having said all of that, younger dd is highly interested in both Kinesiology and Theatre, and is pondering how to work towards dual degrees in both of those.  Again, little to no overlap, and both are degrees that require a lot of non-classroom work in the form of practicums, internships, and long-term projects.  It's a tough call, as much as we'd like to tell her to choose one or the other, because she's really, really good at both.  One factor will be whether she can audition into a school that also has some sort of decent kinesiology/exercise science program.  She will be graduating high school with even more dual enrollment credits than her sister, but whether that will be helpful depends on whether she goes someplace that accepts the particular credits she has.

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#4 katilac


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Posted 12 May 2017 - 05:24 PM

Being able to pay for more than four years is definitely a help  :laugh:


Likewise, if the student doesn't have to work, or work a lot, then it's easier to carry a heavy schedule and take summer classes. Lots of schools do charge an overload fee if you past 18 hours in a semester, so that's a potential expense. 


DE and/or credit by exam can help, but it's impossible to predict how much at this stage. My dd has 21 hours in foreign languages that will be very helpful toward one of her majors and a minor/certificate. She has 12 hours that she didn't transfer bc they weren't helpful for her degree requirements, and she didn't need the elective credits. 


At this point, I'd just be telling him that it's tough but possible. I do think music is one of the most difficult double majors of all, but no need to quash those dreams too early, lol. His plans may change, or he may discover that music can be an important part of his life without majoring in it. fwiw, I am not surprised at the language aspect of dd's studies, but, even as late as 16 or so, I would not have imagined the path heavy on business and math that she is currently following. I will say that her current plans have her on a pretty tight schedule, and she is trying to CLEP out of a class this summer to gain a little breathing room. 


Keep challenging and engaging your son and doing what's best for his education now. Start exploring and researching some of the various options for early credit - it's a lot of information to sift through. Our personal choice was to not take any classes or tests only for a potential future benefit; it had to be a positive educational decision in the present as well. 

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#5 Pawz4me


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Posted 12 May 2017 - 06:46 PM

Of the four college kids in our family (our boys and two nieces) only one is NOT double majoring. But only one of them is doing it in totally unrelated subjects. That one has done a few online summer classes, but not a heavy load by any means. She graduates Sunday. :) Two of them are at a top thirty college.

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#6 Gwen in VA

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Posted 12 May 2017 - 07:20 PM

Dd1 double-majored (art history and chemistry) and did a minor in a third (museum studies). All were directly related to what she wanted to go into, and all were fairly compatible time-wise. For her, double-majoring has opened doors and been a great conversation-starter. She was lucky though -- her second major played into her graduate research focus in the first field and not only helped her get into grad school but provided her with essential background for her dissertation.


Ds1 triple-majored. I actually do not recommend this -- he has spend more time in interviews explaining why he did three majors rather than exploring one of the first two more in depth..... The world does not seem to appreciate triple majoring!


Dd2 started out as a math-music double-major but decided that music was her real calling partway through her freshman year. She transferred since the school she started out at was a great LAC but didn't have the depth in the music department that she wanted. (She is now at a conservatory.)


The one caution I would give about double-majoring in a subject AND music is people assume that you are going to focus on your "real" major and that you are doing music as essentially an in-depth extra--curricular. If you want to be taken seriously as a music major, double-majoring isn't necessarily such a great road to take. Also, the "great experiences" (internships, summer programs, perks like being chosen to solo in this or that or play here or there) that profs can offer students tend to be offered to those who are most talented AND committed -- and double-majoring in music seems to radiate that you are not completely serious about music.



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#7 jdahlquist


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Posted 13 May 2017 - 09:56 AM

I agree that the ability to double major varies greatly from school to school.  At some schools it is next to impossible, but other schools encourage it.  If a student begins college with a lot of AP credit or dual enrollment credit, it can be easier.  


Students can find other ways, however, to pursue a variety of interests other than double majoring.  Sometimes a student will find that they want to pursue one track as a career and would like to leave the other pursuit as a hobby, perhaps singing in the choir, playing in the orchestra, etc.  

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#8 Heigh Ho

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Posted 13 May 2017 - 06:05 PM

My dc realized that a music double major is not necessary to advance his music skills...plenty of other opportunities along the way.
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#9 Hoggirl


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Posted 13 May 2017 - 08:07 PM

Look into Northwestern. They have a five year program that allows students to major in music performance and another field. Also, check out Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. They have a dual degree program with music paired with another field.

At one point in time, my ds (a pianist) thought he might want to major in music. Or double major with music and something else. Eventually, he decided that was not his desire. Piano, as opposed to other instruments or vocal performance, can be quite isolating. Ds is extremely social and concluded he didn't want to spend four hours a day alone in a practice room. You do have plenty of time. However, like you, I am a BIG planner and had a "need to know" well in advance.
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#10 Harriet Vane

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Posted 14 May 2017 - 10:59 AM

I haven't read the thread, but I will tell you what is working for us.


Dd has a double major in Secondary Ed and Social Studies. All wanna-be high school teachers have to do this route. I remember my college roommate had to do the same at a different school in another state--her majors were Sec Ed and Math.


Dd wants to work with a Spanish-speaking population, and she is strongly considering a TESOL or ELL grad certification down the road. That means that in addition to her double major, she also has a double minor of Spanish and International Studies.


How to get all this in?


1--Dd amassed some college credit while in high school through a combination of dual enrollment w a community college, several AP exams, and CLEP exams. Let's face it, the gen ed requirements in college are really just a repetition of high school. Get 'em out of the way once, by using these options to take care of it in high school.


2--Dd tested out of some college requirements through her university's placement testing system. She was really bold about requesting the testing and giving it a try even when she was told it was probably beyond her reach. She knocked two classes out of the way by doing this.


3--Use the community college to your advantage, both for dual enrollment as a high school student and to make full use of summer sessions while a college student. Summer school at cc is soooo much cheaper than a semester at university. Taking just two classes per summer gets a lot of work done.


4--Dd is taking care of some of her coursework through study abroad options. Most of her Spanish and Int'l Studies will be done abroad. Her uni has a short session every May that offers tons of opportunities, and Dd will also use a summer to go to Spain. It's actually more efficient for her to do it this way at her uni--she gets more classes done in a shorter amount of time. Plus she has the advantage of learning and soaking up soooo much more by doing it in an international context--this will specifically help her double minor, but it's a fabulous perspective-shaping option for any student in any major.


The result? As of right now, Dd is on track to complete her uni degree--double major + double minor--in less than four years. Her workload each semester is average. It's not a work harder mentality--it's a work smarter and plan carefully mentality. 


I'm really proud of her choices.  :001_wub:

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#11 Momto2Ns


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Posted 15 May 2017 - 11:15 AM

I think the short answer to your question is that double-majoring is very possible, but he will have to pick a university that is friendly to the idea and may require extra time to get the degrees. Really, for a 9 yr old, I think that is all you need to know. For now, he can obviously keep working on both and by the time college arrives, it may no longer be an issue. 

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#12 kiana


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Posted 15 May 2017 - 01:43 PM

I know it's early but I think I know a dream school :D



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#13 daijobu


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Posted 15 May 2017 - 03:14 PM

Wow, St. Olaf does look like a dream school.  How can I enroll?  

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#14 AmandaVT


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Posted 15 May 2017 - 05:09 PM

My good friend went to Johns Hopkins and the Peabody Institute for a double major in music performance and recording engineering. It combined music and engineering and when he graduated, he had great job prospects. 


He's currently teaching at a private STEAM type school and gets to teach typical music classes along with classes like "create your own music video" and other fun classes. He also teaches private lessons and plays with a few small chamber groups. 

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#15 Nan in Mass

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Posted 15 May 2017 - 05:56 PM

For some reason, music and STEM seem to be common double interests.  At youngest's polytech, it is common to major in engineering (or some other stem major) and minor in music, theatre, or something totally unrelated.  We just read the list of majors and minors on the program at graduation and music was a pretty common minor.  His polytech has an astonishing number of music groups for such a small school.  This particular school is set up to make it easy for STEM students to minor in a non-STEM subject.  I think it would have been practically impossible to double major in music and engineering at my big university, judging by how much time the music students spent on the requirements for their major.  I always though the reason the degree "bachelor of fine arts" existed was because the fine arts students didn't have time to be grounded thoroughly in their field AND get through the requirements for a BS or BA in 4 years.  It might be easier at a different university than mine own.  We also know people who chose not to go to school for music because they found they were advancing musically well outside of a school.  (They were not classical musicians.)   I think if I were you, I would explain the concept of minors to my son, that life is long and has seasons, and that many people combine interests by doing two part-time jobs, or one job during part of their life and another in a different part, or one thing for money and the other for fun after work.



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#16 dmmetler


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Posted 15 May 2017 - 06:44 PM

Music and STEM are common combos. In my experience, it's more common to do a music minor than a music major with a STEM major. If he really wants to do it, he may want to look seriously at what he can get out of the way before college-if he can come in with two years of solid, transferable credit in the liberal arts and math classes, he'll have a much higher chance of making it work-but it will probably take 5 years even then-because the music major is a solid 4 years by itself.
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#17 Hoggirl


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Posted 16 May 2017 - 07:49 AM

One other possibility to consider: Idk what your ds's instrument is, but some schools offer certificate programs for piano performance (the instrument I am familiar with). These typically require taking private instruction each semester coupled with a junior and senior recital. These are performance oriented, so if this is the primary desire (continued improvement in playing), the instrument study can be continued in a purposeful way without the other heavy music requirements of theory, ensemble, etc. I don't know if such programs are available for other instruments or not.
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#18 *LC


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Posted 17 May 2017 - 09:56 PM

Now that you know it possible to double major in his current interests at certain schools, I would encourage you to table any talk of majors/double majors for three or four years. Kids change; interests change. It is hard for some kids to let go of an idea even when it becomes obvious over time that it is not the best plan. Just continue to encourage him to follow his interests and talents.
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