According to a recent New York Times op-ed, you’re wasting your time pursuing a double major. Author David Leonhardt argues that double majoring equates to little more than a “credentials arms race” among students that prioritizes building up a resume over acquiring an actual education. Leonhardt instead suggests that students focus on “creatively mastering” one major while exploring their interests through their remaining courses.
While I respect Leonhardt’s opinion, I also strongly disagree with him. As a current double major, I can tell you that double majoring offers opportunities to improve your studies, explore interesting fields in creative ways and save money at the same time.
I’m an art history and politics double major, which can be summed up as an endless stream of readings and inevitable unemployment. Joking aside, the two have a lot in common; in many instances, they feed into and inform each other. The more you study art history, the more you realize that art is leveraged as a political tool. For example, ancient architecture in Greece and Rome is, for the most part, monumental propaganda that consolidates the power of the state. The inverse of this relationship is also true: political climates and policies can influence artwork. The art created by black and Chicanx artists during the Civil Rights Movement exemplifies these artistic pushes against political discrimination and oppression. These examples and more maintain an interesting push-pull dynamic that I find fascinating and, dare I say it, fun to study.
I believe that for students to get the most out of double majoring, the two majors should interact with and enhance each other. But that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to a straightforward double major combo like history and philosophy (unless that’s your thing). Double majoring is an opportunity to get creative with your studies and explore relationships between subjects and disciplines you may have otherwise never considered. It’s not a blank check to load up on courses, though — it’s a chance to develop a thorough understanding and appreciation of two different topics. With double majoring, quality is still important.
Double majoring does present practical problems: tasks such as class registration become a chore, and the workload can add up (especially if you’re like me and have to take five classes a semester). However, these problems have solutions. Seats are often reserved for majors to make sure that they can fill requirements, and professors will oftentimes override a limit if you ask. The workload, while difficult at times, is manageable. As someone balancing five classes with writing for the paper along with jobs at La Encina Yearbook and CatAList TV, I can confidently say that double majoring allows you to have a life beyond academics.
There’s also the issue of having to do two senior comprehensive projects. In some cases, the pain can be mitigated if your comps are split between the fall and spring semesters. For me, however, that is not the case. I will be doing two projects, living deep in the library and subsisting entirely off of vending machine food.
This is where some of the perks of having related majors kick in. If you’re like Evan Sarafian (junior), your comps can enhance each other. Sarafian said he wants to use his studies as a Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture (CSLC) and Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) double major to support each other.
“My [DWA] comps will probably focus on the Southern Caucasus. So knowing Russian [language and culture from CSLC classes] will help me if I travel to those countries,” Sarafian said. “Learning another language is super helpful for DWA in case you travel.”
Double majoring also offers several practical benefits. First and foremost, you’re receiving two diplomas for the price of one. Considering that tuition for Occidental costs a lot, it makes sense to try to get the most out your time here. Research also suggests that double majors are likely to earn more money than their single-major peers, with possible increases ranging from 3.2 percent in one study to almost 10 percent in another. By proving yourself capable of double majoring, you show to employers or graduate school admissions you’re capable of managing a busy schedule, handling the workload and becoming well-versed in two subjects.
For all of its challenges, double majoring presents a unique opportunity to enhance your education and stand out from other students. While two majors can spruce up a resume, it’s also a chance to develop a deep and creative understanding of two subjects and their relationships and make yourself an authority on the subjects in the process. Double majoring is by no means a necessity for any student, but for those who know what subjects they love and want to pursue further, it’s an excellent choice.
Pablo Nukaya-Petralia is a junior politics and art and art history double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.