In defense of single majoring

As a single-major English major, I often feel inadequate compared to the double majors on campus, of which Lawrence has many. Our ten-week terms allow students to take more classes than semester universities, so getting an extra major as a “backup” can be attractive. Considering the number of people that take this option, anxiety can arise when it feels like one major is not enough. What I have found, however, is that doing one thing is just as valid as doing two things. 

Senior Claire Zimmerman does two things. Zimmerman is majoring in biology and psychology, and she does not regret it. She enjoys that she can take classes in two different fields, saying, “I think it’s kinda nice. If you’re only taking one major, you only take one type of class, and you never have a break from that. I think I would run out of classes I’d like to take.” To my surprise, Zimmerman also said the stress of double majoring has been manageable: “I don’t know if the pressure is much more than a single major. I’ve never overloaded, and I don’t want to.”

In terms of problems with double majoring, Zimmerman said that scheduling can be difficult, especially given the biology major’s lab requirements. She said that she has barely squeezed in the requirements for her psychology major as a result. She also sometimes wishes she had the opportunity to take a wider variety of classes. “I kinda regret not exploring more. I would’ve liked to take the Masculinity in American Film class last term, but I couldn’t do that. It was a shame.”

Still, Zimmerman has been confident about majoring in psychology and biology since she was a freshman. “I don’t care too much about exploration,” she said. “I pretty much knew what I wanted to do and did it.” This brings up an important point: if you come into Lawrence unsure about what you want to do, double majoring can be risky. Shopping around for majors, which single majoring allows you to do, can be a fun and comforting experience.

I came into Lawrence clueless about what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to single major. I thought at first that I wanted to major in environmental studies because I liked to look at trees. But after taking Intro to Environmental Studies and Intro to Geology, I found out that I cannot do science because it is hard. Later, I thought I wanted to major in film studies, and after taking several film classes, I found that editing a one-minute video takes eight hours. I did not like that. Finally, after taking and enjoying English classes, I arrived at the English major midway through my sophomore year. Since then, I have been confident in my major, since I have tried everything that interests me and found that English interests me the most.

Taking a variety of classes can also expand your mind and possibly enhance your abilities at your chosen major. I would like to think I have become a better writer thanks to the variety of classes I have taken. Since I took Intro to Geology, I know a bunch of words for rocks that I can reference in my writing. At any point, I can say “igneous” and blow my readers’ minds. And thanks to the film classes I have taken, I know a bunch of obscure art films. If I wanted to write a poem about Kenneth Anger films, I could, all thanks to the freedom of single majoring. 

It is also worth noting that double majoring might not have much of an impact on future success. Two degrees could be useful when applying for a job that requires a degree, but when looking for graduate schools, they are inconsequential. Zimmerman said, “If you’re double majoring to impress grad schools, they do not care. They don’t look at your majors as much as the classes on your transcript. This is what my advisor has said, at least.” In other words, if you are on the verge of getting a second major but cannot meet all the requirements, grad schools are indifferent. They care more about the experiences you have had than the requirements you have met. 

Single majoring is also less stressful than double majoring in senior year. When I mentioned the topic of senior experiences to Zimmerman, the color drained from her face and she began fidgeting wildly. “I forgot about that,” she said. “Double majors have to think about senior experiences earlier than most people. I haven’t even figured out what I’m doing for my psych project yet.” Avoiding two senior experiences is a sweet aspect of single majoring. As I begin my senior year, I look on with a grin as my double-majoring counterparts are reduced to a frenzied bedlam.

There is no shame in single majoring, despite the popularity of double majoring. Particularly if you do not know what you want to do, it is a wonderful option that will allow you to explore majors, expand your mind and avoid senior year stress, all without disappointing grad schools. It is also always a good idea to push back against the Lawrentian culture of doing as much as humanly possible, which has rendered our campus a mental health wasteland. If single majoring feels right for you, do not be afraid to do one thing.

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