Friday, April 13, 2012

Choosing Free Electives Can Be A Minor Issue!

As the semester, and your first year at The University of Scranton, draws to a close, you have one foot fully planted in your freshman year, but you also have an eye on the future. You’ve learned that with the dedication of all your efforts you can accomplish some amazing things you may not have fully believed possible as a high school student.  With well-deserved confidence, it’s time to start considering all the things you would like to do with your passion and talents.  Certainly, this has been on the mind of many of the students in my office in the past month as they have begun to contemplate the virtues of minors and double majors.  They arrive with a lot of questions and misconceptions about what is possible so it’s time for a little myth busting, CAS Advising Style!

CAS Advisor, Kevin Abbott, discusses a four year plan with Colleen Day.

Myth #1:  Double majors are only for contestants on College Jeopardy!
Hearing someone is a double major in Political Science and English with a minor in Biology and Philosophy brings to mind visions of overachieverdom for some.  However, double majors and minors can actually be surprisingly easy to fit in with no additional effort, depending on your original major.  Some majors have large open cognate and free elective areas.  If you are in one of those majors, you have to take all of those free elective and cognate credits to graduate anyway, so you might as well concentrate your efforts to produce a double major or a minor.  In many cases, some of the classes you would need to take for your double major or minor can fit into other general education requirement areas and can fulfill, for example, social behavioral (S), humanities (CH, CA, CL, CF) or natural science (E) requirements.  You won’t even need to use free electives for the courses that fit into these areas.  It takes a little thought and planning but, for most majors, completing at least a minor is very possible!  

Myth #2:  There is a predetermined best choice for my double major or minor…
Many students who realize they have the room to accommodate a second major, ask me what the “right” choice is for them.  That’s not a question I can ever answer without asking several myself!  There are several factors to consider in deciding what path to pursue:

  • What do you love...or loathe for that matter? Regardless of how marketable you think a business minor might make you in this uncertain job market, it’s only going to hinder your efforts if you don’t enjoy the classes.  You will be far more academically successful if you enjoy the classes you are taking and you will learn a lot more from them than if you tried to take the “right” courses that are unappealing to you.  You may be stuck taking courses you don’t enjoy as much to fulfill general education requirements but you shouldn’t be dreading your free electives.  The bottom line is that taking courses you don’t like is counterproductive but taking something you really love can boost your GPA, improve your academic experience and widen your knowledge in meaningful ways.
  • How can you broaden your horizons?  Many times, students think that they “should” pursue a minor or double major that will extend their understanding of their first major.  For example, a lot of biology majors choose minors in biochemistry because they think it will “look good” to medical or graduate schools.  This isn’t a terrible idea, but it’s a fallacy to think that it’s always the best option to pursue a related area.  If you are a science major, pursuing a minor or double major in the humanities can deepen skill development and make you a better rounded individual.  Consider doing something completely unrelated to your first discipline!  However it is also positive to seek classes that will augment your current major…
  • What augments your current major?  There are certain combinations of majors and minors that marry really well.  For example, if you are interested in pursuing a career in journalism, it might be wise to combine a Communication major with English, Writing or Political Science.  It can be helpful to consider your career goals and the sort of skills that will be helpful to you in the future.  That knowledge can make minor selection more helpful. 
  •  ¿Habla EspaƱol? A minor in another language can be a really wonderful way both to boost your marketability and to expand your understanding of the world.  It can enhance your travel options as well as your abilities in English and usually functions to make you a better global citizen.  So consider adding a language minor…but only if you enjoy learning languages!  Remember, do what you love!
 Myth #3:  I need to figure out how to make this work by myself…
An example of a 4 year plan!

You are absolutely not alone in making these decisions!  The advisors in the advising center are happy to help you decide what options are most attractive for you and to help you figure out if it is possible to achieve all your academic goals in four years.  Each week, we help several students develop four year academic plans that provide them with a blueprint to prepare for the future and we would be glad to help you too!  A four year plan will help you determine if you can accomplish a double major, add minors or concentrations or even spend time studying abroad. These plans are flexible and electronic and can, therefore, evolve as your life does.  If you want help, call and schedule an appointment with me or another CAS advisor today! 

 Katie Robinson, 
CAS Academic Advisor

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