Choosing a second major, whether as an entering freshman or as a current student, is a substantial decision. On the one hand, having a second major provides you a technological advantage over your peers, but you hear horror stories about insane workloads and stress. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of what it’s like to do a double major program.
Who am I, exactly?
I’m now pursuing a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Business at NTU as an undergraduate. The objective of this blog is not to explain what a second major is, but to share my personal experience with the program and the things I wish I had thought about before enrolling.
So, why did I decide to pursue a second major?
To begin with, I couldn’t decide between Mechanical Engineering and Business Administration. I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue once I graduated from junior college. I found it easier to grasp engineering ideas in math and physics, but I felt motivated to pursue a business degree. Because business and engineering are so diametrically opposed, it felt as though choosing business would eternally close the door to engineering. I also didn’t have any exposure to business in JC. However, if I chose to engineer, I would lose out on a lot of the soft skills that a business student would gain, as well as my interest.
Second, I was perplexed by the purpose of unfettered electives (UEs). A second major, unlike a second degree, does not require you to take as many modules to accomplish. Rather, it collects all of your UE and elective requirements and organizes them into modules. UEs and other electives are supposed to enhance your knowledge and allow you to explore different areas while completing your major degree. However, in my opinion, UEs are too unstructured to provide you with any meaningful learning possibilities.
So, how about taking some interesting/fun modules like astronomy or pottery? Will you actually broaden your learning by taking one module on an esoteric topic, even if it’s entertaining and interesting?
While I recognize that some people use UEs to pursue/explore their passions, I find it difficult to find the drive to do so without some framework or development. The double major program allowed me to have a deeper grasp of two disciplines that I was interested in while also reducing the number of modules I had to take. To me, it was the ideal mix of depth and variety.
What I didn’t think about
Here are some things I wish I had known after seeing this program.
To begin with, even though you are not required to take any additional modules, the catch is that all of your UEs will be replaced with core modules from your second major of choice. What I forgot to consider is that, despite the equal number of credits, taking a UE and a core module are two very different things.
For starters, this means that you can’t S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory) anything at NTU. The S/U Option Policy allows students to designate that a portion of their coursework will not be counted toward their cumulative grade point average (CGPA). As a double major student, all units contribute to your CGPA. This also means that if you don’t do well in your second major (or in any of your modules), your marks will suffer.
Second, there’s the cost of missing out on UEs you might want to learn in university. Have you ever wished to learn a new language? Why not try some stress-relieving yoga? UEs might be viewed as a break from their major in order to pursue something more personal. For the most part, it’s a welcome diversion from academic pursuits. You don’t get that break as a double major undergraduate.
In addition, while you get the best of both worlds in terms of learning, you must compete against twice as many individuals. For me, I have to compete against both the Mechanical Engineering and Business schools at the same time. At moments, it does feel like you’re running a race while wearing handcuffs.
Is it worthwhile to pursue a second major?
Most people, I believe, contemplate pursuing a second degree in order to improve their prospects. While having a second major can help you stand out, it isn’t the most significant element; businesses still prioritize CGPA. A double major graduate student will stand out only when compared to two graduates with similar CGPAs.
A second major, in my opinion, would only be worthwhile if I could maintain a respectable CGPA in the first place. But here’s what I can say: while I used to think of engineering and business as two completely different areas, I’ve discovered that they actually complement each other. Taking a step back from the technical substance of each major, I believe that an Engineer’s essential skill is the capacity to think in systems and break down complex problems into simpler ones, which has shown to be quite useful in analyzing technical challenges in corporate finance. At the same time, Business develops the ability to understand the world in terms of transactions and networks, which compliments my ability to manage people’s strengths and limitations and collaborate effectively. I previously considered the value of a double major program as the total of two different entities, but most people are unaware that combining the two often results in a better result. When you add one to one, you can sometimes get more than two!
This is how I feel right now.
Has my perspective shifted now that I know all of this?
It’s a good idea to think about what you want to get out of going to university. Apart from earning a degree, most people consider university to be the end of their educational journey. For me, I see it as a jumping-off point from which I may explore and do as many things as possible. Even if juggling two majors is difficult, the opportunity to have a better understanding of two industries at once is priceless. Besides, the personal development you’ll gain from doing more at a young age will help you acquire intangible skills.
I believe that not only have I gained a better grasp of the world, but also that my time management skills and ability to deal with people from all backgrounds have greatly improved. Furthermore, I believe that people tend to exaggerate the significance of this decision. What I told myself was that if I didn’t love or couldn’t manage my second major, I could always drop it. Nobody will hold it against you if you try to broaden your learning horizons.
In the end, having knowledge and awareness of two disparate subjects is the best-case situation. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have a better grasp of your strengths and weaknesses. We either win or learn at the end of the day. I hope you found this information helpful in making your selection! Please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to respond:)