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How Double Majors Can Ruin Your Life: Two Arguments for Doing Less

September 27th, 2010 · 69 comments

The Overwork Ethic

I recently received an e-mail from a freshman at the Illinois Institute of Technology. It began: “I’m trying to follow your advice and avoid killer semesters, but it seems kind of hard.”

He then detailed his crowded course schedule, which included electrical engineering, physics, computer science, and an organic chemistry class, the last of which he described as “hellish,” because it included a time-consuming lab in addition to regular problem sets.

“I know that on your site and stuff it says avoid doing shit like this,” he admitted, “but I’m not really sure what to do.

This last line confused me.

If a student says he “doesn’t know what to do” about a tough course schedule, you might expect he needs the courses to complete his major and graduate on time, or perhaps to meet the requirements of a graduate program. Clearly, however, physics, computer science, and organic chemistry can’t all be part of the same major or program prerequisites. Furthermore, this student was in the first semester of his freshman year: how could he possibly be feeling credit pressure already?

When I dug deeper, it turned out that he had no particular reason to be taking those classes. In fact, as he later admitted, he arrived at college with a ton of AP credits, and could, if he so decided, coast to graduation early without ever taking a hard semester.

The real reason for his killer course load was that he was considering transferring schools, and felt, with an unquestioned certainty, that doing more was important for standing out. “I guess that having a schedule like this looks more impressive on my transfer apps,” he said

The idea that killer schedules are necessary to be impressive was so deeply ingrained in this student that the idea of simplifying his course load never crossed his mind as an option.

This mindset is a problem that we must solve before we can make progress with the Romantic Scholar approach to student life, as it’s near impossible to find fulfillment in your school work when you’re constantly struggling to keep up with an overwhelming load.

To convince you to do less, however, I must first convince you that doing more is not a reasonable alternative…

The Standard Model of Student Impressiveness

Here’s the model of impressiveness that most students believe to be true:

Difficult Course/Activity Load ==> Impressiveness ==> Interesting Job and Grad School Opportunities ==> Enjoyable Life

Let’s call this the standard model of student impressiveness. Here’s why it’s important: A survey conducted last year by the American College Health Association reports that 39 percent of college students felt hopeless during the school year, 25 percent felt depressed, and 47 percent experienced overwhelming anxiety. (See David Leibow’s recent Huffington Post article for more details on the study.)

The standard model of impressiveness explains these statistics. It leads students to a point where their course load is too much to handle, yet they believe that anything less cripples their chances of a good life. This is the type of conundrum that can drive a 19-year-old into some dangerous mental waters.

The good news is that the standard model is flawed. I want to present two arguments that support this claim — each attacking a different link in the standard model’s chain of implication.

Argument #1: Hard Schedules Do Not Generate More Impressiveness

The first implication in the standard model says that hard schedules, both academic and extracurricular, make you more impressive to the outside world. As I’ve been arguing for years here on Study Hacks, this idea is a myth. (Indeed, my most recent book, How to Be a High School Superstar, can be read an extended argument for why doing more is a terrible strategy for college admissions.)

If you’re unfamiliar with my past writing, here’s the main thesis: people are more impressed by your ability to be a star at one thing than they are by your ability to juggle lots of hard things. Ability rules. No one cares about your diligence.

Here are some previous articles that detail this argument:

Argument #2: Deferring Happiness is an Addictive Habit

Let’s now consider the final implication in the standard model, which says that landing an interesting job or graduate school opportunity will lead to an enjoyable life. This is the most important link in the chain, as, ultimately, the point of all this suffering now is so you can live a better life later (otherwise, what’s the point of any of this?).

Here’s where things get tricky. As I described in my recent open letter to students, the habit of deferring happiness can be hard to shake. If you adopt this approach as a student, it becomes significantly more difficult to drop it once you’ve entered the working world and the pressures of recognition mount. In a previous article, I called this the competence trap, and I argued it’s one of the most dangerous obstacles between many ambitious young people and a remarkable life.

The most effective way to bypass this danger is to start practicing, before you enter the working world, a mindset that says: My happiness and satisfaction with life is a non-negotiable requirement; everything else I do must work backwards from this conviction. The easiest way to practice this mindset is to reject the school as a trial to survive mindset while still a student: take on a sustainable course load, and practice standing out while still preserving a sense of autonomy and time affluence.

Put another way: If tacking on a time-consuming extra major, or leading six clubs, is at the core of your strategy for being impressive, find a different strategy. Notice, I’m not arguing that you should give up on being impressive — on the contrary, I’m arguing that you should man (or woman) up about what strategies you’ll tolerate for achieving this goal. This is what separates the remarkable from the accomplished.

If you master this mindset while in high school, college, or graduate school, you won’t just be more happy during these student years, but you’ll likely significantly increase the total amount of happiness you experience over your entire life.

In other words, doing less is not just about impressing employers, or avoiding a sophomore slump, it can be the foundation of a life well-lived. This is why our exploration of the Romantic Scholar approach to student life starts with this basic concept: it’s the foundation on which everything else will be built.

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This post is the second in my series on the Romantic Scholar approach to student life, which details a collection of strategies to transform school from a trial to survive into the foundation of a life well-lived. Roughly every other post on Study Hacks in the near future will be dedicated to this series.

Past articles:

(Photo by JSmith Photo)

69 thoughts on “How Double Majors Can Ruin Your Life: Two Arguments for Doing Less

  1. Sam Gwydir says:

    This is my life. I’m so glad I read this.
    As of now i am no longer auditing an EXTRA Computer Science class. Even if I already know everything in mine, just one at a time is enough.
    I have to deal with the other tough courses I signed up for, but this will be a relief.
    Did have a cool opportunity in the class though, the man who invented C++ (bjarne stroustroup) taught the lecture on error handling.

  2. Stanley Lee says:

    I’m current in the process of reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin. Precisely describing the status of complying to social norm and fitting in (in this case, having a difficult workload to impress others while you work until you drop) a decade ago vs. now. 10 years ago, society rewards you for that with lucrative opportunities as fruition. Now, it’s a race to the bottom as most who are brainwashed with this belief are desperate enough to outdo while underbid their competition for those lucrative opportunities, even though they are diminishing. At the end of the day, these guys with the unnecessarily heavy workloads (I was an example) were racing to the bottom in terms of wasting all the effort for absolutely nothing in return except to give up even more personal freedom and sanity.

  3. Annie says:

    I wish popular opinion were like this! I go to MIT, where I’m surrounded by people who take 6 or 8 or 10 classes a semester and in doing so, earn massive respect from all their peers. I’ve always felt dumb for only taking 5, but this semester I’m down to 4 for the first time since freshman fall (when there’s still a credit limit), and it’s not bad! I definitely have more time to learn the material in more detail… and to have fun!

  4. Ryan Fox says:

    “Clearly, however, physics, computer science, and organic chemistry can’t all be part of the same major or program prerequisites.”

    I had to take chemistry, physics and computer science for my computer engineering program. All in the first semester as well, not to mention calculus, linear algebra, and an ethics course. This was standard for everyone.

  5. “My happiness and satisfaction with life is a non-negotiable requirement.” The ultimate statement to abide by for anyone at any stage or age in life. Absolutely crucial criterion.

  6. Cara says:

    What Ryan Fox said. I had to take all of those classes for my electrical engineering program.

    1. j says:

      Yeah but was it organic chemistry?

      1. Jack Armstrong says:

        I’m with you on the course variety I saw in my freshman years. I majored in biochemistry. We had calc+other math, physics, chem (including o-chem and p-chem), etc… every semester for the first three years. The part of the initial article I find odd is this —

        “In fact, as he later admitted, he arrived at college with a ton of AP credits, and could, if he so decided, coast to graduation early without ever taking a hard semester.”

        I had the same situation, I took classes I could have tested out of and skipped. However, if he really knew the subjects then the work should be easy. The problem is that this student does not know the material he supposedly mastered. Telling him to move on since he can bypass the classes is not good advice, it is just postponing when he will fail until he hits his hard senior classes and falls apart because he does not understand the basic underpinnings and techniques of his major. I had tons of AP credit and breezed through my first years of classes because I knew 60-70% of the class work. I could fly through the homework because I only encountered a few problems I did not immediately know how to solve. But my 18 year old ego was quickly deflated by the amount I did not know in spite of all my previous work. But I made a great study partner…

  7. Casie J. says:

    I felt exactly like the freshman. Until I read your site and books, my mindset was to cram my schedule and life with as many things as possible to look “impressive.” This year I finally let go of the idea of doing a double major. It’s so hard NOT to add anything. Even though I read your books before I started college, I did the exact opposite of what you promoted. Only after a screwed up senior year of high school and an unsuccessful freshman year of college am I starting really appreciate underscheduling. No sophomore slump for me!

  8. Alex L. says:

    How horrible that they would make you take Organic Chemistry for an EE major…

    That’s an upper division class here. Unless of course, you decided to do it as your natural sciences credit requirement.

  9. Joseph K says:

    Hello Cal:

    You say that it is unstructured exploration that leads high school superstars to success. How can you prove that it is not just luck? I’m dreadfully confused about what to do, as every option I explore seems to be a dead end, and as a junior, I don’t have much time. There must be a method to unstructured exploration, even if it’s not planned out.

    I’m an aspiring fiction writer and voracious reader, and hope to publish a book by graduation. I’ve asked several people, such as someone who graduated from my high school two years ago and published a novel, Justine Musk, and several others, but they haven’t replied.

    I am beginning to underschedule and trying to focus on writing, but everything is going wrong. How would you respond to this?

    Thanks for reading.

  10. k says:

    I’ve been thinking about the romantic scholar a lot the past few days – like you said, I have somewhat shifted my classes to make 4 cores of varying difficulties (vital thing for these classes are labs and math – and I’m starting work early on these) and an interesting arts module.

    If you can’t unnderschedule, take this as an immersion experience. Like, live in your subject matter. I’ve also read that Hamming Research speech – clear away distractions, let go of your doubt and give it your all. And drop those extracurricular resume padders if they eat your time. I chose engineering because of its beauty. Not because I wanted to make bank. And I intend to carry it through, albeit smartly, with a lot more zen tweaks and study habits.

  11. Oskar says:

    Do you know any studies or psychological theory that would explain why people defer happiness as in the standard model of student impressiveness. You point out that the model is wrong, but why does it persist? Why are we so attracted to an idea that makes us deeply unhappy? When it comes to food, for example, we know that it is very hard to resist certain unhealthy foods, even if we try to. However, in this case we are able to defer happiness “forever”. Why the difference, and what can we do about it?

  12. Alex says:

    Overworking and overloading sucks. It’s pretty dangerous, too. My second week at an Ivy I was so concerned about standing out and doing well, I overloaded my backpack (thinking I’d finish all the readings in one day). Anyhow, as I was walking down the auditorium stairs to my lecture, I slipped and fell forward. The heavy backpack propelled me forward and I couldn’t catch myself — thus I ended up in the ER with a fractured foot bone. Now I have a cast and I learned a solid lesson. Don’t do it!

  13. Study Hacks says:
    As of now i am no longer auditing an EXTRA Computer Science class.

    Music to my ears.

    I go to MIT, where I’m surrounded by people who take 6 or 8 or 10 classes a semester and in doing so, earn massive respect from all their peers.

    The key to surviving at MIT is to absolutely avoid everything your classmates say and do regarding academic habits.

    This year I finally let go of the idea of doing a double major. It’s so hard NOT to add anything. Even though I read your books before I started college, I did the exact opposite of what you promoted. Only after a screwed up senior year of high school and an unsuccessful freshman year of college am I starting really appreciate underscheduling. No sophomore slump for me!

    Social pressure is hard to overcome. I’m happy to hear you’ve finally cut the tether and taken control of your life.

    There must be a method to unstructured exploration, even if it’s not planned out.

    Check out my new book: I have a 75-page playbook dedicated to such methods.

    If you can’t unnderschedule, take this as an immersion experience. Like, live in your subject matter.

    This is an excellent way of thinking about it.

    Why are we so attracted to an idea that makes us deeply unhappy?

    For many students, (a) they think/hope that this strategy will make them happy in the future; and (b) it’s the only strategy that’s readily available to them. The type of ideas I teach, for example, are non-obvious, and not the sort of thing you might just stumble into on your own if you weren’t dedicating significant research to the subject.

    My second week at an Ivy I was so concerned about standing out and doing well, I overloaded my backpack (thinking I’d finish all the readings in one day). Anyhow, as I was walking down the auditorium stairs to my lecture, I slipped and fell forward.

    This is, perhaps, a more literal “danger” than I was thinking, but a valid point none-the-less!

  14. Kevin says:

    Hi, I have been reading your site for some time now and buy the notion that one should develop a unique and valuable skill versus taking on a multitude of things. After reading your post “Beyond Passion: The Science of Loving What You Do & The Grandmaster in the Corner Office,” at the end you mentioned

    “By piecing together a systematic approach to building a DP strategy for unconventional fields, I hope to identify an efficient path to the type of excellence that can be cashed in for remarkable rewards.”

    Now I know there is no “map” or a one size fits all approach to finding and developing a unique and valuable skill, but do you plan on doing any article specifically relating to building a DP strategy? If you have a multitude of interests, do just simply pick one and find a unique angle? I appreciate any feedback. Thank You!

  15. YM says:

    Hi Cal,

    I agree in general with your ideas: less is more, and we’ll lead a better life too! As much as I’d like to take your advice, though, I find it difficult. I can’t really decide what to major in, so I’ve been overloading with both philosophy and economics modules; and I *am* interested in both fields. I also love learning languages, so I’ve taken 2 courses in Japanese too. Now, the clear thing to do in my case, it seems, is to simplify things: decide on one major, and drop everything else unless it’s really not too time-consuming. But I find it hard to do so, partly because I still have problems deciding between philosophy and economics, and because of my wide-ranging interests. What advice would you have for students like me?

    Thanks in advance!

  16. Kimberly says:

    Oskar, you might like

    http://videolectures.net/youtube_zimbardo_tpnpttwcyl/

    Excuse his goofy motivational title, Zimbardo is trying to sell his book, but he is also a serious researcher. My favourite bit is the experiment with preschoolers and marshmallows.

  17. Study Hacks says:
    Now I know there is no “map” or a one size fits all approach to finding and developing a unique and valuable skill, but do you plan on doing any article specifically relating to building a DP strategy?

    My rethinking passion series should touch on these issues.

    Now, the clear thing to do in my case, it seems, is to simplify things: decide on one major, and drop everything else unless it’s really not too time-consuming.

    Flip a coin. There’s no magic right or wrong answer here. What does matter is how you approach whatever major you choose to focus on. Until you start doing less and doing better, you’re wasting time.

  18. Stanley Lee says:

    For many students, (a) they think/hope that this strategy will make them happy in the future; and (b) it’s the only strategy that’s readily available to them.

    Responding to this comment by Cal, I want to add that the educational system (along with the government and corporations) are brainwashing and bullying students to become compliant modern sweatshop factory wage slaves. This is done by the following:

    (a) Brainwashing students to think/hope that this strategy will make them happy in the future, which can’t be further from the truth (from my personal experiences)
    (b) Bullying students to think this is the only strategy that’s readily available to them. Other alternatives are hidden, and they are not that long ago exposed to the public in masses by Tim Ferriss and Chris Guillebeau (even though what their writing’s titles sound scammy). Seth Godin has been debusting these kinds of myths for a long time.

    Leo Babauta talked about these flaws promoted in the current educational system passionately in http://zenhabits.net/education-needs-to-be-turned-on-its-head . I’m currently writing a post about all you need to know about these scams.

    Stay tuned…

  19. runbei says:

    I’m the webmaster for a small private K-9 school in Palo Alto, across the street from Stanford. I graduated from SU at a time when dinosaurs still roamed the campus (BA ’64, MA ’66). Your Romantic Scholar idea is wonderful. At Stanford, I was part of a small group of friends who essentially decided to educate ourselves – this WAS the Sixties. We shared books and ideas continually. We were more interested in the path to happiness, than in cramming our brain cells with facts. And, to a surprising degree, I think we succeeded. The school for which I serve as part-time webmaster is based on the same notion, that children need to come to terms with the essences in life far more than the mechanics. (See http://www.livingwisdomschool.org.) Thus, the arts get a big play, and curriculum boundaries tend to blur. Living Wisdom School teaches very young kids essentially the same approach: Happiness comes first. Perhaps not surprisingly, the students score much higher than average on standard tests of academic achievement. BTW, what turned me off to the Stanford liberal arts curriculum was the noxious ideas of Jean-Paul Sartre and his countless scholarly disciples. Best antidote I’ve found is J. Donald Walters’s book, Out of the Labyrinth.

  20. William says:

    I agree 100% that you shouldn’t attempt to tack on extra classes or to add a double major because it looks “impressive.” Doing so would merely be playing to other people’s expectations without regards to your own personal interest.

    But obtaining a double major provides a great benefit if it will help you in your long term goals–especially if the second major is math. Most groundbreaking papers in engineering and science rely heavily on mathematical theory, since math is required to convert experimental evidence into equations with variables.

    Extensive mathematical experience allows insights which would otherwise be unlikely or difficult.

    Really, if you’re interested in understanding the world, then getting a second major in mathematics would certainly help, but don’t do it to “look impressive,” since this is a recipe for burnout.

  21. Jay says:

    Your advice (as you have said before) definitely goes beyond just college. Finding ways to reduce unnecessary commitments in other areas of our lives, including at work, is so important in order to have time for the hard focus that makes you stand out.

  22. Kevin (Singapore) says:

    Fear to be different is the driving force pushing students away from the “doing less” philosophy. When I asked my fellow friends for the purpose of doing more, they give answers, such as “more career options”, “graduating earlier” and “everyone is doing the same” that are not even very convincing to themselves.

    They created many excuses to avoid questioning themselves the bigger question of “why they are doing those things they are doing”.

  23. Stephen Y. says:

    A question I have is how this deals with multiple degrees as opposed to multiple majors. Does the same ‘too much work, not enough excellence in one field’ apply to those who are going into inter-disciplinary fields who may be seeking degrees in more than one field (IE a D.Ed. along with a PhD, or an MBA along with a post-grad science degree)? Is 10,000 hours spent in two fields instead of one truly only make you a half-expert twice over?

  24. Study Hacks says:
    Does the same ‘too much work, not enough excellence in one field’ apply to those who are going into inter-disciplinary fields who may be seeking degrees in more than one field

    Not necessarily.

  25. Tammy says:

    I do agree with you Cal, but then there’s the problem of those who take on double majors because they love both majors and they know that minoring in one wouldn’t be enough. So here’s my question, What if someone were to pursue a bachelors in something they enjoy and an associates as well while still minoring in something else all for the sake of doing more than one thing they love? And I think it would still be possible for them to follow the Romantic scholar approach to life and the zen valedictorian way of life.

  26. Majda says:

    Hello Cal,

    I don’t know if you remember me, I’m Majda from Algeria.
    Just wanted to tell you that I ordered the (not-anymore-)Red Book today from Amazon! I’m very excited and hope to get it safely soon.
    Anyway, thank you for your articles about passion which are always really insightful and inspirational, you taught me to believe that passions are not discovered “by hazard”all the time but some need to be cultivated and constructed :-).

  27. Study Hacks says:
    I do agree with you Cal, but then there’s the problem of those who take on double majors because they love both majors and they know that minoring in one wouldn’t be enough

    I don’t buy this notion of “loving” a major and therefore feeling a loss in your life if you’re not studying it.

  28. Lily says:

    Hey Cal,
    I’ve used the search engine on this site and couldn’t find a topic on repetition and learning and I’m wondering if you could do a post on how often you should revise new learned material. And what’s the best time for it, like a day after, a week after?
    Thanks in advance.

  29. Clare says:

    I’m a psych student so I thought I’d have a stab at Oskar’s question

    Do you know any studies or psychological theory that would explain why people defer happiness as in the standard model of student impressiveness?

    I think it has something to do with motivation. You can be intrinsically motivated, learning for the sake of learning, because you get your own personal enjoyment from it (being happy now), or extrinsically motivated, learning as a means of getting an external reward like your diploma, a job etc.(deferring happiness). There is another psychological theory which explains how we are actually able to slog away at longterm goals when there is apparently no reward in the immediate future, but I cannot remember what it is for the life of me!

    Hope this helped somewhat. I have been enjoying these posts as always : )

  30. Casey says:

    You say that organic chemistry, computer science, and physics can’t all be part of the same major, but at least one computer science class and some kind of physics sequence is required of a lot of engineering students. Many engineering students don’t have to get as far as orgo (most programs require gen chem), but any that are majoring in a medical or chemical variety of engineering will. Since orgo is only two or three courses into a chem progression, some students might also end up with this configuration in sophomore year as they try to keep their options open before deciding on a major. Engineering students are a minority, and chem engineering majors even more so, but boy, do we have course load problems.

  31. Tammy says:

    I don’t buy this notion of “loving” a major and therefore feeling a loss in your life if you’re not studying it.

    That’s my fault for using the wrong words for what I was trying to say. What I mean is, what if there are many different areas that someone would wish to gain more knowledge on because these areas make them happy and so they choose to take them all while following the romantic scholar way of life by not overloading themselves, but taking things at a comfortable pace? And even though they’re all essentially different, each one can complement the main goal.

  32. Alina says:

    Clearly, however, physics, computer science, and organic chemistry can’t all be part of the same major or program prerequisites.

    Not true Cal! I’m a Neuroscience major and we have to take Physics and Organic Chemistry (obviously since Neuro is a Biological science) and also Introduction to Computer Science.

    Intro Computer Science was pretty easy, but Orgo is hellish! So please don’t make assumptions.

  33. Alina says:

    Also Cal – not everyone loads up on classes because of a double major. Neuroscience is my ONLY major yet I end up taking 16 – 18 credits of science classes every semester. That’s because I decided to become a science major after leaving Architecture school and now I’m very behind.

    This semester I’m taking Orgo, Physics, Developmental Neuro and Biostatistics, and it’s really stressful :/ And this is every semester for me if I want to graduate on time.

  34. Alina says:

    Sorry to post 3x in a row, but Cal:

    What is your advice for people who can’t underschedule? I can’t afford college without my scholarship. My scholarship doesn’t cover summer classes and I must graduate in 4 years. Because I left Architecture for science, I end up taking at least 4 science classes each semester. Plus I have a job on top of that, but it’s not financially possible to quit my job at the moment. My grades have been slipping and I need to get them up if I want to keep my scholarship.

    I totally agree with your Zen attitude and under-scheduling philosophy but I can’t make it work for me.

  35. Gary Wilson says:

    Doing less applies in so many areas. I am travelling in central Europe at the moment, Krakow, Bratislava, Vienna. I travel without doing a lot of research so that I discover the places I am in rather than arriving with a full memory bank of knowledge. After visiting Auschwitz, a friend messaged me that some events in world history are so terrible that the only possible response for many is to repress the thought of them. This totally made sense to me but had I read this idea before, it would have made much less impact.

    As for the massive amount of things that I am ignorant about, when I arrive in a place and just do not know the history, the layout, the major sights, then I just enjoy the experience of learning on the go and accept that in many ways I will be the fool on the road, but a happy one.

  36. Study Hacks says:
    That’s my fault for using the wrong words for what I was trying to say. What I mean is, what if there are many different areas that someone would wish to gain more knowledge on because these areas make them happy and so they choose to take them all while following the romantic scholar way of life by not overloading themselves, but taking things at a comfortable pace

    From my experience, if there are lots of areas that would make you happy to study, you are not going to be any less happy by studying just one of them — there is no loss of happiness for passing up a subject. In other words, you’re in a great situation: you have many good options to choose from.

    That’s because I decided to become a science major after leaving Architecture school and now I’m very behind.

    Any major can be overloading if you come to it late.

    I totally agree with your Zen attitude and under-scheduling philosophy but I can’t make it work for me.

    Check out my four post series titled 4 Weeks to a 4.0 — it will help you transition into the type of structures and schedules that can wring as much efficiency as possible out of your work. You might also check out my canonical post on the straight-A method, and/or my red book for even more advice on how to take the mechanics of studying, and make them streamlined.

    s for the massive amount of things that I am ignorant about, when I arrive in a place and just do not know the history, the layout, the major sights, then I just enjoy the experience of learning on the go and accept that in many ways I will be the fool on the road, but a happy one.

    That’s a great example and a great way of thinking about life and learning. Thanks for sharing.

  37. Joseph K says:

    Sorry, I was unclear before.

    I meant that it is not so easy to find a writing community, especially if you are interested in Classical literature. I know enough to try to improve my writing by imitation, but do you happen to know any details of this? It’s outside your realm of expertise, but I’m just curious.

    Literature isn’t as accessible as the science for the callow; for instance, I doubt minors are allowed to publish articles in the New Yorker.

  38. Michael says:

    Hi Cal
    I found youre website and found it very enlightning. But it maybe to late for me to adapt to the system in order to ace the two major courses I have, which are single varibel analysis and algebra 1. The first test is in Algebra which is in one month and the second month. I feel like I slipped up alot, but do you think its to late to adapt to a system to ace the courses. If there is hope left for me,have there been other people in my situation?

    Thanks alot for a great website

  39. Michael says:

    I saw that I made an error in my comment. I meant that I have the Algebra exam in 4 weeks and the Single variable analysis exam in 6-8 weeks.

  40. Katerina says:

    I’m a Cornell sophomore and I wish someone told me this earlier this year. I started my semester as a double major with a schedule I knew was going to be killer. My parents pushed me to try it, insisting that hard semesters were a necessary part of college. Since I’m surrounded by over achievers, many of which were taking more credits in “harder subjects” than I was, I stuck with it for the first month of school. After my first round of exams, I found myself totally wiped – unable to comprehend what had just hit me. I dropped a class, but only after agonzing since it meant dropping my double major. In that first month or so of school, I called my parents often to vent and to consider dropping the class. They told me to stick it out, and didn’t really understand what I was going through. We as students need to listen to ourselves and make decisions that make sense to US. Seriously, your parents or adivsers or peers do not understand how much sleep you need or how much free time you need for yourself. Make choices that satisfy your needs, interests, and desires. Saying “the next four months will just have to suck” is no way to live life – deferred happiness is simply foolish!

  41. Adisa says:

    What if Double major is the only way you can still be competitive? I am a Junior. I am premed. My first two 4 semesters’ grade sucks. Then I picked it up.I feel like I need to be able to show medical schools that I can still do the hard science courses. At first I was a human Biology and then I added a microbiology major. I do have pretty extensive research experience. One of project was presented in Annual National Nuclear Medicine convention this year. My next project which I have been working on past year is on pancreatic cancer and it could be expected to be published before I graduate. I coordinate my school and 3 hospital wards’ volunteers. First 4 semesters I had to work on top of these. Now please tell me am I completely wrong to think that double major would not be good in my case? Please Cal let me know. I would love to know your opinion and anyone else please. Thank you.

  42. chelsea says:

    for my school, they require so many extra classes if youre in arts in sciences that it just makes sense to double major, because then at least your classes are specialized.

    the problem i see is that most of the blogs seem like they are for more “traditional,” i guess you could say, students. i have to work two jobs to have money to survive; this includes working 6-7 days a week, most of the time not getting back until 5,6,7, or even 8 at night on weeknights, and pulling shifts until midnight on the weekend.

  43. James Norris says:

    Some lovely advice on this site! I really do mean that.

    But for a bit of a contrarian perspective to your contrarian perspective: I was a triple major/quadruple minor (with two programs thrown in for good measure) at the University of Texas at Austin. It was the best strategic move I’ve ever made. And I founded seven clubs, organizations, and social enterprises while I was in college. And had seven part-time jobs/internships.

    If I could go back and do it again, I’d do it somewhat differently: less wasted time, less clubs, more studying, much more focus on one social enterprise, and one more major.

    To each their own!

  44. Manan says:

    Woah!You really are my inspiration…Okay>>Here’s the bug:I presently study in class XII(India)..And all through class XI,I enjoyed and had a gala time…Now that I have started listening to the audiobook like Think And Grow Rich and The Art Of Non-Confirmity and your blog,I have started thinking there is much to build up my life beyond school,college or temporary gains..What matters is not the college,but what I want from my life>>My interest,ambition..Yet,I do not believe in compromising with colleges…I wanna go to a nice college..I am working hard with making plans,implementing them, and trying my best to go for my interest>>Learning movie animation,playing synthesizer,improving my public speaking ability…And everytime I sleep,I just highlight all the good things,bad things,regrets>>Everything that happened throughout the day and how I would spend this day if I would had to relive it..It really helps..I think I actually wanted some help and suggestions from you,but as I am writing this,my mind is getting clearer and clearer on what I am doing..I believe I am in a transformation process..Its a tough time..Asking oneself to buck up everytime is hard cause it was never into my system..But I am progressing..So all in all..Thanks Cal>I just hope that I can face this change bravely for somewhere still there is a rebel going for this change! :)

  45. Nick says:

    I definitely agree with your writing that trying to do to much is actually worse for you. Yes I want to get a great job after I graduate and I want to be happy with my life, and I know it takes sacrificing now so that you can do more of what you want later, but…you only get to go to college once. I will be a junior this fall and I have loved the past two years of my college career so far, but boy is it going fast! I am not double majoring but I do have a minor that tacks on a little extra work, but not so much that I am constantly stressed out and over-whelmed. I’ve always taken the average 15 credit hours each semester and I have taken one summer school course just to give myself 3 extra credit hours. At this point in my life I am happy with the way things are going and I am increasing my GPA and grades every semester with out having to overwhelm my schedule to try to stand out. Instead I have added a few extra-curricular’s like a sports team and joined a fraternity to help make me a more rounded person and just to use as another way to enjoy college and be able to network. My advice to incoming freshman would be to take the average 15 credits their first year and just get settled in, get used to the way your school works and get into a sorta schedule so you can stay on top of your coursework but still have time to enjoy your years at college and meet new people. Sometimes all it takes it getting to know a stranger and that could open a door into your future career or at-least give you a new path to walk down.

  46. Alvin Jenkins says:

    Kinda odd that you argued for doing a double major in HTWAC.

  47. Joanna says:

    It’s true that organic chemistry, physics, and computer science are required for a lot of degree programs as many people have confirmed, but in the first semester? I’m a chemistry major and will take all of these classes, but not until sophomore year. This leads me to believe that a)anyone doing this in the first semester has a lot of AP credits, or b)the university doing this to them is absolutely insane.

    @Ryan Fox Calc, Linear Algebra, Orgo, Physics, CS, and Ethics in the same semester? How many credit hours is that? 20?

  48. Kait says:

    Hey Cal,
    I am entering my sophomore year at Wash U in St Louis and am a big fan of both your book and your blog but I have a question. In the book, you suggest tacking on an extra major or minor but here on the site it seems as though you are advising against that. Am I missing something or has your opinion changed since publication? I would really appreciate a response as this is an idea I am playing with. I am currently only a Women, Gender and Sexuality studies major. Anyway, thank you for the insights, they have made my college life much more interesting than I feel it would have been had I not stumbled across your book in B&N shortly before beginning my freshman year.
    From Missouri,
    Kait

  49. q says:

    I CAN’T DO IT. I JUST CAN’T DO IT!!!

    I just… I NEED to look cool. I want to be able to tell people that I double majored in college: one humanities, one science. Think about how impressive that will sound!!!!

    That’s the simple truth. I’m not going to lie and say it’s for intellectual curiosity, because you can study anything on your own… I just want to have it written on paper that I am extremely unique and multi-faceted.

  50. Wilson says:

    That’s interesting, doesn’t Cal advise tacking on an extra major or minor in “how to win at college”?

  51. Annie says:

    i’m quite lucky to read this.
    it’s really a comfort and encouragement for me cause i think i’m doing few in my college and i’m not sure whether is good or bad. but i know what i’m interested in and i just want to do one things best rather than following the crowd to get little acquaintance with everything.

  52. Diana says:

    Cal, are you suggesting that we focus on 1 aspect of our life and really master it and take it to the next level? I am a high school student so what would that be? Studying?

  53. Noel says:

    I read this when I started college. I thought it was well-written, but I proceeded to ignore it and over-work and try to pursue a double major. Now three weeks in my third semester, I decided enough was enough and dropped all the unnecessary classes. I cleared the clutter I had planned for the future as well, and now suddenly I’ve achieved a clarity of mind that I haven’t experienced for a while. Came back to find this post and enjoyed reading every sentence.

  54. Rebecca says:

    I double majored in physics and biology in undergrad – not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to. Obviously it was hard. But it was also incredibly rewarding and made me stand out like crazy when I applied to graduate school (in biophysics, naturally).

    I know I sound like everyone’s mom, but college should be about buckling down and getting a stellar education, not about f*ing around like most of my class did and then being surprised you don’t have a job upon graduation.

  55. Orson says:

    Interesting advice. As a non-traditional student at 40 yrs old I definitely concur with your idea that knuckling down on work or school and delaying satisfying living is a dangerous habit, I’ve been doing it for 20+ years.

    On another note, one thing I’ve noticed is that the required learning to get an A in a class and the amount of work and depth one can choose to engage in to truly absorb the course material are two different things. Depending on the course’s relevance to one’s interests and expected career, having the attitude of mining a course for deep knowledge and not just a good grade is a prescription for long term success. The lighter class schedule allows you more time to truly master the material.

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