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Double Majors at MIT

Some Students Don’t Settle for a Single Degree

By Efren Gutierrez

Although freshmen are only allowed to declare a single major, some students may decide to add a second later on in their MIT career.

Students who wish to apply for a double major must first select a single major at the end of their freshman year. The major that they choose at that point will become their primary major, and they will be assigned an adviser within that major.

During the spring semester of a student’s sophomore year, he or she may petition the Committee on Curricula (COC) for the approval of a second major. If the proposal is accepted by both the COC and the two departments, that student will be assigned an adviser within the second major. In order to complete a double major, a student must finish all required classes for both majors and an extra 90 credit units beyond the approximately 384 units required for a single major.

Some students come to MIT with a lot of credit, and are able to easily complete a double major. However, there are other students who come to MIT with little to no credit and still decide to pursue a double major.

Extra majors can make

“I came in with zero units, but I have worked really hard by taking about eight classes a term to obtain a triple major in Course VI-I (Electrical Engineering), XV (Management), and XXI-A (Anthropology),” said Joseph W. Bingold ’01. “The reason I chose to do the triple major was because I entered MIT choosing VI-I but after a while I got tired of it, and wanted to change to XV because I have a more business mind, but I had done enough Course VI classes that I decided I should finish the major. I added XXI-A because the subject interests me.”

Triple major no longer allowed

Last year the COC changed its policy for students attempting a double major or triple major. Students cannot receive a second Bachelor of Science degree (SB) if they have already obtained one SB. Petitions for triple majors are no longer accepted by the COC. Another added requirement is that students who wish to petition for a second double major and have a grade point average lower that 4.0 will need to supply a letter of recommendation from their adviser.

The most popular combinations for double majors involve combining a science or engineering degree with one from the humanities. Students often combine Course VI (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) with Course XV or Course XXI (Humanities), and many mix Course XVIII (Mathematics) with some other course. Students often double major when there is a large amount of overlap between two majors, such as Course VIII (Physics) and Course XII (Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences).

“It’s easier to double-major with math since it only requires nine courses after the two GIRs (General Institute Requirements).” said Nataliya A. Yufa ’01, who is also majoring in Course VIII (Physics), “though the reason I double majored was to obtain an in-depth knowledge of the two related fields.”

Double majors should not be resume filler

Rebecca E. Lipon ’03, a major in Course VI (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and Course XV (Management), advised potential double majors to “make sure that you really want both majors for themselves. You can always take classes in other majors. If you want to study one field, don’t pick up another major because you think it will look good on a resumÉ.”

Lipon said that she chose to double major because of the “lucrative combination of having strong interpersonal skills and my liking for computers, and I believe that double majoring in a social science and an engineering discipline hones a wider range of skills.”

Ling Bao ’02, who is majoring in Course VI (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and XV (Management), encouraged freshman to excel in one major rather than to merely subsist in two majors.

“Do it because you are interested in both majors. If you think double majoring will make you just mediocre in two fields, don’t do it. It’s much better to be really good at one thing that normal at two. However, if you enjoy the subject matter in both majors and think that double majoring won’t hurt your performance in any of the majors, then go ahead,” Bao said.