For many upperclassmen in high school, you are still choosing your major. One decision is hard enough. But for some of you, that future plan even includes considering double or even triple majoring! A motivated student can graduate from college within three years by completing one major, but many students still opt to double or even triple major instead. How does majoring in more than one subject actually work? How difficult is it to triple major?
What exactly is a double or triple major?
“A double major is where you major in two subjects heading towards the same degree. For example, you could major in anthropology and literature to head toward a Bachelor of Arts. This differs from a dual degree, where a student studies two majors that result in two totally different degrees, such as theater and biology, which would result in a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science respectively.”Quoted from Empowerly’s own blog Should You Double Major in College
Similarly, a triple major can either mean one of two things. Firstly, it could mean you are taking three subjects toward one “multi-layered” degree from your university. Alternatively, it could mean you are taking three different subjects towards three different degrees (such as B.A., B.S., B.F.A., etc.), therefore requiring simultaneous enrollment. This detail about your triple major degree makes a big difference, so look out!
Triple majoring, although hard to achieve, is actually doable. I asked a friend at UC Berkeley, who is majoring in Economics, Political Science, and French, with a minor in German, about his triple majoring experience.
UC Berkeley triple majors: what it takes.
So, how many units does our friend need to take to graduate? Let’s calculate it: generally, one major requires 12 courses to graduate. Since all of these subjects (Economics, Poli Sci, French, and German) are all within the College of Letters and Science, this is the first case: three subjects, one degree (B.A.).
As a double major or more, Berkeley allows you to overlap two required courses from a major. This means you will need at least (12 + 10) = 22 total required courses to graduate with a double major degree. Therefore, a triple major will need to take at least (12 + 10 + 10) = 32 courses. In addition, he has a minor in German, which requires 10 courses to declare. In all, a total of (32 + 10) = 42 courses is demanded to satisfy these graduation requirements.
Keep in mind, the number of classes you can overlap depends on your departments and schools. Some colleges do not allow one course to count for both majors. If they do, you still have to consider the logistical planning aspect of your course load. If you choose molecular chemistry and Chinese language, for example, most students won’t be able to find two classes that satisfy a requirement for both majors!
Nevertheless, we can continue with our case study with these parameters in mind. In total, if the average course is 4 units, a total of 4 x 42 = 168 units is expected. Therefore, if he wants to graduate in 4 years (8 semesters), he’ll have to take 168 units / 8 semesters = 21 units per semester in order to graduate on time. For those of you not in college, the expected/average course load at Berkeley is around 15 to 16 units. 21 units is a huge time commitment!
Are you still deciding on triple majoring?
You must know that you can’t waste any time.
Additionally, not many people come into college with the intention to triple major, or at least knowing what three majors they want to study. My friend took discovery classes in his freshman year to finalize what he wanted to study. Thus, it wasn’t until the end of his freshman year that he wanted to triple major and in what subjects. As a result, he only had 3 years to complete all his requirements. Instead of 21, he has to take a whopping 28 units per semester in order to graduate on time, in addition to staying at Berkeley for summer classes every year. That’s almost double the average amount of units.
My friend even studied abroad during his fall semester sophomore year—in the lively, romantic city of Paris, he took 22 units of class! As you can see, studying abroad is not always the fun experience that you hear about (if you decide to triple major, that is).
Can YOU triple major? Steps to remember.
Lastly, the process of declaring triple majors is also very complicated. At Berkeley, you first have to get consent from each major department to allow you to major in the three subjects; then carefully plan out each semester with the specific classes you going to take; finally, get everything signed by your college advisor. And in Berkeley, a large public school, it usually takes more than one month to get three counselors’ agreements.
Not every triple degree program is created equal.
These rules can vary greatly depending on the triple bachelor’s degree you pursue. Some programs will make triple majors very difficult to achieve, if at all. Other triple degree programs may require an immense amount of credit hours that you aren’t prepared for. Sometimes, it’s just a case of ensuring you submit the right forms on time. Research is your friend, so you know what you’re signing away.
All in all, triple majoring in college can be quite difficult and has plenty of obstacles. It certainly won’t be easy, but as you can see, my friend is still willing to go through it all because it’s something he truly wants to do! Don’t let these things scare you; if you want to triple major, go for it! But just be aware that the road will not be easy.
Did you know that Empowerly students are 3 times more likely to be admitted to colleges?
You can find out more about our results and talk to one of our experts about your individual situation in an exploratory call below. From determining what subject areas ignite your passion, to translating your hobbies into a career, our experts have been there. Our community of experts can help you weigh the pros and cons of a triple degree program—and how to navigate the rest.