How Difficult Is It to Triple Major in College?

Francis Cheng
Francis Cheng

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For many of you, you are still choosing your major. But for some of you, you are even considering double or even triple majoring! One 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 towards a Bachelor of Arts. This differs from a dual degree, where a student studies two majors that result in two totally different degrees, such 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 three subjects towards one degree or three different subjects towards three different majors. 

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 major experience. 

UC Berkeley Triple Major:

So, how many units does he need to take to graduate? Let’s calculate it: generally, one major requires 12 courses to graduate. Double major or more allows you to overlap two required courses from a major, which means you will need at least 12 + 10 = 22 total required courses to graduate with a double major degree. Therefore, 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 for graduation. If the average course is 4 units, a total of 4 x 42 = 168 units is expected – 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. 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!

Still deciding?

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 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).  

Steps to Remember

Lastly, the process of declaring triple majors is also very complicated. At Berkeley, you have to get consent from each major department to allow you to major in the three subjects, plan out each semester with the specific classes you going to take, and 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.

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.

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