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Peer Adviser Post: Declaring a Major (part 5)

Peer Adviser Post: Declaring a Major (part 5)
By Jiawen Tang CC'15

Happy CC Major Declaration Week!

Are you still deciding on whether to check the boxes for a double major or add on a concentration or two? I remember being in a similar position last year – I was set on studying economics and political science, but debated about adding a special concentration in Sustainable Development. I had taken an introductory course in Sustainable Development and I was excited by the interdisciplinary nature of the program, but the following factors ultimately helped me narrow down to my current joint-major, Economics-Political Science.

  1. Think about what you want to get out of your major—I mean this not only in terms of your long-term professional goals, but also how you want to spend your time at Columbia. The key factor behind my decision was thinking about whether I wanted to pursue a field through an academic angle or through my extracurricular involvements. I was interested in getting a rigorous, theoretical foundation in economics and political science, along with a mix of quantitative and qualitative skills, but I also wanted to make sure I had enough room in my schedule for elective courses. A breakthrough moment was when I realized that I could still pursue my interests in environmental sustainability through involvement in student groups on campus, which I did in my first and second years here. There are many ways to learn and demonstrate expertise about a subject matter, and one of the great things about Columbia is that there are so many clubs, and research opportunities and internships on-and-off-campus that are at our fingertips.
  2. Look through the major requirements and pre-requisites very carefully! Some majors, like economics, have a core set of courses you must take in a specific order, or have required courses that are only offered in certain semesters (i.e. only in the Fall). This may be a limiting factor if you are interested in studying abroad your junior year. When looking at the requirements for Sustainable Development, I noticed that the electives I was most interested in had a lot of overlap with the require courses for economics and political science—since Columbia College does not allow “double counting” of credits, I realized that in order to have Sustainable Development concentration onto my transcript, I would have to take electives that I wasn’t as interested in. Instead, I decided to pursue the joint major and selectively take courses in the Sustainable Development program. 

I hope you’ll find my experience with major declaration to be helpful to you in making the decision that is right for you. If you feel unsure about the major you declare this week, try to be active about finding out what interests you, and spend the new few weeks finding out as much information as possible from professors, upperclassmen, academic advisers, and TAs, or even sitting in on a some classes to get a feel for the major. Take some time to reflect on what you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy thus far in your academic experience, and don’t be afraid to go out and explore what Columbia has to offer!


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