2
7 months ago
Admissions Advice

Double Majors STEM + Humanities
Answered

I was thinking about majoring in anthropology, but possibly double majoring in astrophysics or some engineering. Is that plausible or is it too different to do? (in 4 years)

anthropology
doublemajor
stem
2
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Accepted Answer
7 months ago[edited]

Great question! Students often feel overwhelmed by the need to pick a major for the college admissions process, so I'm glad you've asked.

To answer your question simply: go for it!

The slightly more complex answer: go for it at a school that will encourage and support you if you are willing to put in a bit of extra work!

The full answer:

STEM and the humanities are painted by people on both sides as polar opposites, but the truth is each needs the other to find purpose and meaning. If you think about it, there is a ton of overlap between anthropology and either astrophysics (contemplating alien life, how human societies have interacted with space, etc.) or engineering (societies' relationships with the environment, agriculture, toolmaking, and many more applications). Thus, from an intellectual perspective, this goal is not as far out as you may have thought initially. Practically, however, there will be challenges in combining these two passions of yours. For example, engineering majors typically require more courses to complete than your average major, so you will need a game plan early on in your college career for how you will finish all the requirements of both degrees. For this, I recommend enlisting the help of your academic adviser(s) from the get go. Be transparent about your goals and ask them what you need to do to realize them.

Another, more immediate challenge you'll face is writing college essays about your dual passion for astro/engineering and anthropology. Many schools will ask you why you want to pursue the field(s) of study you've indicated on your application. The best thing you can do in this scenario is to highlight the intersection between your two fields that interests you. Don't just discuss why each major is interesting to you; talk about why you couldn't possibly do one without the other and the insights you'll gain by combining them. You don't have to spend equal time/space on each potential major, but they should each be described. Keep in mind that what you put on your application is not a commitment of any kind -- it's designed to get a sense of who you are and what interests you! Personally, I applied to college as a chemistry and English double major, and in the years since I've changed my major several times and will only be completing one degree by the time I graduate -- one that more neatly aligns with the passions I have.

One last note is that there are certain schools that will support this dual degree more robustly than others. Technical schools will be excellent STEM resources, but the ability to double major in a humanities or social science field will be reduced since these schools are really set up to give you a deep dive in one field. You'll have better luck at a school that emphasizes a broader or liberal arts curriculum since they emphasize interdisciplinary learning, but your best bet is a larger research university with a liberal arts curriculum. This will give you the chance to get your feet wet in each field, get involved in research in one or both subjects, and decide how you want to balance them.

In conclusion, this scenario will demand some compromise and sacrifice, but it is eminently possible if you are willing to put in a bit of work, choose a school that will support you, make use of your advisers and mentors, and keep an open mind to changing your path as you go along. Best of luck!

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