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Old 03-01-2009, 05:33 PM   #1
yanshuo
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Default Double majors / double degree / major minor / accelerated / etc.

I am interested to know more about how course options work in the US. If anybody who has studied in the US before or is studying there right now can explain, I'll deeply appreciate it

I understand that some universities allow almost complete freedom of choice in selecting double majors / double degree / major-minor combinations.

How does the uni or how do you decide how to allocate the time for each component? Will you take longer to graduate than other students?

Also, how prevalent are these educational choices, and how valuable are they compared to more mainstream ones?
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Old 03-01-2009, 09:44 PM   #2
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Uni don't help U plan and manage the time. U gotta be responsible and independent to do it.

Uni advsiors only guide U which classes U should take to get this major.

yes U will take longer to grad. unless u load up or study in the summer! don't forget U are increasing the credits u need to take in order to grad.

Also, how prevalent are these educational choices, and how valuable are they compared to more mainstream ones?

double major/minor not unusual. its rather common for biz major to do 2 major. or ppl doing math to do Math/Econ/Statistic/Physicals/Astro combi as major.

Depending on Uni. some programs don't offer cross dept majors and U end up getting a double degree. In fact its two papers.

what do u mean by mainstream ones?
if I understand u correctly. how valuable thats will have to depend what are u studying..
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Old 03-02-2009, 06:42 PM   #3
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There is a subtle difference between double major and degree so you'll have to do research on each university you're interested in (a lot of legwork involved because the US universities don't follow one central system; each one does things their own way). Still, this is how things generally work:

To graduate, you need to fulfill some general education requirements (a little of everything: foreign lang, science, quant, humanities, etc--the liberal arts idea basically). And then, to major in something, you need to fulfill that department's requirements (which are usually 10-12 classes long, at least at Duke). Given 8 semesters (4 years x 2 semesters per year), that's pretty do-able. So let's look at the various options:

Double major in 4 years:
Usually there is no discount--you need to satisfy the requirements of both departments you're majoring in. For many Singaporeans, however, this is made easier by doing some combination of the things below:

1. A level credits
Many A level subjects are recognized as being the same as 0.5-1 year of uni-level work. So if you have an A level in your major (e.g. Math, Physics, Economics etc), you might be able to skip the easiest class(es) in that major and start "higher up" on the chain of classes you must take to finish your major.

2. Taking interdisciplinary classes (and overlapping majors)
Sure, I did just say you get no "discount"--but some interdisciplinary classes count for more than one department (e.g. Public Finance at Duke is both Economics and Public Policy). So if you took such a class, you're one step closer in both departments! Of course, some major combos overlap better than others: Econ/PolSci/PubPol tend overlap a lot (i.e. have several classes that count for those departments). Conversely, my own double major (Eng Lit and Economics) has almost no overlapping classes.

3. Overloading or Summer school
Bascially, to pack in more classes you can work overtime, of course! Overloading means taking more classes than other normal students (at Duke 4 classes a semester is normal; however 80% of Singaporeans here take 5 or more). The trade-off is less time to socialize, do ECAs and hold leadership positions: all the other good things that you can do at a foreign uni to gain experience.
Summer school means giving up half (or all) or your summer holiday to attend school. Trade-off: costs extra, you may burnout without a break, and/or you may miss home.

Acceleration--single major in 3 years:
Another option is to graduate faster: in 3 years. (In the UK 3 years is normal; in the US 4 is). Again with tactics (1) and (3) listed above, it is do-able, perhaps even slightly easy.

Trade-off is 1 less year in college...which is allegedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus side: you save money. Or, if you're on a scholarship, you save 1 years' worth of funding to go get a Master's. (But graduate school is allegedly not as fun as undergrad, so you still lose the 1 year of undergrad fun).

Acceleration--DOUBLE major in 3 years:
Sure, why not? If you do all 3 tactics listed above, it's possible. Work hard!

Minors:
The easiest. They are usually half the length of a major (so, ~5-6 classes required). They don't impress employers much, but can reflect an interest in the subject. Eg. many people minor in a foreign lang, or Music, or some other pet subject they fear is unemployable/impractical (Cultural Anthropology?).

Employability
Double-majors can seem well-rounded if their two majors are complementary. Again, you'll have to present yourself well and convince your interviewer that the combo "works." So introspection and reflection are key. For me, I asserted that English Lit helped my critical thinking/interpretive skills, and made me highly detail-oriented to boot. That helps my Econ analysis work. My Econ work teaches me, via models & theories, a little more about the real world; that’s helpful in EngLit’s endeavor of understanding humanity. Aside from the combo’s synergy, I also not-so-subtly pointed out that interpretation, detail-orientedness and a sense for the real world are part of a consultant’s core skill-set, too.

Anecdotally, double-majoring is popular among SGeans in the US. Super-pragmatic combos like Engineering/Economics (twice the employability!) are somewhat common too. The choice is yours.
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Old 03-02-2009, 09:38 PM   #4
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Thanks for the reply. Wow thats a lot of choices at your disposal!

I can't help but be reminded of this guy:

Quote:
Lieutenant He Ruimin, 23, finished both his basic degree and PhD in just four years.

He's possibly the first to do so at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The top US university said so itself though officially it does not keep such records. (See other report.)

And he was not just superfast but swinging (between subjects) too.

He did his PhD in Economics - and his basic degree in electrical engineering and science - at the same time.
http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/printfr...,69035,00.html

I think its only in the US that you hear of such a thing happening...

Quote:
There is a subtle difference between double major and degree
What are the differences between these options at a university that offers both? Also, are there any things concerning US academics that a SG student should avoid/look out for?
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Old 03-02-2009, 10:38 PM   #5
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thanks DukeBlue, you've helped me too. haha, just in case, could I ask if they'll count my A level credits end of this year, in 2009, even though I took my A levels way back in 2006? I think you served NS before uni too, did Duke have any problems with your A level credits?
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Old 03-03-2009, 01:36 AM   #6
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Its very possible for 1 to finished a Phd in just 4yrs.
Grad school usually recommend students to take 2 classes (Engineering major) per semester. However U do find asians taking 3-4 classes on avg. For the brilliant ones, they are taking 5-6 classes, clearing their qualifying exams in their 2nd yr.
Doing so allows U clear the coursework requirement in about 1.5yrs, focusing your entire time on research. Having a Good Advisor is also key. Get 1 that drag U along to help him do his research work and that will prolong your graduation.

my pal (korean) did triple major in Math/Astro/Phyisc juggling undergrad research in just 2.5yrs getting a 4.0 GPA using methods suggested DukeBlue.

Uni generally offer double/Triple degree options, however Department have a choice to decide if they wanna allow Major/Minor. Its not 100% Uni specific, U gotta to dig deeper into each Department to get a better idea.

Last edited by patryn33; 03-03-2009 at 01:57 AM.
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Old 03-03-2009, 07:44 AM   #7
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^^ Must keep in mind that it's easier to finish in 2.5 yrs at a state u than at a private college. Private colleges are usually less flexible in their curriculum, have more distribution requirements (liberal artsy) and less generous in granting credits, especially the top private colleges. i know some colleges where 2.5 years just simply isn't possible
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Old 03-03-2009, 08:11 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yanshuo View Post
Thanks for the reply. Wow thats a lot of choices at your disposal!

I can't help but be reminded of this guy:



http://newpaper.asia1.com.sg/printfr...,69035,00.html

I think its only in the US that you hear of such a thing happening...



What are the differences between these options at a university that offers both? Also, are there any things concerning US academics that a SG student should avoid/look out for?
Yes yanshuo, you heard about the legendary He Ruimin too I see
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Old 03-03-2009, 08:43 AM   #9
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Yes, in some schools the rules are just "guidelines." Some of my fellow ABD scholars who are math geniuses took PhD Math classes in their freshmen year(!). They basically bypassed the undergraduate Math requirements entirely, and started doing graduate-level stuff. So I think if you show true merit, the departments might be willing to accommodate you, as it’s also in their best interests to have their students be the best they can be.

Of course, such drastic acceleration (like Ruimin’s) is easier for the maths/sciences than, say, the humanities. It's harder to be a precocious philosophy genius because excelling in the humanities takes a level of maturity and requires a grasp on the complexities of life/humans that cannot really be rushed. There is no acceleration possible in the School of Hard Knocks!

Quote:
Also, are there any things concerning US academics that a SG student should avoid/look out for?
Nutty profs, for one. Some profs are opinionated and think they're right. That's ok, but a subset of those hold pretty extreme views that may cause you discomfort if you hear them everyday. Fortunately, you can talk to upperclassmen friends to suss out which are the good profs and which are either nutty or just plain bad profs.

To LockT31W: Check with the relevant academic department for your uni if they will take your A level credits. NS didn’t hinder me in any way; I just brought my A level certs to Duke and I presented those credentials to the appropriate department during my first week of school. Soon after, the A level credits showed up online in my academic record, enabling me to skip forward in my Econ major.
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Last edited by DukeBlue; 03-03-2009 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 03-04-2009, 01:17 AM   #10
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Keep in mind it depend on the Uni, regardless its State/Private.
FYI: Top State Uni are also less generous in granting credits.
the difference in distribution isn't great.
even if without "more" distribution req it all depends on Uni if those classes crash. no pt having fewer requirement but many of those freshman/Sop classes conflict. Thus if U dig deep enough U will find the same deal with Public Uni.
the Ang Mo working two cube away from me grad from a top pubic Uni (most expensive 1 too) juggling high school sweetheart and studies also complete in 2.5yrs.

in US, nothing is impossible. I have to agree with DukeBlue, Departments are very accommodating. So long U can convince the prof teaching the class, U can sit for a special exams and "pass" (pass here don't mean 50% might be 90% depending on Prof) to get those credits transferred

take note: American Uni pretty bias against those lower ranked Uni. Application can be treated as toilet papers with top Uni. Her application to MIT/Stanford/Berkeley for grad school is smooth sailing. Not many accepted grad applicants are welcome to visit the Uni, tour the Prof research facilities on the prof expenses (flight/lodging etc inclusive) and be granted on a full ride.

Last edited by patryn33; 03-04-2009 at 07:59 AM.
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