As we all know, Furman is an academically rigorous university. One of the best qualities of Furman is how deeply you can delve into your academic interests. As a student here, you gain the opportunity to make personal connections with professors, conduct meaningful research, and partake in engaged learning experiences related to your passions. What appears bound to Furman academics, however, is an unspoken expectation that you should be studying more than one field. But in no way are you required to pursue more than one major or to minor, so why does double majoring seem to be an expectation?
The push to complete more than one major is not commonly enforced by the faculty here. I have come to realize that, instead, it is a culture created by students. Professors and advisors will rarely persuade you to bite off more than you can chew academically, yet there is a tinge of judgement that can be felt after telling a fellow student that you are only studying one major. In turn, there appears to be a competitive hierarchy between our peers that is determined by our decision to master multiple academic disciplines.
Many believe the age in which we are growing up has seen increased competitiveness in both academic and professional spheres. Whenever I find myself in a conversation with a parent or adult about academics, the phrase that seems to be consistently thrown back at me is, “it was a lot easier in my day.” Thus, if competitiveness is already systematically encouraged, it is a marvel to me that we as students would choose to extend it into unnecessary contexts in which we might have the freedom to make our own choices (in this case, choosing majors).
A big reason I personally decided to pursue a minor field of study was because I was embarrassed to only list off one major when people asked me what I was studying. But there should be no shame in studying a single field in depth and using your freer schedule to study or partake in other interests and involvements. We as a community need to de-stigmatize the decision to study in one field. Because no matter what your schedule looks like, Furman will remain challenging.
An academic pressure of this kind can be harmful to certain students' personal exploration in college and their ability to use their time and energy in the way they truly want. Who cares if that art class doesn’t fit neatly into your field of study? Take it anyway. Not every moment in college should necessarily be spent expanding knowledge in your major: college is also a time for experimentation and for seizing the privilege to learn about anything you want. At a school like Furman, there are endless opportunities to participate in niche classes and join organizations that may not directly correlate to your major field of study or career path. The pressure to take part in more than one major or minor can keep certain people from having the space in their schedule to pursue areas in college that they might have been able to with a single major.
For those who are genuinely interested in studying two fields, Furman's ease in allowing students to double major can be greatly beneficial. However, for those who feel passionate about only one discipline, free space in a college schedule can be used to explore new interests, train one's ability to think in different ways, and make use of the fact that this may be the last time we have a full repertoire of classes at our fingertips.
The expectation to master two disciplines only creates a more stressful, and potentially less fulfilling, four years for both single- and reluctant double-majors. As the spring semester continues to progress, let's remember that no matter how many majors someone boasts, we should all continue to have each other's backs and root for our peers in academics.