Government Department

Thinking of Double-Majoring?

You're at Wesleyan to get a broad liberal arts education. The more majors you declare and maintain, the more you narrow your learning in ways that could be inimical to the achievement of such an education. You have to fulfill requirements in each major. Every course you take purely to fulfill a requirement is one fewer course that you can take because you are interested in a particular topic or because you are inspired by a particular professor.

Majoring in more than one department or program has become increasingly common at selective liberal arts colleges, including Wesleyan. No evidence exists, however, that this practice improves your educational experience -- much less your prospects for getting a job after graduation or getting accepted into a post-baccalaureate degree program. Driving the double-majoring preoccupation is, in part, a misguided compulsion to accumulate credentials for the resumé. In most circumstances, getting a strong recommendation from a professor who knows you well is a far more valuable resource than putting a second major on your resumé. Meanwhile, completing the requirements for two different majors limits the number of other courses you may take, narrowing your educational experience. Unless the two majors genuinely reinforce each other, the Government Department faculty recommend that you choose a single major, then select a set of complementary courses outside it to get exposure to the other field(s) in which you are interested. For example, completing a Government major and a certificate program may provide a better education than a double major. Taking courses within a designated course cluster is also a good strategy for enhancing the coherence of one's courses. A list of currently-available certificates and course clusters may be found on Wesmaps.

The costs of double-majoring may be more or less burdensome depending on the requirements of each major. For example, to major in the Latin American Studies Program at Wesleyan, you have to choose a concentration (which in Latin American Studies means a department like History or Sociology). If you choose to concentrate in Government, you will have to take five or six Government courses just to complete the Latin American Studies major. By taking only three or four more Government courses, you will also complete the course requirements for the Government major. If you were interested enough in political science to choose the Government concentration within Latin American Studies in the first place, you might well have taken those three or four more Government courses even if you hadn't been trying to meet the requirements of the Government major.

Now try the thought-experiment of double-majoring in Chemistry -- or even History or Sociology -- and Government. That will eat up about half your courses. Given that you will want to meet the General Education Expectations, that you (we hope) took a diversity of courses in your frosh and sophomore years, and that you may also want to study abroad, double-majoring in Government and one of these departments will subject you to so many requirements that you will have almost no flexibility in your last two years. Want to double-major in Government and Sociology and study abroad too? There's a good chance you will end up dropping the Government major.

If you've read the Declaring the Government Major section of our Majoring in Government page, you will have noticed that we make the bar to become and remain a Government major higher for double-majors (who are required to maintain a university grade point average of B+ or better) than for single-majors. We do this because we believe that double-majoring under most circumstances is burdensome for the Department and counterproductive for the student. Double-majoring leads, paradoxically, to overspecialization (in two fields with large numbers of required courses), which is inconsistent with a basic mission of a liberal arts college. As is noted in the "frequently asked questions" section of the "major declaration" part of the student affairs website (scroll down to "Can I Have More Than One Major"), "While the intention is often to expand one’s scope with two majors, the reverse often happens and students can find themselves needing to fulfill a requirement with every course. Due to these increased requirements, a student who double-majors may not be able to pursue additional interests within the diverse Wesleyan curriculum nor may there be time to be involved in co-curricular activities. Furthermore, a double major by itself does not necessarily give a student an advantage in the job market."