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Academic experiences differ by major choice

Aug 21, 2013   |   by Aditi Kirtikar   |   The Dartmouth

While declaring a major can spark fear in incoming freshmen and upperclassmen alike, students can wait until the end of their fifth term in residence to decide on a course of study, usually sophomore winter or spring. The College offers 57 standard majors alongside minors and specialized programs.

Undergraduate Dean June Chu said she found that students discover new departments by taking courses that fulfil distributive requirements, which she said was a “great way for students to step out of their comfort zones.”

“Students may come in with an idea of what they want to do but may not have experienced that class at a college level,” Chu said.

Of the Class of 2012, 48 percent of students graduated with a single major, 30 percent with a major and minor and 17 percent with a double major.

Flexibility in electing a major depends on the department. Students majoring in the social sciences and humanities departments can explore more courses during their freshman and sophomore years, while engineering majors are required to complete specific classes earlier in their academic paths.

The engineering sciences department requires that students take two engineering courses as well as mathematics and physics prerequisites by the end of their sophomore year.

Beyond specific requirements, engineering majors can take additional courses based on pure interest. Half of the courses students elect in the engineering major are within that department, engineering sciences department chair Erland Schulson said. About 25 percent of engineering students in the Class of 2013 modified their majors.

“They are competent on more fronts than just one,” he said. “After four years of study, you will still be balancing engineering sciences with social studies and humanities.”

There are nine ways to modify the engineering sciences major — four with other science fields and five outside the field.

[In this video, Amber Porter '14 talks about blending engineering and the liberal arts through her theater major modified with engineering, sociology, government and public policy:]

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