Do I ditch one of my majors, and which one?
May 4, 2014 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Do I ditch one of my majors, and which one? I am an older (54 today!) student, having returned for a 3rd try at my bachelors after 25 years. I am now completing my junior year, and plan to graduate a year from now, in spring '15.

When I returned I continued with my old major of Anthropology, biological anthro to be precise. After a semester I decided to add a 2nd major, Women's Studies. Because I added WS so late, my last two semesters will consist entirely of the required 6 WS courses and the required 4 anthro courses to fulfill both my majors. This means my last year will require me to take 5 courses for each of the remaining 2 semesters. That feels like too much to me. Too much pressure, too much work. At first, I thought of dumping my anthro major and changing it to a minor, for which I have already met all the requirements. But talking to the anthro department secretary I admitting my sadness at this idea, saying that I felt like part of my identitity was as an anthro major. I mean, it's not like I'm gong to BE an anthropologist without multiple (or any) graduate degrees. I just love the field. She talked me into re-upping my anthro major. She urged me to take a couple of summer classes this coming summer, and maybe a class during the winter session next year to alleviate the pressure. I don't have the money to take classes other than during the two main semesters. By the way, I have all the credits I need to graduate, I'm now dealing with fulfilling my required major credits.

I rely completely on federal loans (I'm unemployed) which will not cover summer or winter (meaning the very short period between fall and spring semesters) classes. I MIGHT get work this summer, fully intend to look hard, but the prospects of a summer job for a "grownup" aren't great. I do bookkeeping work. If I did get summer work, I could pay for the summer course(s), but I can't be guaranteed. That would mean registering for a class or classes and hoping I get work so I can pay for it, but maybe not. Then I'd be stuck with a bill I can't pay, which may affect being allowed to attend classes in the fall.

This is all makes me question the point or advantage of two majors or a major with a minor. In the real world, does it matter? Does one gets "points" for the extra work? I know I'm not going to grad school. I'm hoping to get work doing program management in the nonprofit world, hopefully in women's health. So, is there a good reason to keep on with two majors? If not, I'm tempted to drop the Women's Studies, since it's so new and I'm not nearly invested as much. But would a WS major look better to potential employers, as opposed to anthro?

It doesn't help that I'm sitting here at the tail of a week of flu and my head is just useless right now. I'm feeling panicky and anxious about all the work in the week ahead as well as planning for the short-term and long-term.
posted by primate moon to Education (20 answers total)
I will tell you from experience that 5 classes is an insane load. I did it plus two labs for a year. I just about put myself in the hospital in the process. After going through it, I honestly wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
posted by kathrynm at 9:03 AM on May 4, 2014

I'd say make Women's Studies your minor. Then you could still study both but have a less crazy schedule. Also, I am not an expert but can't imagine WS would look any better to employers than the Anthropology major.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:08 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

With the exception of a few technical majors, I don't think most employers care what exact your major is, or whether or not it's a double major -- so it really comes down to the words on your diploma, and how you're going to feel about them once you're finished. It sounds like having "anthropology" there is something you've worked to achieve for a long time, and that you're less wedded to the women's studies major. Unless you feel really strongly that you want to earn that double major, there's likely not much downside to dropping the latter.

Do you have to make the decision right now, though? Assuming that you're not taking summer courses, which seems unfeasible, it might not be the worst idea to revisit this in a little bit when you're not quite as stressed out.
posted by eponym at 9:11 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, I don't know that having it as a minor would be significantly worse than a major, resume-wise. I have 2 minors and I include them in the education section of my resume, same as my major.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:12 AM on May 4, 2014

The difficulty of courseload is entirely dependent on the school and the program. I took six classes my last year of school to graduate in 3.5 years and it was fine.

That being said, I don't think two social sciences degrees are really going to help you too much. It sounds like you really want the anthro degree, so I'd either drop the WS degree or drop it down to a minor.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:13 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Based on your own analysis I would complete the Anthropology major. Drop the WS major but take courses in that program to the extent that you are able. As others have said, maybe you could pick up a WS minor.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:15 AM on May 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

It really doesn't matter if you have two majors or a major and a minor. If you're not going to grad school and aren't planning on doing a job where a specific major in something is required, it's not gonna be important to anyone other than you. Women's studies (can you do a minor in it? I'm guessing no or else you'd have mentioned it) might help if that's your dream field, but I don't know if it'd be worth two semesters of taking too much work at once to get it. It's not like they'd totally rule you out for studying oh, people in general rather than just women in particular. And I don't know if you care about your GPA or not (again, something not important unless you're going to grad school or if you're a borderline student), but most people's grades go waaaaaaaaaaaay down when they are trying to juggle too much. It might not be worth it to end up on academic probation or worse your last year because you're trying to cram it all in.

In general, it doesn't sound like it will be worth it to your future to take two incredibly hard semesters for that double major if you can't do any more schoolwork in summer or another time. Just get out with your degree, that's all anyone cares about is that you've got one.

Also, happy birthday!
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:16 AM on May 4, 2014

Can you minor in WS and take fewer courses? I don't think double major or major + minor will matter for you, so take whichever major will make you happier while you study.

Five courses a semester is pretty standard where I am -- it's the typical full-time schedule, and not considered excessive work.
posted by jeather at 9:22 AM on May 4, 2014

The only way either decision is relevant is if you are going to grad school, so you should probably choose the option that makes your life least fraught.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:43 AM on May 4, 2014

neither one of these majors is the most employable major ever devised, but at least anthro qualifies you to assist at digs and other anthropology investigations, i'm not sure there are any jobs in women's studies outside of academia. can you keep the anthro and just audit courses in women's studies?
posted by bruce at 9:50 AM on May 4, 2014

The only thing you get points for is having a degree. Any future employer who values WS isn't going to care if it was a major or a minor and will value the anthro major. Anthro more broadly applicable to a wider range of jobs. Go for that, because at this point you must err on the side of practicality since you are going to have just 10 or 15 years to pay off these loans. Get the paper and get out.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:03 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd say, drop the Women's Studies major, but take all the courses in that discipline that interest you.

If you are going up for a job where Women's Studies is important, you can express your interest and experience in the field by listing the courses you've taken, papers you've written, related research projects, etc., and that can be just as meaningful as an official minor designated on your transcript. Bonus points if you can write an undergraduate thesis in Anthro that expresses the themes that interest you from Women's Studies.
posted by BrashTech at 10:09 AM on May 4, 2014

Hi! I've done program management with a BA in anthropology. In my experience, most people in the nonprofit world will just read your resume as "primate moon has a social sciences degree, cool! that means they are probably good at writing and critical thinking." Anthropology as a major definitely works for that, I think.

Echoing other suggestions, how about you not even worry about strictly attaining the WS minor, but instead shoot for just having taken several classes/significant coursework in WS? You can throw this into your resume if you end up applying for a job related to gender/sexuality issues (as a "significant coursework in women's studies" bullet point), and/or throw it into an interview conversation if it seems like your employer wants you to be on top of these theories and issues. But having anthropology as your major, regardless of what you land in with WS, will communicate the core skill-set of writing and communication, critical thought, and intercultural competency that should be helpful in the nonprofit context.

Good luck! Yay anthro!
posted by elephantsvanish at 10:51 AM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Happy birthday and congratulations!

I agree that WS should take a back seat based on what you've said. In my experience, your major means more to you than to anyone else and the fact of the degree is all that others focus on. I went to law school after majoring in theatre (directing) which I think goes a long way to proving my point. So anyway, that means you should take classes for pleasure and edification and not as any kind of slog or burmout potential especially at our age. (I turn 54 in a few weeks).
posted by janey47 at 10:55 AM on May 4, 2014

Can you take the four anthro courses and graduate in one semester? I would do that in a heartbeat.
posted by metasarah at 12:09 PM on May 4, 2014

Drop the Womens Studies major. See if you can graduate in December with just the anthro major. Spend the extra time (that you would have spent taking 5 classes per semester) working or volunteering in the field you want to enter. In the nonprofit world, your work experience and dedication to the cause is generally much more important than the title on your degree (e.g., someone with womens studies major and no outside-of-class activities will generally be a less attractive candidate than someone with a math degree who volunteered at a womens org 20 hrs per week throughout their degree).
posted by melissasaurus at 12:40 PM on May 4, 2014

Do what you need to do to graduate as soon as possible. You've spent a lot of time and money on this degree, but it's not worth much until you graduate with something, anything. Drop Women's Studies or make it a minor, whichever will get you out faster.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:49 PM on May 4, 2014

Drop the WS major, take your last 4 anthro classes in the fall if at all possible, and graduate and get the hell out. Don't take on an extra semester of student loans/postpone your entry into the job market just for the sake of fitting in a double major in WS. Even if you want to do something in the Women's Health field, I don't think the WS major will make a big enough difference in your hireability to justify an extra semester just to get it.

(and of course, yay anthro!)
posted by drlith at 2:17 PM on May 4, 2014

You should do whatever gets you out of school the fastest for the least amount of money.

I don't think there is a professional/career angle to this at all, except for wanting to spend as little money as possible.

None of this is going to matter, at all, once you graduate. It is literally a matter of "what would be more fun to read about for a few months", aside from the time/money question.

I was an anthropology major with a women's studies minor. There is still a wealth of amazing reading for me to do in both of those areas, museums to visit, activism to get involved with, etc. Both of those areas inform who I am, where my interests lie, and how I approach new ideas, almost a decade after graduation. It literally does not matter AT ALL which of those two fields appears on your diploma, and your interest in them can continue on indefinitely.
posted by Sara C. at 2:23 PM on May 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

You should do whatever gets you out of school the fastest for the least amount of money.

Nthing this. A degree is more or less necessary for what you want to do but neither is likely to justify a year's lost wages and additional student loan debt, especially if your dream job is at a non-profit. FWIW, I think the anthropology degree is a little more employable than WS but it's close to a toss up.
posted by Candleman at 11:06 PM on May 4, 2014

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