To Dual or to Double, That is the Question

One question that my fellow Student Admission Ambassadors and I have gotten quite frequently is about the experience as a dual or double major. For context, I am a dual major in Psychology, which is located at Scripps, and Theater, which is located at Pomona. In this blog post, I will explain my experience being a dual major, deciding my majors, having an off-campus major, and how schedule making works. I will also touch upon the difference between a double and dual major. I hope that this information is useful and clarifying; let’s get into it.


A good place to start is by differentiating between a double and dual major. For the most part, the choosing one over the other is largely determined by the student with the help of their major/academic advisors. As a senior, all Scripps students will complete a senior thesis, which is a semester or year long research project of their choosing. If a student is a dual major, they will combine the philosophies and thesis requirements of both their majors into a singular thesis. Their topic must create a logical connection between the two departments and follow the guidelines set by their advisors and major departments. When a student double majors in both their academic interests, they will complete two theses, satisfying the requirements for each major separately. Students tend to choose a double major over a dual major if they cannot, or do not want to, create a connection between their majors for a singular thesis. They also might have two different thesis topics that they want to explore that being a double major will allow them to pursue. Even though my two majors did not have any structured cross-over with course requirements, I was still able to combine my interests into a singular thesis, so being a dual major with seemingly incompatible interests is still quite possible. The key to accomplishing your goal is communicating with your major advisors and department heads of your major to decide what would work best within your interests. 


When I first came to Scripps, I was planning to just be a Psychology major, and do theater in my free time. For my first semester, I chose to take the Basic Acting course for my Fine Arts General Education Requirement, and absolutely fell in love with the department and my peers. As I met with my Psychology advisor to look at my potential Spring schedule, I raved about my theater class and how I wished that I could take more theater courses. I was expecting for her to say that theater would be a fun hobby or maybe even a minor, but I definitely did not expect her to tell me to major in the department. She reminded me that I clearly had a strong interest in the subject and that undergrad is one of the only opportunities I would have to pursue both my passions to the fullest at the same time. What truly makes having two majors doable, is having supportive major advisors who advocate for the other department as well as their own. I have never felt like a department has tried to deter me from being involved in the other, and my professors continually ask me how my other major is doing. Just a few months ago, I had a zoom call with my theater advisor and we just talked about psychology for about half an hour, making connections to acting and performing. I love being able to have interdisciplinary conversations with professors and hearing their excitement in my knowledge of another subject. Although being a dual major is time consuming and requires a bit of planning, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience. 


Where having two majors can get difficult is planning your schedules and deciding when to complete major requirements. For the full picture of what is expected of a Scripps student academically, let’s first break down graduation requirements. To graduate from Scripps, students must complete at least 32 class credits. Each course is worth 1 credit, and labs, physical education courses, and some dance classes are worth half a credit (0.5). If a student was to take four classes a semester, the average number of classes a student takes per semester, for eight semesters, they will have 32 credits within four years. A major is typically 9-12 course requirements, and a minor is around 6-8 course requirements. Students will also have their CORE curriculum, which is 3 class credits taken over the span of their first year-and-a-half on campus, and 8 General Education Requirements (GEs). Those GEs are Fine Arts (art, music, theater), Math (which students can test out of), the equivalent of three semesters of a Foreign Language (which students can test out of), Social Science (psychology, anthropology, history, etc), Natural Science (chemistry, biology, geology, etc), Letters (literature, philosophy, art history, etc), Women and Gender Studies, and Race and Ethnic Studies. While all of this looks overwhelming, students can “double count” courses so that one class can satisfy two requirements. When I took Intro to Psychology as a first year, that class satisfied my Social Science GE and one of my Psychology major requirements. I also took a history class called Slave Women in Antebellum America, which satisfied my Women and Gender Studies and Race and Ethnic Studies GE requirements. You can also have classes double count for both your majors if there is any natural crossover. An easy pairing to combine is English and Politics, which is what one of my friends is doing. In a given semester, at least one or two of her classes double count for her majors, which significantly drops her total major requirements. I, however, was not so lucky, and I have to take 11 classes for my Psychology major, and another 11 classes for my Theater major. Three of my GEs double counted towards my majors, which has decreased the total number of classes I need to take to fulfill my requirements, which created some wiggle room for fun elective courses. While planning my semester schedules, I usually take two classes per major to create balance and to get engaged with multiple subjects throughout my week. I check my major requirements every semester to make sure that I am on track and am required to talk to my major advisors every semester for advice and approval of what to take. By keeping them and the heads of my departments up to date on my current and future plans, I was even able to study abroad and take classes purely for fun while also finishing some major requirements along the way. Even though having two majors can be taxing and involve strategic planning, you can still have the full college experience and enjoy yourself. I love both my majors, and most of the requirements are engaging, fun and interesting to me. 


Lastly, I wanted to address what it is like to have an off-campus major. Scripps students all have the ability to take classes at the other Claremont Colleges so regardless of your academic interests, it is rare to not take classes off-campus at some point. If you fall in love with a major or department that does not exist at Scripps, you can major or minor in that department as an off-campus major. In April of a student’s sophomore year, they will submit their Major (and Minor) Declaration Form(s) to the Registrar’s Office to officially declare their major(s) and minor(s). Students can change or add to these forms until their senior year, when they would be writing their senior thesis/theses, so students have plenty of time and opportunities to decide what their main academic interests are. When a student decides to declare an off-campus major, they will still declare that information to Scripps, and also turn in declaration forms to their major’s school. That school’s forms and deadlines could be different from Scripps’ so it is important for students to be aware of what their major’s school needs from them to declare their major. To complete those declaration forms, students must find a major advisor for each of their majors. For me, I needed my Psychology and Theater major advisors to both sign my forms before turning them in. If your only major is off-campus, then you will also need a Scripps academic advisor, who can be from any department of your choosing. You do not need a Scripps major to be a Scripps student, but you must have at least one advisor who is privy to Scripps’ graduation requirements. These advisors will be guiding you through the next two years at Scripps, helping you decide classes, your study abroad plans (if you want to go abroad), and your senior thesis. You can also change advisors leading up to your thesis in case your original advisor goes on sabbatical or retires, or if you find a professor that you connect with after your sophomore year. Suffice it to say, you have a lot of time to make decisions. In terms of the general experience of taking classes off-campus or having an off-campus major, professors do not prioritize students that go to their home campus, so you will still be able to participate and learn in any classroom at the 5Cs. Professors often do not even know which of their students goes to a specific school unless they have to email you from your school specific email. One of my theater professors thought I went to Pomona College until last year, so they really do not mind what school you come from when you enter their classroom. You will also be able to make friends at the 5Cs in any classroom environment, even if you never leave Scripps’ campus. Students even buy the college gear of the other schools, so seeing someone in a Harvey Mudd t-shirt is no guarantee that they go there. Socially, the 5Cs are quite integrated with one another, and that definitely shows in the classroom.

I hope that this explanation has been helpful for you, and gives you a better idea what academics can be like at Scripps. If you have any questions about dual vs double majoring or anything else, feel free to send me an email at [email protected]. Stay safe!