Is it Worth it to Get a Minor During College?
Everyone talks about how hard it is to decide what to major in during your undergraduate career. How do you decide what you want to study? How do you know what you want your career to be for the rest of your life? How do you decide what subject you’re going to take the majority of your classes in? How do you choose between competing interests? It’s a hard topic that takes a lot of consideration.
The conversation about minor fields is less rich but it can be just as hard of a decision.
A minor can be an incredible opportunity to educate yourself on a topic fully unrelated to your major field. It can also be a chance to amplify your major knowledge through a more nuanced lens or to supplement this skillset with a tangentially related field which can have practical application. However, it is also a time commitment. You may decide a minor is not the most important use of the limited time you have on campus.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you add a minor to your degree program.
1) How much time would the minor take?
Minors vary in how many credits they require. Some credits overlap with major credits, meaning you have to take fewer credits than a typical minor in order to get the degree. Often certain classes are only offered in certain semesters. Would the timing of the courses align with your current class schedule?
2) Would you enjoy the time spent completing the minor?
Are you interested in a minor because it would look good on your resume, or are you truly interested in the topic? If the time, energy, and effort the minor would necessitate does not match your enthusiasm for it, it may not be the best choice for you. Time is always an investment.
3) Would the minor take away time from your major, extracurricular activities, or hobbies?
Even if the minor is something you are incredibly excited about, is this excitement worth the things you would be inherently giving up to complete the minor? Time is always a sacrifice. You may have to participate in fewer campus events, give up a hobby, or pause your participation in an extracurricular. Although perhaps not the reason you attend college, these are important components of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. You need downtime in order to operate optimally, both in general, and academically.
1) How many credits do you already have toward it?
As mentioned, often academic credits for similar topics overlap. It’s critical to consider this when deciding on a minor. Credits may overlap with courses you took for your major, required electives, or even elective courses you just took for fun. If you already have a significant amount of credits toward a minor, it may be worth it to you to add it on, even if you aren’t extremely interested in the few remaining classes.
2) Would you have to overwork or overburden yourself to complete it?
Many things are possible. But you have to weigh possibility with desire. If adding the minor would require you to take more credits than normal every semester until graduation or take summer courses, it may not be worth it to you. Sure, it fits in your schedule and completing it is feasible it may be a good choice. But if you would be significantly overworked or overburdened, it may not be worth it. Further, when you’re overworked, you can’t complete every task to your greatest ability. You also have to weigh this concern.
3) Would you have to push back graduation to complete it?
It is also a choice to push back your graduation date in order to complete a minor. You could choose to not overwork yourself, take the normal amount of credits each semester and refrain from summer classes, and simply push back your anticipated graduation date. However, there also are financial costs to adding another semester (tuition, rent, lack of income, etc.). These costs may be worth it if the minor would add something substantial to your knowledge or career prospects or if it would be extremely enjoyable for you. But, regardless, the decision should not be made lightly.
1) Are you really interested in it, or are you doing it out of convenience?
If a minor is incredibly convenient (for instance, you’ve accidentally completed most of the required credits for it already), it may be tempting to add the minor just to have another thing on your resume. This may be a very worthwhile decision for you. However, think about the other ways this time may be spent. You could use this opportunity to take additional electives you are very passionate about (even if they don’t count toward a minor or major) or spend time on an extracurricular that you truly enjoy. These things are also important.
2) Is the minor necessary for your desired career?
A minor may be vital to your career. Perhaps you chose to major in something that no longer aligns with your desired career pathway. For instance, you majored in biology but have decided you no longer want to pursue medicine. Now, you want to pursue business. If it's too late for you to change your major and you’re not willing to stay in school to pursue a new major in business, a business minor could be the perfect fit, even if it takes some sacrifice.
3) Would the minor provide you added knowledge for your desired career?
A minor could also provide added beneficial knowledge for your desired career. For example, if you are interested in human rights and are majoring in political science, pursuing a minor in humanitarian affairs may be highly beneficial. It’s not required, nor is it vital for your desired career path, but it may help you stand out from the competition and provide you with enhanced knowledge of the topic.
4) Are you excited about it?
Whether or not you are excited about the minor is an important question. Even if it has nothing to do with your major, or you know you will likely never use it in your career, it may be worth exploring if you are extremely enthusiastic about the topic. College is a place to expand your knowledge on the topics you find the most interesting and engaging. When you are in college, it is more convenient to take a course in an elective you find interesting, than it is to sign up for a course independently when you’re not a fulltime student. Now, taking various elective courses may be more advantageous than signing up for a minor where certain credits are required. But, if every course in the minor (or the vast majority) is exciting to you, it may be worth it to add on the minor.
Choosing a minor (or choosing not to complete a minor) is a choice that will be unique for everyone. We hope that some of these considerations will help you in the internal debate of how to prioritize your time while in your undergraduate.