One of the key questions that college students are often asked is, “What is your major?”
Although many students begin their college careers as Undecided or Undeclared students, all eventually decide on an area of focus – a major. Some students also decide to complete requirements for a minor – a secondary field or area of interest. A minor requires fewer courses – sometimes as few as 4-6 courses in the area and is usually optional.
The decision of whether to add a minor in college is, of course, personal; but there are several reasons your student might want to attempt one. Some students choose a minor because it will provide a unique combination of skills or background. Other students may choose an area because it is something about which they are passionate. A minor may complement a major or provide more depth or breadth. So one student majoring in Business may choose a minor in Communication or Technology, while another majoring in Business may choose to minor in Dance or Art.
Adding a minor, may help a student balance a major area with either some practical skills or some more liberal arts areas. A student majoring in English, history, philosophy or art may add a minor in technology, graphic arts, or business management. A technology, science or engineering major may want to add a minor in art, design, or philosophy, or even education.
As students begin to think about possible careers, they may begin to think about combinations of areas that may open up possibilities and customize their resume. A business student may choose to minor in a foreign language because he hopes to work abroad. A science student may minor in writing because of an interest in technical or scientific editing. An art student may choose to minor in education and or business in order to work in a museum setting.
Although it may seems strange to talk to your student about a minor before she has chosen a major, if your student is still undecided, discussing possible minors or combinations of areas may take some stress away from the decision about major. Discussing possible minors may help your student understand that choosing a particular major does not necessarily mean that she needs to abandon another area – this can become a minor. Of course, your student will need to be careful that working on a minor does not divert any energy away from the primary area of focus or major.
Your student should think about a minor in terms of the depth and breadth that it will add to his education and his understanding of his primary area of interest and his approach to the world. If your student hopes to head to graduate school, a minor may not be important – but it may also help him as he pursues further education. A future employer may look favorably on the combination of areas, may be impressed that your student has pursued something extra, or may not note the minor at all.
In most cases, adding a minor to a student’s education should not add extra time toward a degree. Most students have room in their college schedule for a certain number of elective courses. The minor simply focuses those elective courses in one area.
Talking to your student about some options for minors may help him think about his interests and about the possibilities and options, but it may also give you an opportunity to get to know more about him. Enjoy the process.