5 Tips on How to Double Major
Can you double major and keep everything in balance? Four Meadows students share their advice
Students thinking about double majoring want to know: Can you really combine a performing, visual, or communication arts degree with a degree in business or engineering, or applied physiology, human rights, computer science or any of the more than 100 majors offered by SMU?
Below, four Meadows double majors share their expert advice on how to tackle more than one major and still have time for your friends, meals, sleep and more.
Juggling studies, social life, student clubs, causes – can you really have it all?
B.F.A. Theatre/Acting, B.A. International Studies; minors in Spanish and in history, ’22:
It’s all about learning how to manage your time. I am a multitasker by nature, but if you don’t want to be doing everything at once I suggest getting things done as early as possible and planning out the rest. Taking breaks and getting enough sleep should be just as much a priority as all of the things on your to-do list – otherwise there is no way you can do it all effectively.
B.A. Film and Media Arts, B.A. Journalism ’23:
I would not be nearly as organized if it weren’t for my agenda and an army of pens and highlighters! I sit down before the semester starts with all of my class syllabi and I write out all assignment due dates and other important dates (family events, birthdays, campus events, etc.) for every month until the end of the semester. I color code my classes and highlight major essays, quizzes and exams. It helps me identify weeks that I will be really busy and plan ahead for how to tackle the upcoming cluster of due dates or events.
B.A. Film and Media Arts, B.A. Creative Computing; minors in human rights and in women and gender studies ’22
I admit it’s hard to juggle everything sometimes. I’ve had to drop some clubs because of lack of time. I made a chart for the things I’m passionate about, and I try to have an activity in every category every semester. This way I fulfill all my intrinsic needs.
While taking 12–15 credit hours, I have two TA jobs, I’m a student assistant in Fondren Library, plus I have activist projects and more. What I do is use multiple calendars, one on my phone, and one in my planner to plan my day by the hour. I also try to coordinate my classes so that some days are clearer than others (usually Mondays or Fridays). It’s really important to keep track of your long-term assignments like final projects and papers. For that, I use the Semester-at-a-Glance calendar [provided by ALEC, the SMU Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center].
What’s the best way to work with your degree or academic counselors?
I always come to my advising appointments with a list of questions I have about certain classes, professors or advice they may have about how best to approach my next semester. I spend the week before my appointment asking upperclassmen and professors under my majors about my next steps class-wise and their recommendations for professors. I then configure a “wish list” of classes. I am aware that classes fill up or may turn out to be better for a later time in my academic career and in light of that I have a list of about three or four classes that I could swap out, fill a UC credit with and still enjoy equally! I plan ahead for meetings to leave time for questions and concerns so that I can leave my meeting feeling resolved and optimistic about the upcoming semester. Mindset is everything!
Part of being an advocate for yourself means building a personal relationship with each advisor that you have. Even though they have your best interests at heart, academic counselors see a ton of people, so make sure you are communicating with them both virtually and face to face. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you feel lost – it is your right to get as much information as you feel like you need for your education!
I see my advisors more as mentors and guides who help me battle my degree progress reports. I love my pre-major advisor Joshua Beaty. He’s an honors advisor and a film kid to boot. Due to our similar interests, we spent most of our sessions talking about random things related to film and media, not just my four-year plan. I recently declared my Meadows majors and now have Janet Stephens as my advisor. She’s very helpful with thinking through my classes and signing off on papers.
Check with your advisors and directors of your programs to see if classes can double count for both majors’ requirements. It’s a life saver! Know that some programs are more lenient than others with this type of action.
Also, talk with upperclass students in your major. I’ve talked a lot to two film upperclass students who’ve helped me figure out my classes. I am so thankful for their advice and mentorship.
Overload: How do you restore a sense of balance? What practical steps can you recommend?
B.F.A. Dance Performance, B.A. Philosophy; minor in cognitive science ’22
There will come a time where the things that you love become more challenging. A few things to remember are that this does not mean that you don’t love it anymore, or that you are a bad artist/student, or that your professors hate you. What it means is that you have invested so much of yourself that you are starting to feel it. It is important for every student to prepare for this. It is not a bad thing to admit that eventually you might get tired, and the smartest thing to do is to find what you will need before you get to your tipping point. Save some flex (Lifesaver gummies won’t fix everything, but they are a good start), know which professors you feel comfortable around, and share your woes with your friends (both in and out of Meadows). These things will position you so that when it starts to feel overwhelming you will have the support already in place. Extra advice: SMU has a counseling service that is helpful and available. These people have trained a long time to understand how to help you, and sometimes they can provide tools that you might have never thought of!
If you love what you do, then make it real. SMU provides the opportunity to stake a position in the world of art and beyond. Take it.
-Evan Schumacher, B.F.A. Dance Performance, B.A. Philosophy; minor in cognitive science ’22
Pressure and stress – from professors, parents, peers, papers, deadlines ... how do you keep pressure at bay?
The most pressure comes from me. I know what I can do, and I want to succeed in everything I’m passionate about. But this isn’t possible all the time. I’ve come to accept my lmitations as a human and accept failure as a stepping stone in the learning process.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to trust. Trust that you know yourself best, listen to what you know you need, and know that if all else fails, the world will keep turning. I feel like so much of the time we think that if things don’t go according to plan that there is no alternative and everything will fall apart. In reality, if you are double majoring it already means that you are a curious, innovative and adaptable person and will find a way to keep things moving! Another thing to remember is that most professors are actually really helpful and want you to succeed as long as you are willing to communicate and work with them.
Sleep: How can you get enough sleep when working on two or more degrees at the same time?
Sleep can be a challenge when trying to juggle different responsibilities. Sometimes you just won’t get the duration of sleep you might desire because of mandatory rehearsals or group projects. In those times it is important to remember to maintain sleep quality. Try not to spend an hour every night figuring out your schedule in bed. When you study or practice, put all your effort into that, but when you are ready to sleep make sure you put the effort in there, too. Turn off the screens, read a physical book, try to meditate; these things will allow you to maximize the time you spend sleeping so that when you get up you are ready to go again.
It can be really hard to get the sleep you need, especially during exam times or when you have rehearsals from 6 to 11 every night of the week. Something really essential that I have had to learn that has helped with this, however, is how to say “no.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t hang out with friends or go out at the end of the week, but maybe not every night if you’re swamped. You’re going to have to ask yourself what is more important to you, and it will change on a day-to-day basis.
Bonus tips, tricks, advice, or observations
Double or triple majoring is definitely possible. Something that makes SMU special is the ease of interdisciplinary studies. People always wonder how I can double major. I can do what I do because of interdisciplinary programs. If you’re thinking about double or even triple majoring, consider how those programs intertwine and interact with each other. You never know what combinations you might find!
I’ve realized that the more time I allow myself to do normal things like working out, grocery shopping, grabbing lunch with friends, etc. and take away some of the monotony of only studying and being a full-time student, the better I apply myself to my studies. Being able to go and do things that have nothing to do with school helps me feel more motivated to do better because it isn’t forced and I’m not feeling overworked, which can lead to resentment and burnout right before exams.
The library in Meadows is top tier, and you can reserve rooms in there for anything. Also, don’t forget why you started: You are an incredible artist and sometimes you just need to dance/paint/play in the dark with no one watching. You are the person who defines who you are: There is no need to wait and see if people’s predictions about you become true. If you love what you do, then make it real. SMU provides the opportunity to stake a position in the world of art and beyond. Take It.
My biggest advice on double majoring and all of your college activities in general is that you should love what you do. I spend most of my time making art in a basement with the same 16 people every day and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If what you’re doing doesn’t make you happy, do something else. I know you’ve heard it before, but life is too short not to do what you love!