My college experience and best advice – Multitask

Note: This is part of a series on my experience and best advice for college. Visit often to get the rest.

Before I get into this, this isn’t about personal multitasking. I’m not such a fan there. This is about letting your classes multitask for you. I’m all about that. Here’s what I mean and what I did…

2. I stayed undecided.

For the first year, I had no idea what I was doing. I considered music. I considered communications. But I didn’t actually declare a major until part way into my second year, which for me, since I did the whole thing in three years, meant I was almost half way finished before I declared.

Staying undecided isn’t something I’d necessarily recommend, but keeping that mindset is. See, a lot of students go into college thinking they know what they want to do, but change their mind part of the way through.

If you keep the undecided mindset, then you don’t lock yourself into classes that are useless outside a given major, which is extremely important if you’re trying to multitask your classes, which is what you should be doing (more about this in a second).

3. Knocked out General Education requirements first.

Since I was undecided, I made sure to only take classes that counted for something – no electives. I didn’t experiment around – I took what was required for the core, General Education (G.E.).

As I said, most people start into college with classes specifically for their major. Instead, I’d suggest taking classes that work for your major but also work for G.E. classes. For example, instead of taking Biology 212 for Biology majors, see if Biology 101 will count toward your major AND G.E. requirements.

Warning: If you do this, be sure the G.E. class will count toward your major. Sometimes, those classes won’t count toward your major, and if that’s the case and you end up sticking with that major, then you defeated the whole purpose of taking those kinds of classes that do double duty.

4. Made every class count… more than once.

The first way to do this is fairly basic. Instead of taking one class that counts for a formal reasoning requirement (like College Algebra) and another that counts for a diversity requirement (like Asian Culture), I’d take one class that meets both requirements (like a Philosophy).

The second way is more complicated.

At my school, and I assume most others, the course work was roughly divided into thirds. One third of a degree was General Education classes, one third was for my major, and one third was electives.

I only took G.E. classes that would count for most majors, so in the end my G.E. classes did double duty for both degrees.

Then my majors swapped as electives for each other. In other words, my Philosophy requirements counted as electives for my Economics degree, and my Economics requirements counted as electives for my Philosophy degree.

When I graduated, I had 121 units total – I needed 120 for each degree. So really, I only did about as much work as anyone would do for one degree… except I planned better so it would count as two degrees.

This is actually more common than you might think. Often, though, it’s just called a double major. Common examples that tend to work well:

  • English and Journalism
  • Biology and Chemistry
  • Computer Science and Mathematics

Mine worked particularly coolly, though, because my major requirements didn’t overlap at all, though usually you’d want them to so you could get double credit (for example, an Algebra class that counts for both your Computer Science major and Mathematics major). Mine were a direct swap: major requirements for elective for both sides.

Since mine didn’t overlap, I got to count both as two separate degrees.

[Of course at this point, some might argue I missed out on the diversity of taking different kinds of electives, which is a fair argument I guess. I’ll take another degree over diversity, though.]