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Dr. Polaris

Major and minors

I'm not sure if I understand them.

When you apply for university, you apply for your main subject, which is your...major, right? Now, some universities offer minors right? Or do all of them offer minors? If you decide to take a minor, when do you apply for it? Where do you do this?

And when you're doing your minor, you'll be studying for this minor course along with your major, right? So when others are studying for one course, you'll have to study for two, which is harder, right?

When you graduate, you'll have a bachelor degree in your major AND minor, right? What's the other differences between a major and minor. Advantages of taking a minor course? Cons of it?

Thanks

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For US unis [as far as I know, other unis don't offer minors, but then again, I don't know much about unis outside of the US] sometimes you can double major. Sometimes you can minor in one or more things.

From my experience, majoring in something means you have to take XYZ classes. Sometimes you have other things that you must fulfill as well. For a minor, you have a list of required courses, too, but this list is a lot smaller. Often people will major in one field and minor in something very close to it so that they're not taking many extra classes. Sometimes, they can fulfill their minors requirements by just taking a sequence of classes for their majors that they would have had to. And other times, the minor is something very different. You might decide to major in biology and minor in business or philosophy or whatever. Even without having an official minor, you're going to be taking a certain amount of classes. Four classes are easier than five, for example. So it doesn't matter if you have a minor or not. If you're taking more classes [which you might decide to if you have a minor, I guess], then it's going to be a lot more work. So it's not like you'll devote two hours a night to your major and one hour to your minor. It'll probably be harder to distinguish than that. And I assume if you're minoring in something, it's because you're interested in it, so you might have taken the course anyways, even if you didn't minor in it.

I don't want to say that all offer minors, but the majority of them do, I believe.

On average, you don't need to declare your major until you're in your 2nd or 3rd year of uni. For declaring a minor, I don't think there's really a deadline. Just if you meet the requirements, yay. Maybe it's the same deadline as the one for your major. It would definitely depend on the college you attend.

As for where--just talk to your college advisor or a counselor and there'll be paper work to fill when you've decided. Often it's not hard to change your major, and I think it'd be easier with the minor. The only possible consequence is that if you change it, then you might need to take more courses or even stay an extra semester or year, which could be costly.

When you graduate, you'll have a bachelor's in your major, I think you get a certificate for your minor. You don't get another official diploma for the minor. There might be a note that you minored in something. I'm not sure. Diploma for major and certificate for minor sounds right to me. Googling this may give you some ideas.

Difference between major and minor.. More requirements for the first--basically more courses to take. At the schools I looked at, I noticed that the minors were really specific. Like I might be interested in materials engineering, but the minors [although they didn't call them minors] were advanced topics that were narrower that I could look into. This isn't the norm, I don't think, but it's a possibility. You've still got time til you decide on a college, but it's good that you're looking out right now. You don't need to mess with minors right now. My focus would have been to figure out what I enjoyed in school and what I was good at.

Minors can show that you're interested in something. Like you can minor in something general like education or business or something even if you don't major in it. They show employers and graduate schools that you had this interest and you have some background in the particular field. So a lot of employers like people who major in physics because they know that these students have analytical minds and have the foundation needed and can be taught whatever skills are required. So many physics majors end up working in finance or something. A minor in business or finance could make them even more attractive to employers. On the other hand, you only have so many courses that you can take. Usually you have a lot of choices and few slots. The minor might require you to take an extra statistics or writing course that you're not interested in. Without the minor, you have more flexibility.

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And just in case the above wasn't thorough enough (!!), a little bit of input for Universities in the UK. In the United Kingdom there is no major/minor system, you just do a degree. Your degree is in whatever you applied to do, and although there is some flexibility within that in terms of picking modules (for some subjects, not all), on the whole that's it. At some Universities (for instance some of the London ones I know for sure) you have to do 'extra' subjects as part of your degree. Stuff like a language, an additional science module if you're studying sciences etc. -- so basically it's an opportunity to branch out, but you don't have to :S It also doesn't count as a 'name' on your degree, nobody but you (and the Uni obviously) know what subject you did because at the end your Degree will still read Chemical Engineering or whatever.

There are, however, such things as Joint Honours degrees where you can do two subjects in slightly lesser detail and receive a joint degree for both. Often it's a language and a social science like Law with French or Music with Spanish, or two languages (pretty common). There are also some other courses (for instance PPE, PPP) where you can legitimately take more subjects. I've never heard of joint honours degrees for sciences though, they're sort-of special combinations which some Universities offer and some don't, but they're publicised in combination in the prospectuses.

Generally in the UK when you start your degree you do what it says on the packet, and you don't 'minor' in anything unless you applied for a joint honours degree :D If I'm right you want to do something to do with animals, right? In which case it'd be just a straight degree for Veterinary Science/Biology/Zoology etc.

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To expound on what sweetnsimple said earlier, depending on which university you decide to attend, there will be different requirements and rules about majors (double majors) and minors. The whole "major" idea is relatively standardized across the board, but you will want to determine your general field of interest (medicine, engineering, architecture, business, history, etc.) about where you'd like to end up and you will have to select a major from there. This general field will most likely be a "college" or "school" within the university ("School of Business" or College for "Liberal Arts and Sciences"). A major should be thought of as your primary coursework that will lead to your career choice once you're done with school. A major will have required courses that you will take along with the major.

At my university, most majors have about 120 credit hours of courses you must take to complete the major and graduate. A credit hour is essentially the amount of time you will physically spend in that class during any given week. Most classes are worth 1, 3, or 4 credit hours and you will take between 12 and 18 credit hours each fall/spring semester. Typically the single credit classes are introductory/career courses for first year students or a lab that goes along with a science course. I've typically found that single credit courses require more work per credit hour than most 3 credit courses, so don't try to take 3 labs at once and assume that that'll be the same time commitment as a three credit course. 3 and 4 credit classes are more or less the same, but you should spend more time on the 4 credit class than the 3 credit class. Alright, so you will probably take between 4 and six courses a semester depending on your major. If you are on a Pre-Med or Pre-Law track, then chances are you will have to schedule your classes to make sure that you will fulfill the requirements for your major and graduation as well as other coursework you will need to take for your next level of schooling. (Note: Pre-Med is a track, not a major because there is no ONE major that will get your to your professional destination.)

You will need to take courses that are outside of your major coursework because you probably won't end up taking more than 2-3 courses (6-10 credit hours) a semester. You will most likely have to take General Education courses and other courses for your minor or major if you decide to double major. There are different rules about double majoring at each university. My University doesn't allow students to double major within the same college. (So I'm not allowed to double major in Marketing and Management because they are both in the school of business and have a lot of the same required coursework.) At other universities, the restrictions are less strict, so you can say "Hey, I only have to take 12 more credits of classes and I'll satisfy the required coursework for 2 majors. I'll get a double major in x and y."

Minors and certificate programs are shorter in length and are typically taken outside of your major. Most minor/certificate programs require between 15 and 25 credit hours of coursework. Minors are great schedule filler if you come in with a ton of IB Credit and when you finish your GenEds. (Now that I'm done with my GenEds, I'm applying for minors so I can continue taking classes for a reason that are not for my major. I am a Management major looking at minors in Leadership and Education.)

Alright, that was a lot of information and it could be different depending on which school you go to, but that's the gist of the academic portion of your college experience. Hope it helps!

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Wow, thanks for all three wall-of-texts (which I went through). I understand what they are now, thanks again.

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Not in the mood to write a whole essay, and my reply doesn't warrant one either, but just to add: Most universities in Australia and New Zealand follow the American system of majors and minors.

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And just to provide some specific examples, at the University of Waterloo, an Applied Mathematics major would have the requirements of:

All of

MATH 237 Calculus 3 for Honours Mathematics or MATH 247 Calculus 3 (Advanced Level)

AMATH 231 Calculus 4

AMATH 242/CM 271/CS 371 Introduction to Computational Mathematics

AMATH 250 Introduction to Differential Equations

AMATH 261/PHYS 263 Classical Mechanics and Special Relativity

AMATH/PMATH 332 Applied Complex Analysis

AMATH 351 Ordinary Differential Equations 2

AMATH 353 Partial Differential Equations 1

Three 400-level AMATH courses.

Two additional 300- or 400-level AMATH courses.

All of

PHYS 121 Mechanics and Waves 1

PHYS 122 Mechanics and Waves 2

Recommended course

AMATH/PMATH 331 Applied Real Analysis

- http://ugradcalendar.uwaterloo.ca/page/MATH-Applied-Mathematics

Whereas a minor in Applied Mathematics, would have significantly less requirements. It's mainly for those students that are interested in the subject, yet don't want to take a full course load in it, or don't think majoring in it would be as advantageous as it would be in other subjects. Here's the example:

All of

MATH 237 Calculus 3 for Honours Mathematics or MATH 247 Calculus 3 (Advanced Level)

AMATH 231 Calculus 4

AMATH 250 Introduction to Differential Equations

AMATH 351 Ordinary Differential Equations 2

AMATH 353 Partial Differential Equations 1

Three additional 300- or 400-level AMATH courses.

- http://ugradcalendar.uwaterloo.ca/page/MATH-Applied-Mathematics-Minor

Usually it's chosen by 2nd year, as for 1st year, you have a few required courses and electives to take. But then you begin to specialize as you get further in your studies. Also, I know that for some programs, there is not a minor for it--only major. And if you wish to do a double major, then you'd have to fulfill requirements for both programs. Often times, this will leave you with little to no electives, unless you wish to take more than the standard course load. Even with a major and a minor, you have a bit of electives to work with.

There's also something called a joint major, which has a course load intensity less than a major, but a bit more than a minor. You predominantly have to do 2 joint majors, hence the term "joint." And so, if you want some freedom and electives, then rather than doing a double major in [x] and [y], you can do a joint major in [x] and [y] and have a lot more freedom.

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