How To Graduate From College With Three Majors
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How To Graduate From College With Three Majors

The best things in life often happen when you're not really trying.

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How To Graduate From College With Three Majors

In May of 2019, I graduated from Emory University with a Bachelor's of Science (B.S.) in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology, a Bachelor's of Arts (B.A.) in English and Creative Writing, and an unofficial major of a B.A. in Chemistry. Although my diploma only said listed two majors because that's the most space it could fit, I finished three majors in four years of college. Everyone I interview with asks me about why and how I graduated with three majors, obviously finding it as asset to my resume.

Let me be clear that I didn't have a set formula and, well, kind of just stumbled into it. You will laugh and think about how I was such an idiot to actually go through with the process, but this was how I did it:

Don't try to graduate with three majors.

Let me make it clear that I did not try to graduate with three majors. Until the second semester of my junior year, I was pretty hard set on graduating with a double major in Chemistry and English and Creative Writing, but that winter break I had a reckoning and soul-searching moment where I realized, well, I didn't like Chemistry anymore. I had just take n my first semester of physical chemistry (p-chem) where I bombed tests about harmonic oscillators -- and don't even get me started on when the course turned to three dimensions.

Fortunately, everyone else also bombed those tests in p-chem, and I proceeded to get the average grade of B in the class as a result. In the lab portion of my p-chem class, I was extremely intimidated by the challenge of having to write 10-page scientific reports on p-chem experiments using lasers, and so I put it off until the absolute last minute. But I would put these reports the night before they were due, staying up all night long to finish my reports, agonizing over how to put in equations on Google Docs.

I would spend many sleepless nights as a student taking p-chem writing reports, studying for tests, figuring out how to use a program called Mathematica and having an equation screw up so many times because I didn't have a parentheses symbol at the end.

Needless to say, the major tired me out a lot. At the time, I also worked in an organic chemistry synthesis lab where I tried to make new products through heat. Almost none of my reactions were working, or at least none of them worked at a very high yield, and I put almost 10 hours into being in the lab every week.

Any professor or mentor in scientific research will tell you that it's not about the results -- it's about the process, but at the time, I wasn't having it.

And so I wanted to change my major to a field I had a lot more interest in: neuroscience. At Emory, we had long-winded major names, but Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (NBB) was one of the most common majors at school, and it was one of the major options that initially attracted me to Emory. I was going to actually major in it my freshman year, but when I took organic chemistry as a freshman, some great professors persuaded me otherwise and try out the chemistry major.

I would get through all the chemistry major classes, which included biochemistry, organic chemistry, multiple labs, multiple electives, physics, and then I stumbled on p-chem and the long-standing lack of passion I had for any form of chemistry that was not organic chemistry showed through. Switching to NBB wasn't going to be a panacea solution, but it was a change and a solution, and I was pretty resolute on going through with it. And that leads me into my next step:

Ignore everyone's advice when they tell you not to change your major

I had people telling me from all directions not to change my major. After all, I was almost finished with the chemistry major, and it would have been absolutely foolish to start a new major and have to take a lot of classes when I only had three semesters to do it. My coach told me not to do it and focus more on my extracurriculars and my English and Creative Writing major if I was displeased with the chemistry. My friends told me not to do it and just take a lighter academic load my senior year, or even graduate early.

I met with an advisor in the NBB department about my options. He asked me whether I was planning on taking summer classes between my junior and senior year. I said no. He asked me whether I was considering taking another year for my college education. I said no.

This guy, Dr. C, then looked at me with a strange look, and told me "I would strongly not consider doing this." He told me that it would be a horrible decision unless I planned on taking more credits during the summer or taking another academic year. I thought about it, shook Dr. C's hand, went home, and then printed out the forms that changed my major anyways and put in my papers. I enrolled in prerequisites and electives of the NBB major, including an introductory statistics class called QTM 100 of content I'd already learned in high school, and pressed forward with a 23 credit load while still completing my English and Creative Writing major, and that semester set a trend for the rest of my college career:

Take an obscene amount of credits

That semester set the precedent that every semester, I would take 21 or more credits. I just had to keep up and graduate on time, and although I'd done it once before, it meant that I was academically in for a lot throughout my last two years of college. The semester I changed my major, I already finished a lot of the prerequisites in the NBB major, but I still had some of the hardest classes to go, which included NBB 302. The next semester I had taken two more, and these were classes that people usually spaced out throughout their college careers.

I, however, the oblivious person that I was, again completely ignored everyone's suggestions and went full-force into taking 21 or more credits a semester to finish the NBB major as well as the English and Creative Writing major on time. My final semester, my advisor brought it up to me that I was only one credit away from finishing my old chemistry major as well, and the class was analytical chemistry lab.

I decided just to take the lab. One credit was going to be easy to catch up on, and wouldn't it be look a lot better to complete three majors than two? I took the lab, and it ended up being one of my most difficult classes my last semester, with a one credit class being more work and research than some of my four credit classes.

I honestly don't know how I did it -- I just took it one moment and one day at a time, all while still hanging out with my friends and still doing all of my extracurricular activities like running for my cross country team, volunteer on my college suicide hotline, being a new member of a church and my college ministry group, and writing for a publication as well as my college newspaper, and a lot more that I honestly don't remember, and maintaining those commitments that brought me joy taught me this lesson:

Have a life outside your academics

To me, the biggest mistake every college freshman makes is to be lulled into thinking that all there is in life is your academics. My first year of college, all I thought about were my grades and studying. But as I moved forward in my college career, I started to involve myself in more communities and extracurriculars, and get a lot more involved in my cross country team, which showed me that I couldn't make it and go on without these people in my life.

I probably spent more time with these friends and acquaintances that were on my team and who were on my helpline and newspaper than actually studying or writing papers. It's not that my attention wasn't where it was supposed to be, but that it was exactly where it was supposed to be: on the relationships in my life, on the people who were so close to me that they could have been my family.

Where a younger version of myself would have spent all my time the night before studying for an impending exam, the older version of myself allowed me to go on a run, play video games, or go on a Krispy Kreme donut run the night before an exam with my best friends to put my mind at ease. In college, you're never going to get as much done studying the night before an exam as you think, and you would benefit much more from your relationships and a peaceful state of mind than you would putting your nose to the grindstone.

A younger version of me thought it would be all grind, all the time. But when I was in the second semester of my junior year, I realized that you need an off button where you can attend to all the other things in life, whether it's your hobbies, family, friends, or your spiritual life.

Realize that relationships are more important than anything else

I was never the type of person in college to not go to class. If I was paying a lot in tuition, working a work-study job, and taking out massive student loans, then I could not afford to not go to class. I never had a problem with attendance in not missing a lecture or a lab, but I often tried to overdo it.

I realized quickly that overdoing it wasn't going to make me happy. One semester, the second semester of my freshman year, I had a 3.98 GPA taking mostly hard science classes, and that didn't make me fulfilled or make me feel like what I did that semester was particularly meaningful. My sophomore year would be much the same, and that led me to realize, my junior year, that something had to give. Something was wrong, something wasn't working, and I didn't know where the problem was, but I couldn't keep living like I was living.

That living meant prioritizing the numbers like grades above all else, even above relationships. When I formed closer bonds with my friends and teammates, closer than I'd ever formed with anyone else, I realized that relationships were far more important than anything else in life. When you have good and fulfilling relationships in your life, like I had with the teammates I did everything with, everything is going to be okay. I wished that I had the relationships with my family that I had with my friends, but as a kid, I didn't, and so I never exactly had a good model for what it looked like to interact with people like they were family.

I spent nights after practice and after class cooking, grilling, playing video games, and engaging in all sorts of dumb contests rather than studying all night. After 10 p.m., I'd usually hit my off button and decide not to study more, a decision I couldn't have been more happy with. Once I felt more fulfilled and ready to press on forward in life with my closest friends, graduating with my three majors became a lot easier. I couldn't have done it without a lot of help.

But I had a lot more help than I even realized.

I got lucky

The biggest asset I had when I was in college was luck. I was lucky enough to get. a work-study job, luck enough to have financial aid pay off most of my tuition, lucky enough to have parents who would pay off the rest of my tuition, and lucky enough to have such a good community that taught me a lot more than classes ever would. I was lucky to have good health, good mental health, and a wide range of supportive and loving people who were with me every step of the way.

Not everyone has that luck. Not everyone has parents who are willing to contribute a lot to paying for college, or friends they find right off the bat that stick with them through the good, bad, and lucky. I had good professors as well who were understanding to any conflict I had with an exam or paper deadline, professors who taught me a lot on all levels.

Any one of these factors could have easily gone the other way. I have friends who had to drop out of school while graduating with one major, and I don't consider myself any luckier than those friends just because I graduated with three majors and a lot of extracurriculars.

You can't put getting lucky as a formula, but you can count your blessings for how you got lucky. If you have parents who pay for your tuition, thank them. If you have friends who support you in your classes, thank them. If you have enough food to help you get along in your studies, count your blessings.

Look around you when you're in college. The fact is that not everyone has everything you have and strikes luck like you have. I want to ascribe my success in graduating with three majors to my own merit, but I know that's not true. I got lucky on a lot of steps from picking the right classes, having the right resources, and having some of the best friends.

I appreciated my luck and realized that every part of myself had to be committed to my own survival and my friends' if I was going to press forward with my three majors. I didn't press forward with an insane amount of intentionality, but rather one day at a time trying to just get done everything I needed to get done with. Because of my friends, I learned when and how to let go. They taught me that I actually needed to get enough sleep on a given night, and they taught me that I had to have a time where I turned everything off and just hung out.

The best things in life often happen when you're not exactly trying, and so I graduated with three majors without much intentionality, but I'm not going to stand here and prescribe a formula for how you could do it. I got very lucky, I had a lot of good friends, and I pressed on by prioritizing relationships above everything. That's how I live more so than how I graduated with three majors, so find what works for you and how you can move forward, and you will be able to do something as seemingly impressive as graduating with three majors, too.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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