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Double Major & PhD Admissions


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I'm a junior, double degree student in Computer Science (BS) and Mechanical Engineering (BME). I plan to pursue a PhD in Computer Science with a focus on Networking or Theory -- I haven't quite decided yet. My issue is that my Mechanical Engineering degree will not be related to my academic pursuits after graduation, and it almost seems like dead weight.

Will this extra degree negatively affect my admission chances? Could it benefit me in any way?

I've read previously that some feel that a double major/double degree student doesn't look as good to an admissions committee simply due to the fact that the applicant may appear to have conflicting interests. Do you agree with this?

I have no intention of dropping the degree, as I have a profound love for mechanical engineering; I simply don't wish to pursue it in my graduate education as I do for computer science.


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I have two majors (in economics and psychology). I have no desire to pursue economics in my graduate education. My econ degree has been viewed very favorably in my application process so far. I'm applying to quantitative psych. I believe that it demonstrates that I'm mathy, which in quant psych is a plus.

I was asked why I wasn't looking at programs in decision making. I think that as long as you can explain why you don't want to pursue your other degree, it won't hurt you.

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I had three majors (oops) and I spent some effort in my application in not looking like that's a liability. In my SOP, I spend some time talking about methodology and how that is influenced by what I have drawn from my other degrees. My letter writers are all aware of the situation as well and I suspect that will help more than anything I could say about myself (I barely touch in my SOP about why Literature over the other two, leaving it more implicit). This is, of course, as someone applying for a field that is pretty into interdisciplinarity but I think finding ways to speak to the pros rather than the cons is pretty standard advice.

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Thank you both for your replies! I definitely agree with you, gwwg, I need to emphasize what benefits have come out of my, let's say "secondary", degree. I think if I make it clear that I've used that degree as leverage to push me forward in the field of computer science, then I can use that to my advantage. I plan on talking to an admissions advisor that I've been in contact with at UPenn about this, and I'll report back with what they have to say.

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