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How important is your second major/second degree?


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Right now, I've got two majors, history and anthropology; I'm on track to get a BA in history and a BS in anthropology and I'm hoping to apply for PhD programs in history next year.


However, the anthropology department at my school has a million rules for how you can get said BS, without a lot of flexibility. You're required to have an outside minor or major, but it has to be off of their approved list; history's not on the list. You're required to take extra statistics/formal reasoning courses, but only off the approved list, and so on. It's not that I don't want the BS, but I feel like the rules the department has set out are unnecessarily constraining. I do want to take a statistics sequence, but I feel like a statistical methods course (not on the list) would be more useful than a biostats course (on the list), and I'd rather spend my time taking relevant coursework in the history department, rather than bending over backwards to get a minor in Native American studies or computer science or linguistics. And so on.


So does it look bad if I drop from a BS to a BA? I mean, I know nobody can tell you switched tracks, but does it look bad if I go for a BA when there was a BS option?


I've a meeting with an advisor next week to talk about how flexible the BS track is - some people tell me it's really rigid, but others tell me you can adjust the requirements, so I'm not entirely sure just yet. I really want to keep the BS if possible, but at this point, it's just getting to be a headache. I feel like a BS shows more rigor, and I had always intended to get one, but I don't plan to go into anthropology, now or ever, and the semester hours I spend on BS requirements (ha) are semester hours I'm not using in classes that I think would be directly relevant for my interests - like taking women in the 20th century US, for example, continuing to take French, or doing another semester of research for the history professor I've been working with.


For what it's worth, I go to a Midwestern R1; my GPA in history is a 4.1 and a 3.98 in anthropology, and I'm hoping to study modern women's history.


Sorry for the wall of text! Thanks so much. I really appreciate it!

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Were I in your position, I would embrace the suck and earn the B.S. As a graduate student in history, you will need to have an outside field. The work you do for the B.S. today will allow you to have more bang for the buck when you do the coursework for your outside field. This is to say that while your peers are getting their feet wet, you could be figuring out how anthropology can inform your dissertation design.

Second, you might be able to parlay the statistics requirement for the B.S. into meeting a language requirement for grad school.

Third, you might have more opportunities to do work as a TA because of your background. (History, anthropology, and statistics--if you go all out.)

Fourth, the grind will help you to build the endurance and the confidence you'll need in graduate school.

Fifth, you may have a much stronger application on a variety of levels, especially when it comes to LORs and your SOP.

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Thanks for your reply! 


I had thought about using the statistics sequence as a language requirement for graduate school, but I had forgotten about the outside field requirements and I hadn't even considered the possibility of working as a TA for anthropology. I think there might be more flexibility than the department lets on, so I'll see what I can do; you've listed a lot of persuasive reasons to keep it, which were honestly exactly what I needed to hear. Thanks again! 

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I can't speak for other places, but outside field requirements only exist for Americanists at my school, and a statistics sequence will only meet the language requirement for people who opt to quit their PhD and get a terminal MA - so I wouldn't make too many assumptions about being able to use these assets everywhere. 


Unless you have your heart set on doing some kind of anthropologically-informed history, you might be better off getting deeper into history and emerging with a better sense of what course of research you would pursue in grad school (or accumulating the other skills you would need to pursue it). Even if you wind up at a school with outside field requirements, this can't hurt you.

Edited by czesc
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