Is it a Good Idea to Declare a College Minor?
For new college students, especially if they are the first in the family to attend college, there can be a lot of things to learn about college culture and what your options are. There can be a lot of terminology and expectations that seem foreign.
Don't get too stressed about it. Little by little, it will become more familiar.
It can also help to read up on it. Let's talk a bit about college minors.
Do I Need a College Minor?
In order to graduate from college, you need to declare a major, complete core requirements for it, complete general education requirements and complete a minimum number of credit hours. You will also need to maintain an acceptable GPA and remain in good standing as a student in a number of different ways.
However, in most cases, declaring a minor is not a requirement. It is optional. It is something you can choose to do if you wish. Some departments or majors at some colleges may stipulate that a minor is required. But, most do not.
What is a College Minor?
Similar to a major, a minor is an area of concentrated study. But, as the name implies, it involves taking fewer classes related to the field of study in question than a major does.
It will require at least a little extra work if only to plan your schedule. However, it doesn't necessarily involve taking additional classes.
At most colleges, if you declare your minor early enough, most of the classes taken towards your minor can also be counted towards general study, your major, or another minor. Of course, this is assuming they fulfill the necessary requirements for each.
You will be required to take a few credit hours towards your mine that do not count towards anything else. This is typically eight credit hours.
If you do not declare your minor early or you aren't very organized, you may find that completing a minor does mean you have to take extra classes, on top of your major and general studies, to meet the additional requirements involved. The earlier you declare a minor, the easier it will be to avoid having it turn into a scenario where you need additional classes to complete everything.
Just like with a major, you will need to maintain a minimum GPA with a minor. This is typically a 2.0, the equivalent of a C average.
Why Should I Declare a College Minor?
Remember, you do not have to declare a minor. It is usually optional. In other words, it is a personal choice.
However, there can be many different reasons to declare a minor. Declaring a minor can allow you to pursue an are of personal interest in a serious way that is completely unrelated to your major, such as minoring in music or art when you have a STEM major.
Alternatively, if you see school primarily as a means to an end and that end is a successful career, a minor can complement or enhance your major or give you an area of specialization for purposes of improving your resume and career options. If you want to do something niche that is well paid, sometimes having what sounds like an odd combination of major plus minor can open doors that are may be mostly closed to typical graduates with your major.
For students who are going to school on a scholarship that mandates a particular major, a minor can allow them to study another field that interests them more but that they otherwise simply could not afford to study at all. It can also be a potential means to explore the possibility of doing a double major. Or it can be a back-up plan if you are interested in two majors but unsure whether or not you can manage to pull off the most rigorous requirements involved in completing a double major.
A minor can also serve as a kind of "tie-breaker" option for students having trouble deciding on a major. In other words, if you have two areas of interest, you can major in one and minor in the other.
Declaring a College Minor
Just like you need to go through a small formal process to declare your major, you need to go through a small formal process to declare your minor. You should start by doing some research into what your options are at your college and what specifics are involved for your college.
Your college's catalog should have a wealth of information about these sorts of details. It can also help to schedule an appointment with your academic advisor and get their feedback.
Then, you will need to fill out a small amount of paperwork, so it is officially on file with your college. This is necessary to get credit for having a minor. Simply taking the classes that would give you a minor will not get your credited as minoring in a particular field of study.
It can also be necessary to get into certain classes with limited availability. They may give preference to people who need those classes to complete various degree requirements over individuals who are merely interested in them.
What are Some Scenarios to Consider?
Let's say you want to study medicine, and you wish to spend part of your time working overseas in a developing country. Pursuing standard pre-med requirements and minoring in a foreign language, such as Spanish, can give you a leg up on such a goal.
For anyone desiring a career that involves international travel or potentially an assignment in a foreign country, minoring in a foreign language can be useful. Different goals may suggest different languages.
Physics majors sometimes choose to learn German, in part to reading Einstein's works in their original language. Students who grew up in a bilingual household may decide to minor in the second language they already speak in order to have it as an official credential. This can be necessary to acquire teaching certificates or to open up other career options.
Perhaps you would like to be a medical illustrator. Majoring in biology and minoring in art can help develop the diverse skill set necessary to do it well.
Perhaps you have a love of computers, so you would like to major in computer science. A minor in math or engineering can help lay the foundation for an active IT career.
If you would like to become an urban planner, urban planning is often offered as a graduate degree. You might wish to get your bachelor's in environmental studies with a minor in housing issues.
Many majors have a standard set of suggested minors. Your college catalog should have in-depth information about such things. However, in some cases, such as if you wish to minor in something unusual, you may need to write a custom plan and get special permission for it.
If you have no idea what you might like to do, take some time to flip through your college catalog, whether literally or virtually. Familiarizing yourself with the available options may allow something to strike your fancy or spark your interest.