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Is it worth it to minor in something you find interest in?

I am doing a Math-Computer Science degree at UCSD. I know most of my courses will consist of difficult math and CS courses but I find engineering very interesting as well. I wanted to minor in engineering for my own personal interest so I could learn more about it. And if I really enjoy it, maybe I could go to grad school for it. But I would not want to minor if it drops my GPA since internships and grad school are both very competitive. Is it worth the risk? If applicable, how was your own personal experience in minoring (in any subject) and why did you do it?

#engineering #college #math #major #minor #computer-science #college-major


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Jane’s Answer

Hi Ashley!

I personally had similar struggles as you, and my approach for it is to speak to your academic/major advisor to see the possibility of taking engineering courses without the need to declaring a minor. That way you would have the flexibility of trying out a few courses and assess your interest and ability to get good grades prior to committing and declaring engineering as your minor. In addition, it is also worth trying to directly speaking with the professors of those engineering courses to see if you can listen in during their lectures. That can also be a great way for you to learn new information without having to risk having lower grades.

Hope this helps :)

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Marcey’s Answer

Hi! Great question, Ashley. Adding a minor is a thoughtful consideration to explore your interest in engineering. I think your assessment about your GPA is important. An equally important question to consider is the potential financial implication of pursuing a minor -- for example, if I pursue a minor, will it add to the amount of credit hours to graduate? Said another way, if the addition of a minor will extend the time in school and/or increase the financial obligation, can you afford this? It will be important to evaluate any potential additional debt, whether out of your own pocket or a loan). Or, can you take classes within the minor to determine if you enjoy the subject before declaring a minor? While adding a minor can enrich and complement your major studies, so can a series of classes. Consider what possible financial and time aspects adding a minor may add to your studies. Consider if there are other ways to research the field (possible minor)? For example, do a little networking and find professionals (or professors) to speak with about their experiences, about their studies, what's important for those considering entering the field, and what advice they would give? And, ask if they know anyone else you can speak with about the profession!

While I was an undergraduate student many (many) years ago, I pursued a minor to supplement my interest in a foreign language. This was helpful for me as I took a job overseas after graduation. Reflecting back on my curriculum, I could have pursued a double major if I had been more strategic in planning for classes. I hope this helps and good luck with your studies!

Marcey recommends the following next steps:

Read through industry publications
Network with those in the profession - ask questions about their job (likes, dislikes) recommendations for those entering the field
Ask anyone you network with to recommend others to speak with (to learn more!)

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John’s Answer

Think about what excites and energizes you Ashley.

This one’s the first obvious step—we all want to enjoy and actually like our careers. (Perhaps the biggest sign you’re on the wrong path is you “want to minor in engineering for my own personal interest so I could learn more about it.”) While passion isn’t the only requirement for being content in your career, many would say it’s still essential, if only because passion is what keeps you going even through the tough times.

Maybe you don’t feel that passionate about Computer Engineering or Mechanical Engineering – or in you case love multiple areas and can’t decide on just one. Then it’s time to think about your personality and focus on what excites and energizes you the most.

I think this bring you back to your other questions: Classroom Knowledge vs Internship Experience.

EDUCATION VS EXPERIENCE

A College degree program certainly builds both knowledge and skills, few colleges and universities can fully prepare you for the daily challenges of a career in Computer Engineering or Mechanical Engineering. The pressure to make good grades and to complete assignments on time rarely, if ever, matches the demands of on the job knowledge. It is a debate perhaps as old as higher education itself: what matters most when it comes to being in a career you love? Does that higher degree get your foot in the door, or does work experience count? And beyond actually attaining a job, will experience or education serve you best for staying employed, growing in your career?

It is understandable that you may not go for an awesome internship opportunity because it’s unpaid. However, doing so can end up being a mistake as it significantly limits the opportunities available and if an internship in Computer Engineering or Mechanical Engineering is going to help you decide, than thats you goal.

The arguments are varied, but the main ones go something like this:

• Higher education only proves you can succeed in academia, not in a real-world job;
• Success in actual work means more than success in education;
• Work experience does not necessarily provide the skills you need for the next job you will have; or
• A higher degree guarantees a particular skill set – which can be translated into work skills.

The reality of the education vs experience debate is that no single argument can cover all the potential situations of your career success Ashley.

I hope this was also Helpful

Thank You for your Continued Support Dexter. “The purpose of life is not to be happy, but to matter– to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all.” – Leo Rosten John Frick

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Lauren’s Answer

Hi Ashley!

This depends greatly on a few things:

1) Do you need additional credits in order to graduate? If not, you may be taking on additional expense to do this minor in the form of tuition and fees.

2) Do you anticipate using the minor in your career? If so, the additional expense, might be worth it.

3) Will it bring you joy? A wise mentor once told me that you should take at least 1 class a semester in a subject that brings you joy. It never failed me and often ended up being my favorite class of the semester.

Hope this helps!


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Tim’s Answer

Ashley,

As you allude to, having a minor can be a clear benefit since it shows you "did more." Computer science is a great degree and I'd focus the minor on what you are interested in. Something like Computer Engineering would complement and extend what you already study in CS, while Mechanical would give you exposure and knowledge in a different area.

Having cross-disciplinary experience enables you to bring more to the first parts of your career. Since more of the world runs on software, what you learn, and how you learn, in a minor allows you to contribute in unique ways. If you have an idea where your "dream job" is, what is the "non-CS" knowledge that would apply. For example, if you want to be in software development at NASA, the minor in Aerospace or Mechanical would allow you to more easily jump in speaking the same language.

While it doesn't sound like it applies to you, another example would be to get something entirely different, like psychology. That sets you up for the whole field of "Human Computer Interaction." This is the one I wish I had thought about before my senior year.

In my career, some of the people that contributed the most brought outside experience and approaches to the team. It was a source of new ideas and if you can bring some to your future teams, you'll be special. Good Luck.

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Poojitha’s Answer

Hi there! Yes, for sure! College is the best time to explore things you're interested in to better prepare you for industry. The minor may help you make connections and expand your horizons. It is important to consider your GPA as well - pass/fail may be a good option.

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Tzu-Li’s Answer

Hi Ashley,

My major was Petroleum Engineering when I was an undergrad in UT Austin. I choose that major because I was good at math, physics, and chemistry. However, my real passion was in teaching. I decided to join UTeach program and minor in mathematics. The extra math courses and student-teaching opportunities were fun and refreshing.

Knowing that I always have a backup option in case my first option didn't work out (as it turned out, I had to leave oil-and-gas industry in 2016 due to the market downturn), it really give me this sense of safe and security. If you believe you can manage the workload, college is really the time for you to try all the new things and explore your options.

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Katelyn’s Answer

My dad is actually a software engineer in his current profession. He got his undergraduate in Computer Science and got a masters degree in Engineering. They actually go hand in hand, and really compliment each other. There are a lot of jobs that combine computer science and engineering. Having a minor always looks good for future employers, it shows added experience. I think if you enjoy it, it could be a good career path for you. After all you want a career in a field that interests you. Study hard and keep those grades up, you got this!

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Ariana’s Answer

If you feel you can incoporate it and it interests you- do it! I loved pursuing my minor because I got to take a wider variety of courses, explore another department in my university, learn about additional school opportunities! University education is also about exploring your interests and learning more about yourself too, so I think it would be a great contribution to your educational experience!

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Paul’s Answer

Hey Ashley - After reading your post the first thing I'd tell you is to focus on the learning more than the grades. If you really want to learn about engineering because you enjoy the subject, which sounds like you do, then that is the main value proposition.

I've taught students that worried about their grades more than what they were learning and they got little to no value out of the class because of it. Focus on what you want to learn.

I know things can be competitive with grades and they are important, but remember you're paying to be there, so get out of it what you want out of it.

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Grace’s Answer

I totally appreciate your concern about taking on additional challenging courses and potentially lowering your GPA. That said, I would encourage you to look at a minor as a great opportunity to study an area you are interested in and might not be able to learn about in the future. I studied Anthropology as my minor because I thought it was really interesting and it was different from my usual major courses. I learned so much from those courses that I still reference today or bring up in conversations. College is such a good time to explore different things that interest you and learn from experts in the field - I recommend doing it!

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Kate’s Answer

I went for a math major and minored in applied statistics. There were a lot of overlaps in courses so I only needed a couple additional stats classes to have the minor. To me it was worth it because I needed credits to fill slots. I would look to see what the overlap is and if it's only a couple classes that you can fit in at anytime, I say go for it.

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Cody’s Answer

Personally I've done the same, in college my prime focus was business but I've always had a love for fitness. luckily my school had a good physical fitness degree I could pursue. I was stressed about the extra workload but my interest was just too great. I fought with the idea all summer and finally, I came to the decision of "will this make me happy" if your interest is that great I say go for it. Done live with regret thinking you didn't do it. After all, you never know it could be a second job or a hobby later in life.

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Maxmillan’s Answer

If it is something that you are really interested in, I would recommend speaking with the people in your engineering department to learn more about the potential classes that you would be taking. They may even have courses that intersect with your current math-cs degree. If you just want to learn more about engineering then there are many free online opportunities to do so. If you think that you would potentially want to do it for graduate school, then I think it would be a good idea to take at least the minor so that you have a firm understanding of the topics. In the case that you do decide to pick it up as your minor, even if your GPA falls slightly, the value of having that knowledge is much greater.

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Vanessa’s Answer

Hi Ashley! You definitely seem interested in both your choices for your major and minor.
Find out what courses you have to take, and see if any of the courses can be applied to both your major and minor.
For example, I got my major in Computer Science and a Minor in Management Information Systems.
For a few of the classes in my minor, I had already completed them with my major! I'd go for it, be sure to stay organized with all the
coursework. Good luck :)

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Kiran’s Answer

Great question. Some great advice and answers above.

I would also add by this, If you have the opportunity to do a minor, I would recommend taking one. You never know what your true passion is in and if you find a true passion then its worth it if you have the means to do it.

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Donna’s Answer

I think you should minor in something that you enjoy or interests you. It can help in steering you in a direction you might not have thought of.

I wound up taking 2 minors along with my major. One of them complimented my major and the other was out of the love of it. All 3 - the major, and both minors I have utilized throughout my entire life.

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Colleen’s Answer

Hi Ashley!

Speaking from my experience, minoring in something you’re interested in outside of your main field of focus can be really rewarding. I majored in Chemical Engineering, a field I was, and still am, hugely passionate about, but I minored in Classical Studies which had absolutely no overlap with my major but was something I found fascinating. In my minor, I studied the Latin language, Greek, Egyptian & Roman epics & mythology. And as odd as it sounds, the complete divergence of these directions of study, really balanced my academic career and helped my growth as a student. In engineering, my focus was entirely technical, mathematical, scientific, etc. whereas my minor allowed for my literary and historical interests to also be explored. My methods of learning were challenged and forced me to grow to meet those challenges.

My minor in Classical Studies has also made for some entertaining interview chit-chat as interview teams often wonder what my impetus in minoring in that field actually was, which is a great lead-in for me to explain that I’m open and have many interests and I pursue those interests because I love to learn and be challenged.

Also, as an important note, because my minor was something I found genuinely interesting I did put the effort in to completing it successfully, and even earned a spot in their honors society, so it definitely didn’t hurt my overall GPA.

My advice is simple, don’t shy away from your academic interests; it’s rare, especially later in life, to have the same academic flexibility that you have in college and it’s for that reason as well as for the betterment and expansion of your own field of knowledge, that you should take the opportunities to explore the things that truly pique your passion.

Good luck with your studies, wish you the best!

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Carlyn’s Answer

I think it is great to minor in an area of interest. This is also a great way to diversify your skill sets and the knowledge you have from your major. Even if it is challenging passion often shines through, and I have found that this the most valuable thing in applying for jobs and to school programs.

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Maximilian’s Answer

Hi Ashley,

I would say it's always a great idea to pursue something that you are interested in. Of course you will have to consider already mentioned factors such as the cost of taking additional courses and if taking these Engineering courses adds to the time you have to be at the university.

In my own experience I majored in Computer Science for the career and financial security, but I also majored in Spanish because it really interested me. I don't plan on using Spanish in my career, but I found that it was worth majoring in because I really enjoyed the courses and had the most fun in these courses. I was the very engaged and retained the most from my Spanish courses because they were something I was really interested in learning. I also did the best in these courses because I was interested in the content that I was being taught (so I wouldn't worry about doing poorly and having your GPA negatively affected by Engineering courses). I would say it is totally "worth the risk."

Additionally, in college you will usually have to take some extra curricular courses (courses outside of your major) in order to fulfill credit requirements. I would suggest taking these Engineering courses that you are interested because then you can see if Engineering is something you want to pursue later on. You don't necessarily need to declare a minor in this field of study in order to take courses in it, and you can wait to declare if you are unsure of whether you will be able to fit it into your time at the university. For example, I did the research and took a few statistics courses that would lead to a minor in Applied Statistics, but I did not know if I would be able to fit it into my 4 years at the university alongside with my other two majors. I waited until midway through my second to last semester to declare this minor because that was when I finally knew that I would be able to make it fit into my schedule.

I would also suggest that you talk to your academic advisor once you get one assigned in your major. Sometimes it is best to wait to declare a major/minor because the requirements may change, and an advisor in your major or in the major/minor you are looking into will know best what the future of that degree will look like. In my case, it was best for me to wait to declare until my second to last semester because my Computer Science advisor told me that the requirements for the Applied Statistics minor was changing in a way that a paired Computer Science and Statistics course would be able to fulfill the requirement that was originally listed as a sole Statistics course and would count towards both my major and this minor.

Overall, I would say take one or two Engineering courses and re-assess your interest after taking them. College is about exploring interests, and if you do find that you really enjoy your Engineering courses, talk with your advisor and see what the best course of action is for declaring your minor and fitting it into your college timeline. Best of luck!

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Kimberly’s Answer

Hi Ashley! If you can fit classes into your schedule for a potential minor, then I would definitely recommend it. If your minor is a field that you are interested in and think it can help you later on, then I would definitely follow that path. College is the time to figure out what fields you are interested in and how you can see them in your future. You might have to volunteer somewhere for one of your classes and the next thing you know you have made potential job connections for the future. If you did not take this class and decide to take on a minor, then you might not have experienced this opportunity. Many minors tend to overlap with your major, whether it is through classes or pure interest. I majored in Sociology and minored in Child Development. I noticed many similarities between the two and am so thankful that I ended up choosing both because that helped me shape my career. If you can fit your minor into your schedule, I say go for it!

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Lauren’s Answer

Hello Ashley,

I think minoring in a subject that is interesting to you is a great thing. I was a Health Science major, and I grow very interested in Health Policy Administration after taking a class in the subject. I found it very beneficial because the classes were related to my major and my main field of interest but also gave me some insight into a little bit of a different field. Additionally, I think it made my resume stand out a bit, that I was able to complete a Major and a Minor, performing at a high level.

Hope this helps!

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Katherine’s Answer

Hey Ashley!

Perhaps I can shed light on the subject as someone who has a BS in Civil Engineering and a near-minor in CS (pretty much every engineering major is almost a mathematics minor as well, but I did one better by taking a rigorous mathematics course in Linear Algebra).

If you're focusing on math and CS, there are applications that cross over between the two but that are taught very differently to engineers vs. math majors. Physical sciences and engineering are messy in a way that human-made code often isn't.

Odds are when you deal with engineering problems in the real world that efficiency and optimization only take you so far in solving a problem with physical or monetary constraints that plain will not apply in a virtual space. If you're interested in a CS-related discipline like electrical or computer engineering, a minor could really help you add context to a degree. If you're interested in an engineering discipline with less overt relationships to computer engineering (like civil, mechanical, or chemical), many of the basic course prerequisites are things you wouldn't necessarily be required to take at all but could fulfill an additional science requirement without the necessity of declaring a minor.

A minor can help you broaden your college experience, but declaring a minor can put an unnecessary burden on you in tuition and fees if you're already close to graduating and the courses don't necessarily align with the degree requirements of your major. I would only declare a minor if you have the extra resources in terms of money and time. In my experience, a minor has very little or no impact on hiring decisions.

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Katya’s Answer

Hi Ashley, absolutely worth it. College is about exploring your career interests and studying something that you hav ether passion for.

From my personal experience, my minor was Marketing and I absolutely loved it. It gave me another opportunity to test my interests but also it correlated to my major which was Business Administration.

I enjoyed the other side and also it helped me in my career to understand how marketing works, how it works in organizations, which aspects are important and how I can use my creative and strategic skills within my profession.

So, yes take it-it is a lot but you will probably find it interesting and it will also gear your studying into less stressful mode because as you explore something new -you will start to apply to your major.

Good luck

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Kasey’s Answer

Hi Ashley,

I am similar to you in terms of what I studied in school. I did a 3+2 program where I ended up with a B.S. in Math, a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and a B.A. in General Engineering; essentially I have taken the combination of classes that you are considering taking :)

I found that math is definitely theory based the higher up in education that you go. In that manner, it is very similar to how engineering classes are. Instead of just doing theory based in math, engineering brings it to particular problems/situations. For example, for fluid dynamics, you apply the necessary formulas needed to solve the problem (flow rate of water through a pipe, time for a reservoir to be drained at a certain defined rate, etc.). I would say this is most definitely the toughest part. Then from there out, you solve the problem based on the values that you are given. I find that there is a good amount of overlap in types of formula/theory used between both subjects. I will say that I am not a huge fan of computer science as I found programming to be very challenging.

My personal recommendation would be to not try and minor in it. I think that it's awesome that you are interested, and it's good to learn about, but there are some down sides. Like you said, you don't want your GPA to drop. If you want to take a challenging engineering class, it will likely be one of your biggest time commitments, and often it is very difficult to get an A in the class. If anything I would recommending just taking a class that you are particularly interested in first. Then if you like it, then you can try and take more/further your education later.

I do not strongly believe in minoring if you are looking into going into Corporate America. I find that employers think that it's nice that you have it, but it is not a big part of the reason why you are hired/not hired. It is a good thing to have, but I don't necessarily think it's worth it. Especially for such a challenging minor. I also think it depends on what kind of engineering you want to minor in. Some are more difficult than others.

I hope you find this helpful :)

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Blake’s Answer

Hey Ashley,

I think that there is definitely a risk when GPA is involved, especially considering your interested field is engineering. However, I have found that studying things that I enjoy naturally come easier to learn because I want to learn them. You never know when your minor will become relevant in what your career path turns out to be. Not to mention it's a good conversation starter for interviews and other formal settings.

Blake

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Vanessa’s Answer

Hi Ashley! You definitely seem interested in both your choices for your major and minor.
Find out what courses you have to take, and see if any of the courses can be applied to both your major and minor.
For example, I got my major in Computer Science and a Minor in Management Information Systems.
For a few of the classes in my minor, I had already completed them with my major! I'd go for it, be sure to stay organized with all the
coursework. Good luck :)

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