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Double majors: double the knowledge, double the stress

Having one major in college is stressful enough, but pursuing two majors is an even bigger feat most students do not dare attempt. However, there are several Ohio University students who are going above and beyond in their academics, juggling two of their career interests while also maintaining their physical and mental health.

Sadie Awbrey, a junior studying anthropology and marine biology, was inspired to double major after having long, deep-rooted loves of both of the fields since childhood. She said she remembers being really interested in Native American tribes in fourth grade, as well as being fascinated by aquatic life from a young age.

“I went on vacation summer after my freshman year, I believe, to Florida,” Awbrey said. “I was obsessed with dolphins. Then I was like, ‘Wait, this is kind of awesome.’ It's kind of weird that I'm still so passionate about this coming back to it years later, like 10-plus years later.”

While she does have to stay an extra year to earn her degree in both majors, Awbrey is okay with it, as she didn’t declare both majors until the end of her sophomore year. Even though the addition of marine biology has made her schedule busier, she said it’s worth staying in school for two areas she’s passionate about.

Awbrey also said the application process to add another major wasn’t difficult, using a link provided by her former advisor to include it on her DARS. The only challenge was when it came to scheduling classes for her fall semester.

“This semester, I was trying to schedule, and I need seven more anthropology classes to be done, not a single one was offered,” Awbrey said. “That was really frustrating. With STEM comes labs, you have a class and a lab that ends up as five credit hours. Just trying to get everything done, you can't fit the courses in.”

Other students have also had to face setbacks in their academic timelines but argue they are learning communication skills. Yashvita Kanuganti, a sophomore studying linguistics and religious studies, said she thanks her director of studies for helping her ease into taking on two majors, making the slight change in her plans worth it.

“With HTC, I had to apply to transfer, and then I found out that I had gotten in at the end of last fall,” Kanuganti said. “I'm a semester behind, but it's been helpful having such a communicative director of studies and my program mutually communicating with me. They're flexible with what I have to do.”

Meanwhile, Dan Gordillo, a sophomore studying linguistics and political science, said the biggest challenge he has faced with being a double major is the pressure that comes with the heavy workload associated with his majors. 

“The biggest challenge to it has been definitely the load,” Gordillo said. “A 4000-level class requires a lot of you, especially if you want to do well in the class. It's a lot of pressure, but I can turn out really well if I just keep going at it, just to keep slogging through.”

Both Awbrey and Gordillo also said being a double major has cut into their social life, giving them less time to hang out with friends. Awbrey said her schedule has caused burnout to happen more frequently, causing her to want alone time at the end of her day instead of being social. 

However, the mental and physical toll double majors face can be prevented. Gordillo said taking breaks in his day has helped him carve out time to have a social life, as well as with time management. He said finding distractions in one’s day can help combat stress.

“You need to find ways that you can distract yourself from it at times,” Gordillo said. “It can’t always be on your mind. With my friends, it's like, ‘Hey, let's hang out.’ It's a really good distraction. Again, that time management comes in. It's an hour for me to be distracted from this for a little bit, and that just relieves so much pressure as well.”

Kanuganti said she enjoys having multiple outlets to maintain her overall well-being, forcing herself to branch out of her two disciplines in her free time. Some of her favorite hobbies include hanging out with friends, spending time outside and volunteering on the weekends.

Breaks have also benefited Awbrey, but her most important realization has come with accepting she does not have to be a straight-A student in order to be successful in both her majors.

“You have to learn to be okay with not getting the A, and it's really hard,” Awbrey said. “It's a struggle with me because I'm like, ‘No, it's fine. I want a better grade.’ I'm in honors, and it's like if something isn't matching what you need, even though it might make you a little bit better, I feel like it's more important to get what you're here for.”

Being a double major has additionally allowed Kanuganti to directly focus on what she wants to pursue in college and in her future. Wanting to continue some form of interdisciplinary studies potentially in grad school or outside of Athens, she knows now what she does and does not want to do with linguistics and religious studies.

“I change my mind pretty often, but this was something I had to be pretty selective on what I focus my time towards and be really direct with what I'm interested in,” Kanuganti said. “I think it's counterintuitive, but double majoring has made me more selective and more definitive of what I do or don't want to do with what I'm interested in.”

Gordillo said double majoring is open to any student, especially if they have the time and ability to take on two majors. 

“It's definitely worth it to be a double major,” Gordillo said. “Combining two skills can open up a lot of opportunities for anybody. If you have the time and you have the ability to do so, it doesn't hurt in my opinion. It's definitely not for everybody, especially if your first major is something incredibly difficult, but if it's within you it helps for sure.”

Overall, while being a double major has its pros and cons, these students say if one can find the time to manage it, it is worth considering. Providing an outlet for growth, exploration and creativity, double majoring has given students in Athens the opportunity to be skillful and curious academics at the college level.


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