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How Minor Is a Minor, Really?

For ambitious college students and aspiring young professionals, the opportunity to beef up their resumes can be a driving force behind many commitments. In hopes that the highlight of their resumes might be some line of “official” achievement rather than their gripping knowledge of Microsoft Office, college students scramble for those elusive summer internships, work experiences and leadership positions within organizations.

Some students take on a second major, doubling their course loads, so that their depth of knowledge in two fields can be validated with a college seal at graduation. Most colleges today also offer their students the chance to add a minor to their degree, but it begs the question: is there any real value in having one?

“It’s less of an emphasis than one might think,” said Rachel Greenberg, associate director of the Boston College Career Center. While it never looks bad to have a minor, in her opinion, credentials should not be valued over skills and experiences, especially ones that students get outside of the classroom.

Regarding academics, the most important thing is that a student chooses a set of classes that he or she is interested in, even if they might not add up to a minor. In fact, one of the downfalls to committing to a minor for the purpose of seeming more “marketable” is that a student may end up taking a bunch of low-level classes to fulfill their minor requirements rather than taking high-level courses in their major that they find more intriguing.

The Advising Center takes a similar stance on the debate.

“Students should acquire a minor for interest,” said Rory Browne, interim associate dean of the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. “A minor is not necessary to graduate. What a minor does indicate is that you have interests above and beyond your major.”

Additionally, a minor provides structure for students who wish to pursue and specialize in an interest without having to fulfill all the requirements of a second major.  Browne echoed the sentiment that more advanced work in a major would be more beneficial than having a minor for the sake of a having a minor.

Furthermore, while a minor can add to your resume, listing the relevant courses you have taken can achieve the same results in showing employers that you have acquired a certain skill set. For example, taking a few high-level courses in a language can demonstrate proficiency in that language without the need to pick up all six courses required for the minor. Instead, that extra space can be used to explore other languages or go further into one’s major.

Ultimately, the significance of having a minor comes down to the reason for wanting one. If obtained for personal fulfillment, a minor can enhance your college experience by broadening horizons and leading you to follow paths of interest. That’s the value of pursuing a minor and, arguably, the value of a liberal arts education.

The fact that you acquire skills that can be used to bolster your resume is a secondary factor. All other things being equal, a resume with a minor would likely be preferred over one without, but few things in life come that close to each other, with every person bringing his or her own skills and experiences to the table.

“If you bring in 50 people from the same field, each one would have a different story of how they got there,” added Greenberg. “It’s about how you weave together your own story in a way that is meaningful to you.”