Here’s a question that I often hear from prospective students: At Northwestern, can I study things outside of my major, and how’s it like?

My answer: yes. Yes. A billion times yes (I’ll get to the how’s it like soon enough).

As a prospective student, I was looking for schools with great film programs. That being said, I also realized that I wanted to study other disciplines. Knowing that 75 percent of college students change their major at least once before graduation (and half our first-year class comes in undecided), I wanted to keep my options open.

Here at Northwestern, students can experience a wide breadth of classes. Out of the 140+ disciplines that Northwestern has to offer, people oftentimes declare double majors in order to pursue different fields in more depth. Although few restrictions, like the rule of three, do exist, pursuing more than one field, in my experience, has been just as simple as filling out and handing in the correct paperwork.

Upon entering school, I started out just studying Radio-Television-Film (RTVF) within the School of Communications (SoC). I wanted to pursue a double major in Economics, since as an artist, I knew how invaluable that business background would be.  I found no problems with enrolling in Economics courses throughout my first year, and by the end of Spring Quarter, I officially had a second major!

At this point, I thought that I would have enough classes to keep me busy for the next three years. However, my parents had badgered me about following in their footsteps and entering Computer Science (CS) as an industry. I finally gave in one fateful spring afternoon, and signed up for the Fundamentals of Computer Programming I. I figured I’d give CS a shot given that the world will be ruled by machines in the near future, and I wanted to stay one step ahead of our future overlords.

To my horror and my parents’ delight, I had fun with CS, and I still don’t know why. Perhaps it has to do with the unresolved intellectual frustration I had over a 1000-piece puzzle when I was six. Maybe it has to do with my fantastic professors and their continued commitment to diversity in STEM. Or, more bizarrely, I might have actually enjoyed taking the class – all equally valid possibilities. Whatever the reason may have been, I decided to officially add Computer Science as my minor before the end of my second year. 

I was worried about finishing my classes in time for four years, since in between the degree requirements for both majors and minor, I also had to complete my distribution requirements (“distros”) through SoC. As a RTVF student, I needed to take 2-3 classes in each of the three different categories (Math/Science/Technology, Individual and Social Behavior, and Humanities and Fine Arts), as well as 10 additional classes outside my major. 

Thankfully, My awesome academic advisers helped me thoroughly plan out my academic schedule to ensure that I was on-track to graduate. One way I knocked out some of distros was through the AP Exams which I took in high school. Even without the high school credit, I still found strategies in finishing up my course load. Since the classes I took for my second major/minor ended up also fulfilling the requirements for my distros, I double-counted my courses to satisfy both major/minor and distribution requirements. As a result, I found enough room in my schedule to complete the degree that I wanted.

Here at Northwestern, there’s more than enough room to do what you love and more.

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