In most cases, the academic paths students choose as undergraduates have grave effects on their future careers. In order to make the best out of their lives in universities, an increasing number of students have growing interests in studying more than one major. Korean universities adopt a double major system and a minor system to satisfy the academic desires of students. Some even regard it as compulsory for students to master different fields of studies during their time as undergraduates. Our university, The University of Seoul (henceforth UOS), is not an exception. Recently, interest and attention in the school’s curriculum have been heightened with the implementation of a minor system at UOS; therefore, The UOS Times decided to focus on the school curriculums for a double major system and a minor system of UOS to investigate them thoroughly.
What are a Double Major System and a Minor System?
A double major system enables students to study more than one major beyond their original choice. When students complete all the required courses for their new majors, they get extra degrees corresponding to the number of majors they have studied. In case of our university, a cap of two is put on the number of majors.
On the other hand, a minor system enables students to study a minor other than their own major. The minor system existed only in UOS statutes. However, the minor system was brought to attention when the leading candidate for the 2013 Student Council questioned this inactive system. Taking into the consideration both proposals by the Student Council and the requests of students to start the minor system, the Committee of Academic Affairs implemented it, beginning this year.
Comparison Between Two Systems
The aims of these two systems - a double major system and a minor system - are similar to each other's. They both intend to widen the understanding of students in different fields of study, which facilitates interdisciplinary application of knowledge.
However, these two systems differ regarding the required credits and a verification method. A minor system necessitates completing far less credits (approximately 21, though it may differ by department) than a double major system (which demands at least 36 credits for College of Humanities and College of Social Sciences, 42 for College of Natural Sciences and College of Arts and Physical Education). For this reason, students who want to study additional majors, but feel too much pressure at the thought of pursuing an entire new major, can take advantage of a minor system as an alternative plan. When it comes to the verification method, students who meet all the requirements of a double major system get two bachelor’s degrees for two different majors. Meanwhile, students who meet all the requirements of a minor system only get a certification for their minor, not a degree, and a degree for their major.
Advantages of Two Systems
The strongest appeal of a double major system is that university students can graduate with two bachelor’s degrees, as mentioned above. Those degrees become representations of the academic lives and individual characters of students, strengthening their resumes or resulting in a synergistic effect on their studies.
A graduation diploma with two bachelor’s degrees shows their hard-working and cerebral qualities, which works as an advantage on resumes when they are job-hunting. A graduate of 2013, Bae Geun-hang (Dept. of International Relations and Chinese Language and Culture, ’09), shows this advantage of a double major system. “I majored in Chinese Language and Culture as a second major; if a company is looking for an employee who has an additional knowledge in Chinese, they would definitely select me before anyone. In fact, my resumes were accepted by two companies so far already. I believe this was due to my completing of the double major”
Another appeal of the double major is that a synergistic effect is generated by different areas of knowledge. Majoring in another subject complementary to their original majors can be beneficial to them as scholars. “I chose Mathematics as my second major Storybecause my original major is Physics. By studying Mathematics, I intended to better understand physics where substantial theories are induced through mathematical calculations,” said Yananose Kunihiro (Dept. of Physics, ’12), who is using a double major to earn synergistic results.
A minor system is beneficial to students who want to enjoy the merits of a double major system, but by fulfilling fewer credits. As explained above, a minor system only requires approximately 21 credits from a second department, so the pressure on students is far less than that from a double major system. Those who want to study another subject yet are incapable of handling two majors can choose the minor system to study in another department. This applies not only to the students struggling between two choices of a double major or a minor, but also to the students who face difficulties in completing two majors as double major students. They can drop a double major and change to a minor instead. In this case, the major course credits fulfilled during a double major are recognized in a minor. For an instance, Yananose said if he feels that completing all the required credits for a double major in Mathematics becomes an obstacle for him to graduate on time, he is willing to change his double major to a minor in the future. Such could be an appeal that the minor system has on students.
Both double major and minor systems are being executed at UOS. Although they are in effect for students, they currently do not assist students in the best way. The UOS Times collected opinions of students on existing problems they experienced regarding the school curriculums. In addition, The UOS Times investigated further by interviewing the Department of Academic Affairs and researching data from our university and other universities.
The followings are assembled shortcomings especially from the institutional point of view: Scheduling conflicts; cap on the number of majors; lack of information for the double major; current state of the minor system.
Scheduling conflicts are existing problems at UOS for students in the double major system and the minor system. One problem involves a conflict in schedule between major courses of two different departments that students are majoring in. Even if students are eager to do the double major, when the course schedules conflict, they are forced to choose between two courses and give up on one. Therefore, regardless of their original intentions, students are forced to attend school longer to fulfill credits they had to give up on, inevitably delaying their graduations. As a matter of fact, a Block Timetable System is implemented at UOS at present to prevent this kind of problem. In this system, the time of some courses from each department is assorted as “available to double major students” and is fixated per grade. This system aims to help students check available courses and make out their schedules in advance.
▲ Evaluation Standards of Dept. of Business Administration
▲ Evaluation Standards of Dept. of English Language and Literature
However, despite this system, scheduling conflicts regarding the time of courses are still occurring. In this regard, Cho Kyung-hee, the person in charge of course registration at the Department of Academic Affairs, said responsible public officials are doing their best to minimize this problem. The solid plan to work this problem out, however, remains to be seen.
Another problem with scheduling is the order of registration of double major and minor students. In some cases, students of an original major have priority when signing up for related courses. Only after they have enrolled can students with a double major and minor sign up for classes. Therefore, there are instances where the courses the latter wanted to take are already fully registered. Students of an original major may feel that they should be prioritized before double major or minor students. However, the objective of our university is to regard both students of an original major and a second major identically. Therefore, imposing such an order on students seems unfair especially in this respect. Not enforcing the order of registration on students and thus treating all students on equal grounds seem a just resolution.
Cap on the Number of Majors
Our school limits the number of majors students can study. Students can only choose maximum of two majors, either through a double major or a minor. The reason a double major system and a minor system allow students to choose only one additional major is that UOS believes completing three or more majors in total is too much for students.
This policy, however, is an obstacle in academic careers of UOS students. Each student’s academic capability differs. It is an erroneous underestimation for the school to generalize all students’ abilities and restrict potential expansions of their fields of knowledge accordingly. Some students wish to explore their possible career paths by studying in many majors, and some others have definite aims in their minds and use the school systems of a double major and minor to master various fields of knowledge required to reach their goals in life. Choosing majors or choosing what to study at the bachelor’s level at the university should be dependent on individual student’s capacity, not on school’s dogmatic decision. Like our university’s policy does, limiting scholastic abilities does not best represent students which in turn makes them vulnerable to competitions with those from other universities that have less restriction. For example, Sungkyunkwan University, Sogang University, and Yonsei University allow students to graduate with the maximum of three bachelor’s degrees. From perspectives of students who are preparing for job-hunting, if in the same conditions, it is obvious that students with three degrees have an advantage over students with two degrees. Therefore, for our students to become competent and excel in the society, UOS should respect each student’s capability and thus annul the policy that limits the number of majors students can study.
Lack of Information for the Double Major
“I went into the school website and found a notice announcing the date of application for the double major by chance,” said Yananose who started a double major this semester. The Department of Academic Affairs, which is responsible for the double major and minor systems, uploads a public announcement informing the application dates roughly two weeks ahead of time. Although the time of application is generally fixed every year, it is still irregular, so students cannot know ahead of time when the applications will start for sure.
Our university indeed tries to notify students by updating the announcement and supposedly sending out text messages. Nevertheless, interviewees said in harmony that they had to manually check the website every now and then to find a notice one day. Seon Yun-ji (Dept. English Language and Literature, ’13) who just recently applied to School of Economics for a double major said, “School thinks that putting up a notice would be enough for students to get the necessary information. However, the fact is that students do not have time or leisure to check school’s website or WISE website regularly.” The school is obliged to amend current way of notification to a more student-friendly and accessible way than now, taking examples from Korea University which publicizes a fixed date so that there is minimum confusion among students.
▲ Korea University has a fixed application date of March 1 to 20, Sept. 1 to 20 every year
▲ UOS has no fixed application date
The Graphs given by UOS indicates two problems in our university. First, only a total of two percent of students apply for the double major or the minor; if the fact that the minor has only just been implemented is considered, the number of applicants for the double major is unexpectedly very low. Second is that the admission percentage is only about 50 percent in both double major and minor’s cases. The UOS Times deducted that the possible underlying cause for both problems is that provided information concerning admission qualifications is both insufficient and unbalanced. The UOS Times manually looked up several departments to see if information necessary for students such as grade point averages (henceforth GPA), cut-off scores, and the prescribed number of selected students were given. The result was surprising; while Department of Business Administration gave detailed information from required GPA and English ability test grades to interview dates, some departments, for example, Department of Environmental Horticulture and Department of Korean History did not have a single announcement giving any information. Moreover, Department of English Literature and Language had a notice but it was outdated, posted years ago. If the university does not provide even the most basic information such as these, the uncertainty whether they can get admitted will prevent students from applying at all. Seon also was aware about this problem; “My case was worse because I was applying for a popular department, School of Economics. I went to the UOS Online Community at the Daum cafe to get information because it was the only source of even remotely guessing the selection standards. I have to admit that I did not want to apply at all because the alleged GPA cut-off score found on Daum cafe was much higher than my GPA. I just applied anyway expecting to be rejected, but to my genuine surprise, I got in! Nevertheless, I firmly believe many people chose not to apply at all because of this.” Should UOS provide definitive information to students, they can prepare their GPA, English ability test grades, and interviews to fit the standards, and they will get accepted more than before. All in all, detailed and sufficient information given clearly by school will increase the number of applicants and the number of accepted students, which ultimately will motivate our university to improve institutionally.
Current State of the Minor System
As explained above, the minor system was only implemented for the first time this semester. Thus, it is early to discuss whether the minor system succeeded. Instead, how it is being enforced will be examined.
Above all, considering the minor system has been in effect for only a semester, its publicity effect is not as mild as expected. Referring to the Graph 1, the number of applicants of the double major and the minor do not show a big difference. The fact that the double major is a known system while the minor is not proves that quite a large number of students, if not all, already are aware of the minor system and are very willing to apply. This result is a positive sign that once more students know that the minor system is available, more applicants will follow.
However, what was unexpected was the admission percentage of a minor system. As one can see from the Graph 2 and 3, the percentage is only about 50 percent, close to that of the double major. It makes sense for the admission percentage of the double major to be low, for requirements of it is much more demanding than those of a minor system. Nonetheless, for the minor’s admission percentage to be low as that of the double major is illogical because the minor was implemented for students to major in another department more easily than the double major. To pursue the original purpose of the minor system, UOS should endeavor to increase the passing rate of minor applicants.
Future of the Minor System
The minor system inevitably has shortcomings due to its novelty, institutionally in particular. The UOS Times, therefore, researched other universities’ minor systems to apply strong points to our university in order to provide convenience to our students. Out of many types of systems, one particular minor system of Yonsei University seemed most favorable for students.
In case of Yonsei University, its policy does not require applications from each student. Instead, it conducts the minor qualification tests before graduation. If students qualify, they can graduate with minor certificates. Such minor system has a positive point in that institutional procedures are simplified, hence reducing unnecessary labor, because it needs neither applications nor cancellations. Moreover, students have less psychological pressure, since they do not have to worry about failing to pass the minor.
A minor system enforced through the qualification test before graduation has a significant meaning because it is a system that does not judge students by their irrevocable past grades but by their future diligence and potential outcome. It will be highly desirable if UOS could shape its policies for convenience and betterment of students.
The UOS Times covered basic information such as what are the double major system and the minor system and what could be resulted from those systems. Problems that occur with the current double major system and the minor system in effect in UOS were also discussed at length. They were followed by possible solutions that can improve our university’s systems by analyzing our university’s systems and comparing with other universities’ systems. Students who question the double major system and the minor system which are directly related to students’ academic paths and future increased, challenged by existing ambiguities. This analysis of systems, thus, clarified the confusions of students have about the double major and minor systems. In addition, it provided solutions to our university about these current shortcomings.
Universities exist for students to plan out their future. If those problems exist to be, it will be as if the university is closing some doors for students to explore further. Taking suggested solutions into consideration to form better systems will ultimately make better students.