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Triple Major

Brown2015Brown2015 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
edited April 2011 in Brown University
Hi everyone

I have been reading through the Brown Thread and it seems that Double Concentrating at Brown is possible and very doable. However I have a question. From what I hear it is possible to Triple Concentrate if the fields are closely related enough.

I was thinking of triple concentrating in Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Could some one please tell me if that is in fact possible and how difficult. Or the pros and cons of triple concentrating in these subjects.

I am an International and will be joining Brown's Class of 2015. So I don't know all that much about how the education system works at Brown.

Any help will be highly appreciated.
Post edited by Brown2015 on

Replies to: Triple Major

  • bruno14bruno14 Registered User Posts: 2,024 Senior Member
    I don't know whether this would be possible or not (if it is, it would be extremely difficult), but I think you should think seriously about your reasons for triple-concentrating. What will you really get out of it? Just another degree?

    What you'll be giving up is your time spent taking advantage of Brown's open curriculum and getting a true liberal arts education.
  • mgcsincmgcsinc Registered User Posts: 1,169 Senior Member
    The ability to do this varies widely depending on the specific majors under consideration. You generally need to have at least one major with very few requirements, like Math A.B. You are also limited in the degree to which course overlaps are allowed. I would assume that it's functionally impossible to do this when one of the majors is engineering, and absolutely impossible to do two engineering majors, but others can correct me if I'm wrong.

    The biggest 'con' is that triple majoring accomplishes nothing.
  • Brown2015Brown2015 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    The thing is that I really don't want to do this for the additional degree. I am an international and feel really blessed to have been accepted to Brown (I applied for full aid and I got it). And since Brown's Open curriculum removes any courses that you have to take like the General Education at Harvard, I want to utilize it to the fullest.

    As my courses indicate they are very interrelated and thus I am doing it for the knowledge only. I have had a pretty diverse course plan through out high school (Had 9 subjects in my senior year) and really feel that I want to major in Electrical Engineering / Computer Science and don't really want to study other non Engineering related subjects. (I know I ll have to take 4 courses in Humanities and Social Sciences as per requirement, but don't want to take anything beyond that). The problem is I am having a difficult time deciding.... And it would be really great if I can do all of them.

    As for not being able to do so, I read in the booklet we got in the admit packet that you can earn up to 4 credits during the summer program, so if you add that, would triple majoring in these subjects be possible?

    Thanks for the replies. All help is much appreciated.
  • fireandrainfireandrain Registered User Posts: 4,723 Senior Member
    I don't think you can triple major if you are planning on doing ScB in these -- just the number of requirements for an electrical engineering ScB gives you room to take just 10 electives over four years (assuming 4 classes/semester). And the requirements for a computer engineering degree (interestingly enough) require that you take four humanities courses.

    I'll echo the others -- I can't think of a single legitimate reason to do this, but I can think of a million reasons NOT to do this.

    You've been given an amazing gift -- the chance to study and live in the US. Brown accepted you because it felt you will contribute to the college community. If you are going to spend your entire time at Brown in classes and holed up in your room/library/lab doing problem sets, you won't be contributing to the community. You won't be meeting people. You won't be doing any ECs. You won't be exploring the US. There is so much you won't be learning. College is about much more than classes.

    The wonderful thing about the Brown engineering program is that all majors start with the same core, where you are introduced to a range of engineering subjects. Brown does not expect you to walk in knowing what you want to specialize in. You do not need to make a decision now -- in fact, it's useless to make any decisions now because it won't affect what classes you take first semester. Brown has advisers to help you figure out your curriculum -- don't stress now that you can't make a decision. You aren't supposed to decide anything now.

    Does anyone know the stats on the number of graduates who actually complete double majors? My guess is that a lot of students think they want to double major and then don't. This is unlike many colleges, where students have a host of majors and minors. The culture at Brown is just different. Here's the difference: At Brown, students take classes for knowledge only. That's the point. They don't turn it into a game of "how many subjects can I major/minor in."
  • modestmelodymodestmelody Registered User Posts: 4,654 Senior Member
    For nearly every circumstance there is not a single employment or graduate school benefit to having a double concentration and certainly not a triple concentration, particularly in three fields that are somewhat related but set you up for completely different roles that don't always directly interact.

    You're far better off studying just one of these areas and supplementing with other interesting courses in math, other sciences, economics, etc to build complimentary skills than trying to study these three areas in depth.

    Not only would the workload be remarkably difficult but the benefits would be entirely for yourself and I doubt that those benefits will outweigh the costs.

    Also, it's almost certain after dipping your toes in each of these areas at least one, if not all three, will seem completely unappealing.
  • thefunnythingthefunnything Registered User Posts: 267 Junior Member
    Another thing to consider––a number of those majors are going to have overlapping requirements. I'm pretty sure you have to do five CS classes (or something like that) for Computer Engineering, all of which are required for CS majors anyway.

    Also, unless you pay for an extra year, only one concentration actually shows up on your diploma. When you declare, if you double-concentrate, you are required to indicate which concentration you want marked as your degree. You are obviously allowed to put the other one on your resume (and it probably shows up on your transcript), but the formalities are weird.

    Lastly, if you are dedicated to CS/EE, I would perhaps major in Computer Engineering (which gives you a strong background in both fields) and then take CS and EE courses as electives. From what I understand, engineering courses have engineering elective requirements (and maybe some of them can come from CS). And you have outside electives, too.
  • Brown2015Brown2015 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Wow. The number of responses and I stress EARNEST responses in such a short time has really overwhelmed me. If you guys are the kind of people I can expect to meet at Brown, I really can't wait to join.

    You have all presented very valid and striking arguments on why not to triple major. But the first question that does still remain in my mind is whether or not it is possible to in fact triple major. The American College system is a complete novelty to me and I don't know anything about. Let me tell you how the system works here in my country:

    Any electives you take, you don't take examinations for those subjects. Thus they have absolute no bearing on your gpa, even the most committed students slacken off. Even I have been guilty of taking it easy on elective classes in High school.

    So unless the system in the US is different, I would still like most of the courses I take be counted towards my gpa/final degree to keep me on my toes.

    And perhaps some current/former Brown student can tell me the maximum number of credits I can take at Brown, including Summer and the number of credits I need to be complete BS in each of Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Perhaps it is not possible and will knock the idea right out of my head. I did try to search out the Brown website buts my still havent gotten a complete picture of the exact requirements or the maximum number of courses I can take.

    Thank you for all your help so far.......
  • UrooglaUroogla Registered User Posts: 1,431 Senior Member
    Also, unless you pay for an extra year, only one concentration actually shows up on your diploma.

    If both are Sc.B.'s or A.B.'s, I don't think this is the case.

    Those who triple major almost definitely do so in ABs. As far as my understanding of the requirements for those concentrations go, I think it's not possible to complete those requirements in the maximum number of courses allowed in 4 years. Even with the overlap, the number of requirements is immense.

    Why do you want to do CS and CEng? You'd likely get more out of being CEng and taking CS classes or being CS and taking ENGN163+164. The benefit to getting an Engineering degree is it makes you ABET accredited to "practice engineering," whatever that means. It really depends on the part that interests you. Given that much of the overlap between EEng and CEng is the required core, you might want to take an EEng course or two on the side.

    I suppose the biggest question is...what do you hope to get out of your education?
  • Brown2015Brown2015 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    I want to study everything thats related to Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering. Ok that was a huge long shot.

    But as I said,I feel really blessed at the opportunity and want to make the most of it academically. I have changed cities many times in my life and have been able to adjust very well at all the different schools socially. I have always been one of those popular guys so I am pretty sure no matter how tough a course curriculum, my social life would take care of itself. Its only the academics and more importantly the level of knowledge I have in each of these particular fields that I am concerned about.

    So that is why I want to triple major. If I cant and only double major, the other courses that i will take will also be related to these fields, so I might as well get a degree out of it.

    If such is the case that I can take either of CS or CEng and take some additional courses and essentially have the same knowledge base as someone who has majored in either of these, similar to what Urgoola mentioned I d be more than happy to double major in that and EE.

    I dont want the degree but what I do want is perhaps have the same knowledge in each of CEng, CS, EE that someone who majors in either of them does. Maybe I am expecting too much but Brown's Open Curriculum was the perhaps the only way I thought of doing that which was why Brown was number 1 on my university list when I applied.
  • UrooglaUroogla Registered User Posts: 1,431 Senior Member
    With summer courses, the maximum courseload possible is 46 total. However, that assumes summer courses, and summer courses seldom help with requirements for these concentrations, as they tend to be only lower level courses. Without summer courses, it's 40. I'm not sure what the maximum allowed overlap permitted between concentrations is, but let me see if I can help out here. I didn't count all the way, but assuming maximal possible overlap (and given this overlap, I'd say the Department of Engineering would not let you do this), the requirements come out to approximately 38 courses, which is more than most students ever take at Brown (32 is normal) and probably infeasible. For all intents and purposes, you'd have no electives, and you'd run into major issues if any of your courses meet at the same times.

    All of Brown's courses, elective or not, give you a grade (though one can take courses pass-fail), and, if one calculates a GPA, would count towards that GPA. Additionally, electives may still have finals, like any other class.
  • UrooglaUroogla Registered User Posts: 1,431 Senior Member
    Almost the entirety of the Computer Engineering program is contained in the other two degrees. I think APMA1650 is the only difference. So...something like 24 courses.
  • modestmelodymodestmelody Registered User Posts: 4,654 Senior Member
    It seems to me like you want to be a computer engineer with a little more CS than typical, honestly, and that you are assuming far less overlap in these disciplines than exist. It's unlikely that triple concentrating will yield much if any additional intellectual breadth compare to a well designed course of study in any of these three disciplines (especially CEng).
  • mgcsincmgcsinc Registered User Posts: 1,169 Senior Member
    You're just a teensy bit confused about how things work in the US system, and particularly at Brown -- and that's completely understandable, since it's very different from your home country's system.

    Here's how things work: You take 32-40 (reasonably) courses during your time at Brown, and only 6-22 (at the higher end of the range for engineering) are intended to be for your major program. For the vast majority of people, the other courses are opportunities to explore other areas of academic interest; there is absolutely no reason to attempt to turn those into one or more majors. Some people do find that they're interested in taking a lot of those courses in the same area, and they add a second (and, very rarely, even a third) major, but in my experience that's only if the first and second (and third) major field are non-overlapping. Adding more majors is not a normal part of taking a diverse set of classes -- that's the whole point of the open curriculum.

    Every class, whether taken inside or outside your major, is graded and counts toward your GPA. Unless you get honors (write a thesis) in a subject, no major appears on your diploma at all. If major in multiple subjects, unless you do a five-year program, you only get one diploma.

    If you're worried about being able to convey to people down the line that you took courses in specific additional fields, here's how I do it:

    Sc.B. in Cognitive Neuroscience (May 2008) — Magna Cum Laude (GPA: X.XX)
    - Substantial additional coursework in theoretical linguistics and psycholinguistics.
  • chsowlflax17chsowlflax17 Registered User Posts: 941 Member
    A good proportion of the people involved heavily in CS are really Computer Engineers. If you did Computer Engineering or CS straight up, you'd get a ton of knowledge. Plus, for example in CS, you only have to take 4 (5 if you need a capstone, not sure how that works) of your 7 upper division classes in the CS department, and so you could definitely count 2 upper-division engineering classes towards a CS degree. One of my friends is currently on track to get a Math-CS degree, and functionally will end up having an AB in physics, even though he won't get the degree (he takes one physics class each semester in addition to his 3 or so Math/CS classes each semester). You could definitely do something like this, where you concentrate in engineering or CS, and just take an additional CS/engineering course each semester for funesies. But honestly, don't worry about it now. Once you start looking at courses, take the courses that seem most enjoyable to you: yes, some may be requirements for an EE degree or CS degree, but that doesn't mean you'll get more out of them than if you just take whatever interests you in the moment. Specifically with CS, once you've taken an intro sequence, cs32 is (at least this year) one of the least-satisfying courses, and of minimal educational value, despite having one of the largest workloads. If you can avoid "required" but uninteresting courses, I highly recommend that you do, because you'll get a lot more out of the courses you do take.

    The biggest lesson I'm trying to get across is don't worry about it too much. Just do what you want and what interests you every semester (and shop classes that you didn't think you'd consider!) and you'll be in better shape than if you force yourself to try to cover all your bases.
  • Brown2015Brown2015 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    So if I major in EE and CS, and APMA1650 is the only difference then I would be more than happy to major in just EE and CS and take APMA1650 as an elective. That should be possible in the 40 maximum courses and I will then have taken all the courses that anyone who majors in either of CEng, CS and EE. Is that what you are saying?
This discussion has been closed.