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College Major Dilemma + Diversity (regarding Psychology + Linguistics)

nvb123nvb123 152 replies19 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
edited July 12 in College Majors
Hi everyone,

I'm a rising senior who will be applying in the Fall, and I have always had my heart set on pursuing an interdisciplinary degree with neuroscience/behavior and economics/management. However, the more I've gotten involved with extracurriculars and through conversations in the past months, I''ve started to lean in a slightly different – maybe more "specific" – direction. In general, I'm strongly leaning towards COGNITIVE science and behavioral psych/decision making rather than hard neuroscience. In addition, through exposure to different FL (foreign languages) and linguistics in general, I'm really attracted to the way linguistics and study of language/communication integrates into behavioral econ and want to study that as a potential dual major. This is slightly taking inspiration from Oxford Uni's course in psychology, philosophy, and linguistics (PPL) that I've been really pulled to (but that's irrelevant I guess haha).

I know that students change majors a lot in college and your major isn't given a huge amount of weight, but I want to know my intended major just so that I can present myself in a way that seems realistic/accurate on my essays. In general, my ECs and experiences fit quite nicely into both of these interdisciplinary approaches, and I just would like to know the best way to present myself. That said, there are a few dilemmas I'm encountering with this idea of changing from a neurosci/management kid to cognition&psych/linguistics kid: 1. this potential idea that psych is seen as the "new undeclared" and isn't really something legit 2. linguistics being a completely unknown/unpopular major and 3. job prospects in general?? I think I'll still be able to pursue my long term "global policy/consulting/marketing"-related goals through specialized internships and all (bc IMO psych is the foundation of econ), but what are your thoughts?

Next thing I'd like to address is the question of diversity.. this is prob gonna be a bit controversial and idk how much weight this convo will really have but I'd just like to know how my identity (Asian-American, male) and my intended fields of interest are perceived by AOs. I plan on applying to multiple T10 schools (Harvard, Stanford, Penn, etc), and I know there is a subtle bias (as seen in the Harvard admissions case) against Asians in STEM/business and, to a certain degree, males in econ/finance. Is my application prob going to be seen any differently because of my academic interests in a more interdisciplinary field that integrates science, humanities, and social sciences together through psych+linguistics? How common are psych majors for the Asian and male demographic (I've heard it's a predominantly white and female major, but I have no clue..). What about linguistics???

Any feedback about these points will be greatly appreciated!! Thank you :))
edited July 12
6 replies
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Replies to: College Major Dilemma + Diversity (regarding Psychology + Linguistics)

  • nvb123nvb123 152 replies19 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Another concern I guess I have regarding psych is that it is a bit oversubscribed at most universities (possibly due to the idea of the "new undeclared"), but I'm not so sure about top schools. I feel like hard STEM and econ are really common at places like the Ivies/Stanford. opinions and perspectives on this as well?
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6594 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited July 13
    The obvious question is 'why do you consider PPL irrelevant?'. Oxford was #3 on your list of preferred universities, and iirc you are currently in residence doing neuro research at the JR.
    1. this potential idea that psych is seen as the "new undeclared" and isn't really something legit
    ...regarding psych is that it is a bit oversubscribed at most universities (possibly due to the idea of the "new undeclared"), but I'm not so sure about top schools. I feel like hard STEM and econ are really common at places like the Ivies/Stanford. opinions and perspectives on this as well

    Well, for a start the phrase "new undeclared" makes it clear where you are from ;-)

    Psych (along with "business") has been a major major (!) for decades. Nobody holds it against applicants. This would be a non-worry even if you were putting down straight psych- but you aren't.

    Moreover, you are a researcher! You don't need opinions- the data is out there. For example: https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2017/11/6/concentration-data-analysis/ , which notes that at Harvard the "... traditionally-large social science concentrations—Economics, Government, and Psychology—have fluctuated somewhat, but overall remained relatively stable over the years."
    linguistics being a completely unknown/unpopular major
    Unknown to whom? Unpopular with whom? Why does this matter?
    I think I'll still be able to pursue my long term "global policy /consulting /marketing"-related goals through specialized internships and all

    If you go to any of the schools that you are likely to attend you will be recruitable for the name consultancy firms- who, fyi, will mostly not be at all interested in your major: I have watched theology, Italian, history, biochem, English, geology, etc., etc., majors be recruited by the big names.
    how my identity (Asian-American, male) and my intended fields of interest are perceived by AOs. I plan on applying to multiple T10 schools (Harvard, Stanford, Penn, etc), and I know there is a subtle bias (as seen in the Harvard admissions case) against Asians in STEM/business and, to a certain degree, males in econ/finance*. Is my application prob going to be seen any differently because of my academic interests in a more interdisciplinary field that integrates science, humanities, and social sciences together through psych+linguistics? How common are psych majors for the Asian and male demographic (I've heard it's a predominantly white and female major, but I have no clue..). What about linguistics?

    What a jumble of stereotypes! Are you more hopeful that applying with an interest in an interdisciplinary field will help you past the "subtle bias" you fear, or fearful that being in a "female major" will be seen as lower status? or worried that being Asian in a "predominately white" subject will be problematic?*Whatever, surprise! AOs aren't in the business of making judgements about who is applying with an interest in what major. They are reading your application as a person, trying to identify students who- together - will make a good class. They keep a weather eye out for areas of interest- but as you noted above, they know how much that can change. They are more interested in your overall portfolio.

    After all that, I also want to add: good for you. Stripping away the anxiety about how things look to other people (and really, the more you let go of that the better), at root you are still thinking, learning, evaluating, open to figuring out the right path for you. Keep doing that :smile:

    *ps you seriously think that there is a bias against males in econ/finance?? UCB found a 2:1 imbalance M:F in Econ/related undergraduate representation; a Harvard study found a 3:1 imbalance.
    edited July 13
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  • angstyteenangstyteen 5 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    UPenn LSM is one of the most elite undergraduate programs in the country (25 kids a year) and sounds like it would be a good fit for you.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29255 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    They are not going to care that you are Asian.

    What you think and feel, are not going to impact the decision.much if at all. What you have DONE, what you are DOING counts. If it’s all in your head, it’s just a subject for your essay m. What you want to do, the same. Selective colleges want to see the evidence.
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  • nvb123nvb123 152 replies19 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @collegemom3717 @angstyteen @cptofthehouse Thank you all for the advice! I feel much more confident about taking this decision now.
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  • juilletjuillet 12637 replies161 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    I have a BA in psychology and a PhD in social psychology (and public health). I work in a field called user experience research, which is concerned with technology users' experiences with the tech they use. When automakers design a car, how do they know exactly where to put all the gauges and buttons so that people can use them while driving without crashing? How does an app like TikTok or Twitter know how to get people to want to use it? How do we make sure that all the ports in your Xbox are in useful positions where you can reach them but also so your wires don't get crazy tangled? These questions are ones that UX researchers answer, and there are UX researchers at all of the major technology companies. A very closely related field is human-computer interaction, which is the broader study of how humans interact with technology and computers. It's a blend of cognitive psychology/science and computer science.

    These days, with voice-activated assistants and search engines, linguistics is also a big part of the study as well. We need natural language processing experts to help us think about how people speak and think naturally; that makes voice assistants more useful across a variety of implementations, and also improves things like the Google search bar or the help you get when you type something into the "Tell me what you want to do..." bar in Microsoft Office.

    I will say this: Psychology is not really the foundation of economics. Economics and psychology are both social science fields that are concerned with how people behave, but they are distinct fields. However, there is a lot of overlap - behavioral economics is an area of overlap and an area that might be of significant interest to you. There are a few places that offer undergrad majors or concentrations in it, but you can also approximate it with a double major in economics and psychology (or major in one, minor in the other).

    However, psychology IS the foundation of marketing, so if you are interested in marketing or consulting psychology is excellent preparation for that. Consulting is also about research, and a good psychology major will teach you how to do research as well.

    Decision sciences is an emerging new-ish field that combines several fields - psychology, math/statistics, sometimes economics - to understand how people make decisions. Carnegie Mellon is the only university I know of that offers a bachelor's degree in the area.

    IMO, your interests are much more focused and nuanced than most students are at this stage of the game, so you should be totally fine in terms of framing it in your essays.
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