Advice on changing my major/ double majoring...

I’m currently a freshman at Purdue and I applied as a global studies major. After (almost) completing my first year in the global studies program I’ve realized that I don’t like it as much as I thought I did and I want to change my major. I’ve always really loved history and I’m pretty sure that’s what I want to change my major to. My issue is that I want to double major and I’m not really sure what to do. I’m interested in political science, anthropology, and psychology (side note: graduating on time isn’t an issue for me because I started with enough credits to double major in any of these and graduate in 4 years). Psychology is probably my top choice out of the three, but I don’t really see a connection between history and psychology and don’t want to get both degrees and only use one in whatever job I eventually end up with. Also, even though I love history, I know it’s typically considered a useless degree and I’m worried I won’t be able to make enough money to have a good life in the future. Does anyone have any advice on what I should do? Or, do any Purdue students who have had experience in these departments have any recommendations?

If you don’t have a clear choice, then why double major? Double majoring isn’t something you do just to do it; it’s something people do because they have a deep interest or love for a second field and they want to study it just as deeply as the first field. There doesn’t have to be a connection between the two of them (although there are connections between all fields; I’ll get back to that in a moment). In fact, it’s kind of your job to find the connections.

If you love history, go ahead and major in it. Then you can just take classes in the other fields that interest you You don’t need a second major.

I also think students think they are going to use the tenets from their major a lot more than they think they will. Let me be the one to disabuse you of that notion. As a history major, you are unlikely to find a job where you will need to draw directly on your factual knowledge of history in order to accomplish your job. (Not impossible - but unlikely). Instead, the skills you learn in a history major - abstract thinking, analysis, research and writing, complex problem-solving, communication, an understanding of human nature, etc. - are going to be what you draw upon in your future role. Same thing in most second majors that you can pick up. A few of those majors can teach you more concrete skills that you might use - like research methods/skills in all three of the ones you’re interested in, and quantitative analysis in political science and perhaps psychology, depending on the department at Purdue.

So really, there’s no such thing as only using one in whatever job you end up with. You’ll use whatever you learned - both direct knowledge and indirect skills and tenets - in any job you do, as well as in your every day life. (College isn’t just vocational preparation, you know.)

OK, now for the idea that history and psychology aren’t connected. They totally are.

I love history, to the point that I almost minored in it in college. (I took a bunch of classes instead.) And I love psychology - it was my major in college. History is a social science and a humanities field. People are people and have been people forever; the reasons they do things have complex motivations and backgrounds and interrelations. An understanding of psychology helps you dig deeper into understanding historical motivations and backgrounds. For example, WWII has a lot of complex geopolitical reasons that it exploded, but an understanding of human psychology - of reaction to loss of honor (in terms of the German Republic), of group dynamics and herd mentality (to explain the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and of other extremist groups), of the bystander effect (in terms of other European countries standing by even when they knew about the Holocaust), of other concepts - helps you more deeply understand the very human motivations behind historical conflicts and triumphs.

Furthermore, psychology humanizes history. It reminds you that the people who achieved major historical things - both amazing and terrible - were just people, people who often wielded a canny sense of human nature to aid them. SO it reminds you that all of these things are quite capable of being repeated, and it gives you a better sense of how to avert them - which, as the saying goes, is part of the job of historians.

Oh, and here are some lists of famous history majors:

People who label certain majors as “useless” usually don’t know what they’re talking about. Ask them for facts and figures, then see what they say.

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