Is a minor the key to success?

Most students arriving on the USF campus are unsure of what to make of the next few years of their lives. They get confused at the very mention of the word “major.” But sooner or later, they will have to choose one, and for some, a minor to go with it.

Are minors a total waste of a student’s time or are they actually useful in the long run?

“Of course they are not a total waste of time,” said Eric Wolters, undergraduate adviser for the departments of government and international affairs, political science and pre-law. “It offers a structured way for students to take credits that they may need to meet the 120-credit requirement for graduation.”

Some students who still have less than 120 credits after completing their majors are left finding courses at random to complete these credits.

“A minor is a simple and structured solution,” Wolters said.

Wolters offers two more reasons why most students invest in minors: to serve as a support for their majors and to explore an area of interest.

For instance, pre-law students tend to minor in technical writing because law school courses, and the field itself, use that style of writing extensively. For the same reason, international studies students may wish to minor in a foreign language.

Minors are especially useful to students who have broad majors, such as sociology or anthropology, Wolters said. It looks good on their resumes to have a specialty of some sort.

It is for this reason that Vanscena Wilson decided to minor in gerontology while majoring in sociology.

“Sociology is too broad,” she said, “I had to specialize in something, and why not something that affects us all, like the study of aging.”

One of the downfalls of minors, Wolters cautioned, is that students are not allowed to use the same class to satisfy both a major and minor requirement simultaneously. For example, the same class could satisfy either a political science minor or an international studies major, but not both.

“This extends the process and could discourage students who must graduate by a certain date,” Wolters said.

For these students Wolters suggests the option of obtaining an undergraduate certificate, which is a focused interdisciplinary study on a topic, and unlike minors, it does count courses that are also being taken to satisfy major requirements. It typically requires the same amount of credits as a minor (15-18) and gives students a wider variety of courses to take.

Wolters strongly advises his students to invest in minors or undergraduate certificates if it fits into their schedules, since most of the departments offer a minor, an undergraduate certificate or both. About 60-70 percent of his students have minors every year, he said.

“Students should take advantage of their time here,” he said. “They never get to go back.”

Marcia Stein, major adviser for the School of Mass Communications, said that it is a student-by-student issue. She does not advise minors unless it really fits the student in question because most times, it is not necessary.

“I tell most of my students to graduate and go for their masters,” she said. “That’s what employers are looking for.”

Students interested in a minor should speak with the appropriate adviser, since some of them need to be declared, while others do not.