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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    A Minor Decision…

    When trying to make your academic career at SBU as fruitful as possible, there are many available options. Preparing yourself for the future is an endeavor that can, understandably, require much planning and preparation.

    Making your resume attractive to prospective employers and professional schools is all up to you, the student; this means building a resume by studying a field that you are passionate about, doing career-related internships, participating in campus activities and clubs or volunteering. Any of these options can help you develop a well-rounded background in preparation for your future.

    One of the first steps to securing your academic and career prospects is deciding on what your interests are. An academic minor can help you do that.

    Elena Polenova, career program manager of the Career Center, explains that a minor can be “important for exploration of a career interest.” Choosing a primary field of study, or major, as well as a minor, or secondary field of interest, early in your career can help, according to Polenova, by “providing structure and framework during uncertainty.”

    Students who have already decided on a major as well as minor early on sometimes “flip their priorities,” she explains. After some exploration these students turn their former minor into a major field of study. Therefore, considering a minor can give you a better grip of what your interests are.

    Of the 12.1% of SBU students currently declaring minors, a clear student preference for a minor that is potentially practically useful is evident. The most popular minor, according to SBU’s Institutional Research Center, with 745 declared students as of Spring 2007, is Business. Following as the second and third most popular minors on campus are Biology and Child and Family Studies, respectively.

    The motivations of SBU students, however, who are taking or considering a minor varies greatly from student to student. Many choose a minor as a supplement to their majors. By choosing a secondary field of interest in an area related or complementary to their primary area of study these students hope to enhance their employment prospects.

    “A minor shows an extra bit of ambition and puts me ahead of the curve,” explains Mike Kamen, sophomore student double majoring in History and Psychology, about his Philosophy minor.

    “I think my minors boosts my major and adds character to my resume,” says Siuhaung Prom, a fourth year pre-medical student and Sociology major, of her Media Arts and Biology double minor, “It’s an extra thing that could open opportunities for me.”

    Others regard a minor as a potential alternative to their primary field. “It could be a good fall back plan in case my major doesn’t work out,” suggests Leo Zhang, sophomore student, who is considering taking a minor.

    Some students choose their minor as a way to safeguard their outside interests. “I am trying to keep in touch with an interest I developed as a child,” says Cinthia Kong, third year student and Anthropology major, about her Music minor.

    Others, still, do a minor because it is a convenient endeavor. “After taking classes during a study abroad trip I found that I only needed a few more credits to finish a South Asian Studies minor,” says Asha Chacko, third year student and Psychology major. “I just fell into it.”

    Students may also use their minors as exploratory tools – as a way to discover their interests. “I really liked biology and thought it might help me figure out what to do with my life,” reasons Sophia Quadri, sophomore student and Psychology major in reference to her Biology minor.

    For Rick Gatteau, PhD, director of Academic Advising, the decision of whether or not to undertake a minor falls into one of two distinct categories. “Students need to show the depth versus the breadth of their academic careers,” he explains. “A minor provides depth in another subject area” outside of a primary academic goal, he says. However, “a minor may not be better than taking many courses” in an array of different subject areas which, Gatteau explains, would display the breadth of an academic career.

    Whether a minor is practically useful for the future, according to Gatteau, depends on each student’s individual situation. “If a minor helps develop a particular skill set, it can be useful for a student’s career,” he explains.

    Polenova, paints a similar picture, from a career perspective. By minoring in a particular field, “students are looking for a skill set,” she argues “in order to make them more attractive to an employer.”

    A minor can “be interesting and help add an additional human dimension to an applicant’s resume” but most importantly, insists Polenova, “it is beneficial if it provides a different skill set” relevant to his or her prospective career.

    For example, Gatteau expounds, “choosing a language minor or one that fosters reading, writing and critical analysis skills in the student can be beneficial,” depending on the career choice.

    The decision to participate in an academic minor is one that requires some serious deliberation. “Students should do what they are passionate about and find classes they enjoy,” says Gatteau. A minor is most valuable when it reflects your passion – if you do it for personal gain. Whether or not a minor is advantageous from a career perspective, however, all depends on you, as an individual, and your future plans.

    “Many students don’t plan ahead or ask [Academic Advising] when considering a minor,” says Gatteau.

    Polenova suggests that if a student has a question about the benefits of a particular minor for his or her future professional field, he or she “should consult with the Career Center.”

    When making any academic decision, such as deciding if taking a minor is right for you, it is important to stay true to your interests and always discuss it with an advisor.

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