Exploring the differences among motivations, advantages and disadvantages of multiple majoring by student characteristics

Leibowitz et al. / Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education / July 2022

The purpose of this study is to understand the differences in motivations, advantages, disadvantages and time of multiple-major awareness among students who pursue multiple majors based on a set of defined characteristics. The student characteristics of interest included race, gender, financial aid status, class standing, transfer status, first-generation status and the number of majors. The authors administered a survey instrument to a random sample of multiple-major undergraduate students to gauge the prevalence of motivations, advantages, disadvantages and time of multiple-major awareness themes developed during individual interviews. Statistical analysis revealed significant differences among multiple-major students based on characteristics of interest. Results discussed at length include transfer students deriving higher levels of motivation from degree practicality than nontransfer students and students who receive financial aid indicating multiple passions as a primary motivation more frequently than students not receiving financial aid. Similar differences between male and female students are uncovered relating to perceived advantages of diverse interactions and experiences and increased balance, as well as perceived disadvantages of time commitment and ability to grow professionally. Finally, first-generation students learned about multiple majoring later than non-first-generation students. This study builds on previous research regarding multiple-major students, an understudied yet important population in higher education. Additionally, it delves deeper by exploring differences in this population by student characteristics.