A minor? But why?
These were the questions bouncing around in my 20-year-old brain as I scrolled through the list of minors at Colorado State University. Heading into my Junior year as a Communication Studies major with an already overloaded plate—I was recently married, living off campus, working a full-time job, and completing an internship—I loathed the graduation requirement of completing a minor.
It seemed pointless. I just wanted to graduate and I felt the added courses were tortuous for a sleep-deprived college student. But looking back, my minor, International Development (initially chosen simply because I liked to travel) has been invaluable to my career. Because of it, I have worked dream jobs and traveled the world. I have written website content for an eco-lodge while living in the jungles of Thailand and a fair-trade retail company in Guatemala. I have created social media campaigns and blog posts for a refugee resettlement organization. And, most recently, I have taken on my dream job as a sustainable travel writer—a role I am able to work while earning my MA in London.
These jobs, while rooted in Communication, required knowledge and understanding of international development. As cliché as it sounds, without that knowledge, I would never be where I am today.
So, for all you undergrad students dreading the unavoidable minor, take it from someone who was recently in your shoes: it actually matters. And it can play an important role in your future. Here’s how:
1. Minors Make You More Employable (And Look Good on a Resume)
Minors are like hobbies or extra-curricular activities, except with a fancy piece of paper attached. By studying new subjects, you become a better-rounded individual, as well as a better-rounded employee. Companies want to know what you can bring to the table and why they should hire you over John Smith.
For me personally, I first noticed my minor working in my favor when I landed an internship at a study abroad company during my senior year at CSU. I never studied abroad, but because I was taking courses related to volunteer impact and short-term travel, I was offered the role. This was my first taste of international work and steered me down the path toward an international career.
2. Minors Open Up Doors You Never Knew Existed
Majors are important. For many of us, they are the foundation of our career. Minors can help us think outside of our “planned career path” though and narrow in on a specific job or company.
If it wasn’t for my international development courses, I would have never considered combining my BA in Communication Studies with my passion for travel, sustainable development, and writing. I didn’t even know this career—Sustainable Travel Writer—existed.
Moreover, I was too bogged down with tests, papers, loans, resumes, rent, etc. to brainstorm options. Having a minor allowed me to see outside of my bubble and showed me how my major and minor could work together to create a career.
3. Minors Can Reignite Passions
Remember when you were in high school and just beginning to look at college programs?
What would you like to study? What are you passionate about?
Fast forward to the final years of college and those questions get buried under term papers and rent bills.
And I get it. There are numerous debates about whether or not we should pursue our passions in the workplace—I’m not going to try to present an argument for either. Rather I want to say that it’s important to remember your passions. Even if your minor doesn’t directly impact your career, taking courses and learning about a subject that genuinely delights you, is important—especially during the brutality that is your final year of college.
In my own experience, I remember being overwhelmed to the point that I began to perform poorly on tests and papers. While I enjoyed Comm. Studies, I wasn’t (and am still not) passionate about it. My courses were beginning to dull my brain.
And then I began my minor courses. I spent a few hours each week in a classroom watching documentaries about faraway places and unfamiliar cultures around the world. I participated in uncomfortable but eye-opening debates about colonialism and the environmental impact of aid work. I felt alive again. I began performing better on tests and could once again focus on monotonous textbook readings. Taking a few hours a week to study something I was passionate about was positively influencing all of my studies, as well as my personal happiness.
I get that not everyone will benefit from their minor in the way I have, but I want to encourage you to not discount the benefits. Choose your minor deliberately. Learn a new language or indulge your interest in European History. Be intentional and take advantage of the mental break from your core classes. Who knows, you may find your minor opening up doors to an exciting career field you didn’t know existed. I did.