As I begin my sixth semester here at USC, I find myself feeling secure for the first time in three years in the fact that I decided to pursue a minor outside of the Viterbi School of Engineering.
As someone who has always been interested in areas outside of engineering, from history to politics to philosophy, deciding to pursue engineering in college was definitely a difficult choice I found myself faced with. When I first came to USC, I was apprehensive about my ability to maintain my interests while undertaking a rigorous engineering academic course load. Viterbi’s Engineering+ mindset encourages students to minor outside engineering, but I found the prospect of allocating all the free classes I had available to one field of study, daunting. In my time here I’ve changed minors three times, from a Classical Perspectives minor that combined classics, history, and philosophy, to a Law and Public Policy minor, and finally to a general Political Science minor. Chances are, it might change yet again.
But what I’ve learned in this process is that that’s okay. Having a minor once seemed to me like a stamp of interest, something that identifies you and your college experience in a concrete way, the way a major does. But I’ve found that reframing that, and seeing a minor as a way to try new things (and learn what you perhaps do not like) is much more rewarding. One of my favorite things about studying at USC is precisely that it allows for this flexibility with minors; students here can graduate with multiple minors or no minors, and the process for declaring minors is typically very straightforward, with not all minors requiring a formal application. In addition, adding a minor can be a very rewarding way of learning more about the opportunities available in other schools outside Viterbi; for example, my political science minor allows me to get academic advising within the Dornsife School of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, as well as informs me on professional and academic events outside the scope of engineering that I might be interested in!
All of this is to say, declaring a minor is first of all, not a decision that is an end-all-be-all (you can definitely change your mind, and can change it several times!), and second of all, the benefits of declaring a minor extend beyond formalizing to yourself (or the people around you) that you ‘have interests outside of engineering’. For me, declaring a minor (and this is true of all minors I have had) has been first and foremost, a way to meet new people (this includes people in my new classes, but more importantly new professors, some of whom have become mentor figures for me). In addition, it has become a way for me to be involved in new academic communities here at USC; a new family to add to my Viterbi one. Finally, trying new minors has quite honestly been very influential in affecting my career path post-graduation; the classes I only ended up taking when I switched to a Political Science minor have informed my interest in approaching the environmental sector from a policy perspective once I graduate with a background in engineering.
While everyone has a different process in how they approach minoring, the idea that you should not declare a minor until you are very sure (have taken several classes for it and know without a doubt that it is your undying passion), is to me nothing but a myth. Minors can and should be an exploratory process, and if you find that after trying several different minors, none of them work for you, then the process to graduate without one here at USC, is as easy as can be. 🙂
If you’re interested in more information about minors at USC Viterbi check out: https://undergrad.usc.edu/programs/minor/