Prepare for Trouble, Make it Double!


Shared by: Hoang Dang Bach, Singapore Management University, Year 3

I matriculated as a single-degree Accountancy student. I applied for a double degree with Economics three times, in my original application and at the end of each of my first two years in SMU. I received the double-degree status after the third attempt.

This is not a heart-warming story of a man who finally achieves what he seeks despite challenges and struggles (because there was none; just fulfil the course requirement and state your reasons clearly).

Before and after every attempt, I had a revaluation of how much a secondary degree would add to my learning experience, and my welfare in general. Whether you are a prospective, freshman or sophomore student, I would advise thinking about this thoroughly, and applying not just because you think it is cool, or because, well, you are qualified.

Double degree offers a wider selection of courses, at the cost of, you guess it, more time on schoolwork. I am a generalist, who would like to learn as much about the business world as possible, without tying myself to a specific profession (read, auditor). Additionally, I have liked Economics since I first had a taste of it before entering SMU. As a result, if you are like me, and want to take full advantage of your tuition fee (you pay the same as single degree students), you should consider double degree.

The downside is having more workload than your peers. This is a gross generalisation, as the additional workload varies with your combination. However, the wider the spectrum of knowledge the combination covers, the higher the number of modules you need to take. Remember, this is to satisfy your own thirst for knowledge, because more often than not, you will not be credited more than just two separate papers on graduation date.

But why not more than that, you ask? Theoretically, employers should treasure you. You learn more than others, theoretically. You work harder, theoretically, to maintain the status and to finish your education within 4 or 5 years. Except for the fact that all the knowledge you have is theoretical, you seem to have an edge over someone who finishes with a single degree, maybe with a second major, but spends a semester on leave-of-absence for a relevant internship.

In other words, the opportunity cost of a double degree is not merely spending a bit less time on the vibrant student life or your own leisure. If you are looking for something to polish your resume, professional qualifications and tests, or 6-month internships are probably better bets. You may also want to start your post-graduate education early, maybe even concurrently with your undergraduate degree, if your school allows. Depending on how relevant these alternatives are to your first employer, these alternatives are potentially more valuable than the secondary degree.

If you are looking for expanding your knowledge, I know a guy who effectively took courses of three majors, but was credited for only one. Given that you are motivated enough to do a double degree programme, chances are you are going to learn on your own, without the artificial boundaries the school has set up on what knowledge is “compulsory” for your field.

This was what I considered my next best alternative at the end of my first year in SMU, given my objectives. I

could ask the seniors what courses are interesting and/or relevant to whatever industry I want to do upon graduation. I might not be accredited fully on paper, but I would fulfil my objective of knowledge accumulation.

On the other hand, doing a double degree allows you to walk some traditional middle-land, learn some and have a sticker on your resume. If you need guidance in learning, enjoy the classroom environment, or prefer group projects as a way of learning, go ahead and apply for double degree. The latter two pushed me to apply for the double degree for the third time.

There are other reasons people do double degree too. If you are on scholarship that says you must do it, I apologise for wasting your time on this article. If you want to test the waters before settling down with a single degree, I recommend enrolling in the double degree programme at the beginning of your study or never.

There are a lot of opportunities for us, undergraduates, to grow as young knowledgeable professionals. The flexibility of double degree (with almost any combination, as long as you are convinced that you want to see it through) is just one of those opportunities. Ultimately though, the double-degree status is just like a high GPA: an impressive feat, important in certain aspects, but in general overrated by undergraduates. Know what you hope to do with the double degree and be sure that there are no better alternatives, before applying.


Everyone is unique and special. Share your story too and help others find out their own unique individuality. We welcome all undergraduates to share their story with us here.

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