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Time it takes to complete degree(s)

  1. Jan 12, 2010 #1

    What is the common amount of time it takes to complete an undergraduate science degree? I have heard four years and five years. What about a double major on two science fields, i.e. Chemistry and Physics; again, I have heard four years and five?

    To top tier graduate schools, would it look bad to complete a single major/double major in five years as opposed to four? The heart of the matter here: would it hinder some one at all from being selected because of the extra year taken to complete their course load?

    Thank you very much for any help you can give :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 12, 2010 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    It takes as long as it takes. For some people it's 4, for others it's 5. Of course adding classes (like a double major) will tend to push this up.

    I don't think graduate admissions committees particularly care. College is not a race.
  4. Jan 12, 2010 #3
    You can also make it faster if you want, but that is quite rare.
  5. Jan 12, 2010 #4


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    I agree that college shouldn't be regarded as a race, but you can't blame people of thinking this way because of the marking and credit system of your degree.
  6. Jan 12, 2010 #5
    Agreed... and I'd add, doing a double major consisting of two major that have time-intensive classes (like the lab classes in physics and chemistry) could especially prolong a degree because of course scheduling. I was a dual major in physics and chemistry UNTIL junior year... where I had scheduling conflicts between a physics electronics lab and a physical chemistry lab... and a required class for the scholars program I was in. I attended the honors class and the physics department gave me a key to the lab and let me do the lab-work on my own time, but I had to let the chem class go. I ended up with a very strong minor in chemistry and added a strong minor in math (strong meaning I took the advanced coursework in the majors, skipping some of the "intermediate" classes). I still graduated in 4 years.

    Note: being in the scholars program also allowed me to take beyond the maximum course hours without paying extra tuition. I did have a few semesters where I took 19-21 credit hours.

    Also note: having a double major doesn't, in my experience on a graduate selection committee, really give you a big advantage on applying to graduate school over a strong minor, since this comes into play in committee members' evaluations of your transcripts... where they'll look at the courses that were taken in the second department.
  7. Jan 12, 2010 #6
    Reiterating what everyone else said, college is not a race. What matters most when applying to grad school is your GPA, not the number of credits you took. When I first came to college I was in such a rush to finish early that I took more courses than I could handle and my GPA suffered as a result. My third year in I realized that it was better to take it slow and took the time to spread out my classes and get my GPA up.

    Also research experience is also a factor for getting into grad school, although someone with a 3.6 and research experience still might not beat out the 4.0 student applying to the same grad school they will beat out competitors with similar GPAs and no research experience.
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