Four Reasons to Opt for Interdisciplinary Studies
- Student Tips
Are you thrown into turmoil by the thought of choosing a single major? Well, we’ve got good news for you. Thanks to a popular new trend sweeping college campuses, you may not have to. We’re talking about interdisciplinary studies, a new approach which allows students to transcend conventional disciplinary boundaries by integrating many different fields into one. But interdisciplinary studies is anything but a default choice for students unable to make up their mind about a major. We’ve rounded up four reasons why so many college students are actively turning tothis up-and-coming option.
1. It Develops Key Critical Thinking Skills
The challenges facing society today require more than simply putting a round peg in a round hole. In allowing students to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries, interdisciplinary studies promotes the application of different concepts, theories, and ways of thinking to problems. The result? Not only new solutions, but also the ability to recognize preconceptions and biases which interfere with real learning.
Need more proof of the power of interdisciplinary study? One research paper dating all the way back to 1997 reveals a long list of brain-boosting benefits, including better comprehension and retention of general concepts; the increased ability to consider multiple perspectives; improved decision-making; stronger problem-solving skills; greater motivation; and enhanced cooperative learning.
2. It Boosts Creativity
People have been pondering the same questions the same ways for hundreds and thousands of years. The ones who ultimately answer these questions are the ones who are willing and able to look at them differently. Interdisciplinary studies offers students the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. Professor and creativity guru Sir Ken Robinson once said, “'Creativity depends on interactions between feeling and thinking, and across different disciplinary boundaries and fields of ideas.” Apple visionary Steve Jobs, meanwhile, broke it down to even more basic terms in insisting, “Creativity is just connecting things.” And no other course gives you more things to connect than an interdisciplinary approach.
3. It’s Career Currency
Today’s workplaces are dynamic, collaborative, and mandate real results. Majors which are simultaneously narrow and theoretical may have little to offer in this type of environment. So while students in these majors may well be experts in their fields, they can be hard sells for employers because there’s no guarantee that this expertise will transfer to the workplace. (And while it’s true that some jobs are best filled by employees with a particular skill set suitable for a specific set of tasks, these positions are fewer and farther between in a climate in which innovation reigns. Not only that, but they allow little room for personal and professional growth.)
Life doesn’t fit into one category or another. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to solve every challenge I meet today with math, or English, or social studies.” Rather, we naturally take an interdisciplinary approach as we navigate our everyday lives. The same principle applies in the workplace. In encouraging students to think outside the box, interdisciplinary studies prepares them to function in the real world. It also indicates potential to employers who aren’t merely filling job descriptions, but are instead looking for big thinkers qualified to take on real challenges.
If you’re looking to position yourself to make a meaningful contribution in the workplace, an interdisciplinary studies major doesn’t just make you a better student, it also makes you a better job candidate for a breadth and depth of careers. Because of this, resumes of interdisciplinary studies grads are looked favorably upon by many leading companies.
Planning on continuing on to get an advanced degree? Interdisciplinary research is rapidly becoming the new normal, meaning admissions committees are also likely to value applicants with interdisciplinary backgrounds.
4. It’s fun and interesting.
While it may feel like it come exam season, college isn’t just about doing your time, getting your degree, landing a job, and spending the next 40 years or so as a member of the workforce. Rather, it’s the most opportune time of life to gain exposure to new things, explore fresh ideas, and truly open up your mind to the world outside your own backdoor. The embodiment of “open,” an interdisciplinary studies major will let you follow your bliss down every rabbit hole and ultimately soar to exciting new heights.
The Wall Street Journal recently identified interdisciplinary studies as one of the country’s fastest-growing fields of study. Between the 2002-2003 and 2012-2013 academic years, this unique major experienced a 74 increase in popularity among U.S. students. And while interdisciplinary studies may still qualify as an “offbeat” choice, it’s also highly regarded as a clear pathway to academic, professional, and personal success.
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.