University students can take their undergraduate education beyond the scope of single or double-concentrations with the Combined Degree Program or a triple concentration.
An unconventional course plan
Undergraduate students have two options if they want to complete more than one concentration — receiving a single degree or a single combined five-year degree, according to the University’s website.
The website states that “approximately 20 percent of Brown students complete their Baccalaureate degrees with more than one concentration within the standard eight semesters of full-time study.” These students receive either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science.
Though the website also uses the term “double concentration,” there is no stated limit on the number of concentrations students are allowed to pursue, making a triple concentration possible.
More than 100 students in the past 10 years have received a combined bachelor of arts-bachelor of science degree, wrote Oludurotimi Adetunji, associate dean for undergraduate research and inclusive science, in an email to The Herald. Adetunji currently oversees combined degree programs on campus.
“In a given academic year, 15 to 25 students express interest in the combined degree program, and eight to 10 students receive initial or full approval for candidacy in the program,” he added.
A double concentration requires a minimum of 30 course credits and the completion of the requirements for each of the declared concentrations, which is different from the combined degree, Adetunji wrote.
“The combined degree requires a minimum of 38 course credits and completion of both the bachelor of science requirement for a standard concentration program in life sciences or physical science as well as completion of the bachelor of arts requirement for a standard or independent concentration in the humanities or social studies,” Adetunji wrote.
Students who wish to join the combined degree program must get approval from Adetunji, according to the website. Students that graduate will receive a “single, combined bachelor of arts-bachelor of science degree.”
Although technically feasible to complete in eight semesters, the University requires that combined degree students enroll in at least 10 semesters at Brown. This requirement is put in place so students do not get overwhelmed with an intense course load, wrote Adetunji.
“Some students struggle to balance coursework with other priorities when they enroll in five courses (per semester), which may lead them to fall behind on the requirements for satisfactory academic progress,” Adetunji wrote. In addition, the program is “already demanding in terms of breadth and depth,” he added.
Despite the 10-term requirement, students may be able to complete the combined degree program in nine semesters with permission from the Committee on Academic Standing, who “review the student’s petition, supporting letter(s) and overall course plan to ensure they are in line with the combined degree policies and graduation requirements,” Adetunji wrote.
The program allows students to deeply explore two disciplines and “the breadth of the Open Curriculum” more than a four-year degree could offer, wrote Adetunji. It also allows students on financial aid to “continue their studies at Brown with financial support.”
On the other hand, Adetunji added, students must make important considerations when deciding to pursue a combined degree program. For one, they must commit to being at Brown for five years and they cannot receive a certificate. In addition, “for most students, there are financial costs associated with attending Brown for a fifth year,” he wrote.
The Herald spoke with four community members on their experiences triple concentrating or pursuing a combined degree.
The combined bachelor of science-bachelor of arts program
Alyscia Batista ’24 is getting her bachelor of science in biology and her bachelor of arts in public health. “I definitely wanted to double concentrate,” she said. But since her two concentrations would have added up to 32 credits, this would have left her little time to explore other departments she was interested in.
With the combined degree, “I can explore the things I want to explore” and “I can also study abroad,” she said.
Still, Batista found the combined degree process to be “ambiguous.” She applied at the end of her sophomore year, but did not realize that they “prioritize people who are within two concentration requirements of finishing one of their concentrations,” she recalled.
Since Batista had been splitting her coursework between the two concentrations equally, she “had to fight to get approved.”
“It was an odd process,” she added. “They don’t try to make it popular.”
Tim Zhao ’23 is doing the combined degree program with three concentrations. He is getting his bachelor of science in physics and applied mathematics and his bachelor of arts in history.
“I transferred to Brown after freshman year,” Zhao said. “I chose physics at the beginning, then during COVID I discovered a new interest in applied math.” At some point last year, he also realized he was halfway done with a history degree.
“I feel like the process is quite straightforward as long as you can show that you're on track to finish both (degrees) and you've been interested in both,” Zhao said.
Zhao also said that the five-year program allows him to remain on the rowing team for an additional year. “I love Brown and I really want to race for four years,” he said.
Connie Liu ’23.5 is a triple concentrator who is slated to graduate after eight semesters. They will receive a bachelor of arts in computer science, visual arts and literary arts.
“I came in the first two years thinking I would major in computer science and visual arts,” they said. “I was also taking a lot of classes for fun and at some point I realized I was halfway towards a literary arts concentration.”
Liu also said that an advantage of triple concentrating is that “declaring a concentration gives you priority in registering for those classes which can be difficult to get.”
When asked if they thought they had enough support while navigating three concentrations, Liu said they “never really discussed having three concentrations with people.” They added that they do not know many people who have chosen to do this.
Poom Andrew Pipatjarasgit '21, a former staff columnist for The Herald, graduated with an A.B in anthropology, French and francophone studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
“I didn’t initially think about concentrating in three different areas,” he said. “I ended up declaring my third concentration in the second half of my junior year because I really loved all three areas of study.”
“I don’t think that three concentrations caused me to be noticeably busier in terms of my academic work compared to my peers,” Pipatjarasgit added. “However, it certainly limited what I could do in terms of exploring the Open Curriculum.”
Pipatjarasgit was a peer advisor during his time at Brown, which made him very conscientious about the classes he chose to enroll in. “I promised to myself that even if there was one (required) class I didn't want to take, I would drop one of my concentrations,” he said. “I just thought it wouldn’t be worth it.”
Having three concentrations can both “show dedication to three different fields of study or show indecisiveness” in terms of post-graduate plans, according to Pipatjarasgit.
“I think it's more about what you make of the concentrations and the classes that you take than what you put on your resume as your academic title,” he added.
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the most recent title of Poom Andrew Pipatjarasgit '21 on The Herald was staff columnist.