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College students often struggle under the constraints of the sector and foundation requirements, but what if they had to contend with the Wharton core or Nursing clinicals on top of it? College students with single majors often have trouble finding time for things like extracurricular activities or study abroad, and yet countless students continue to apply to dual-degree programs.

While many of us come to college having little-to-no clue what we want to study, there are a select few who seem so sure of what they want to do that they need two degrees to do it. These students manage — not always successfully — anywhere between five to seven courses a semester, multiple advisers and endless requirements. But these tightly packed semesters and prohibitive requirements leave little room for anything else.

Dual-degree programs certainly save students money and time. The two-for-one special offer is very appealing, particularly for driven and motivated students and for students who find there’s so much they want to study, one degree is just not enough.

Vyas Ramanan, a senior, is one such student. He will graduate in 2011 at the age of 21 with three degrees: bachelor of science in Engineering, bachelor of science in Economics and a master’s in Engineering. He doesn’t believe that his experience is the same as that of a typical dual-degree student, however. Some students decide to dual-degree after they’ve spent at least a semester at Penn (and find themselves with just way too much free time on their hands).

That was the case for Wharton senior Maria Davydenko. Originally an International Relations major in the College, she wasn’t initially satisfied with her College education. When Davydenko was a sophomore, she began exploring the Economics department and realized she’d rather have a bachelor of science in Economics than a bachelor of arts. After some research, she applied and was accepted to a second degree program in Wharton. Then the paperwork started to pile up.

“There’s an art to finding out what you can double count and what you can’t and finding out your core requirements,” Davydenko said. “It’s a lot more challenging than it looks.”

It doesn’t help that there seems to be a gaping hole in the advising system where dual-degree student support should be. Ramanan noted that the biggest complaint his fellow students in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology have is usually geared at the numerous bureaucratic issues. “The two schools are not well integrated,” said Ramanan. “[Management and Technology] students have no one in the administration to rely on to work the coursework out.” He said that most of them are left to rely on upperclassmen for advice and planning tips.

Even when advice is available, it is often nothing more than a talking rulebook for each degree. The adviser that Davydenko spoke with “chided” her for pursuing her interest — Chinese — instead of taking her core courses. This sort of restrictive advising is contrary to the mission of the College. Davydenko believes that “there is a certain prestige that comes with the dual degree” and that it implies a certain self-sacrifice and unstoppable drive. However, this initial passion is in danger of being extinguished once a student truly engages himself in the program.

Navigating the requirements — which Davydenko believes to be “prohibitive” — can take the focus off the field of study and discourage students from other educational opportunities. Last week, Davydenko dropped her College degree and is now enrolled in Wharton only. She plans to study International Relations in graduate school but believes she would have done things differently if she had the chance to start over. For others to have better experiences, Penn’s schools need to work together to allow students to pursue these programs while still encouraging them to explore.

Wiktoria Parysek is a College senior from Berlin. Her e-mail address is Wiki-Pedia appears on alternate Mondays.

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