Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Double Degrees are a terrible idea

I agree with the HR professionals asked for their views for this article that this is generally a bad idea. I had explained and advised my daughter why. Even in one of the NUS tea sessions for top students a professor didn't hide his disdain for the idea.

People must learn to choose. Don't be like SQ management which want to be good at everything. It is not possible. In fact learning to make choices, taking risks and understanding trade offs is basic to growing up.

I also told my daughter I wonder how many use double degrees to show off that they are brighter students. I don't see medical students complaining about not allowed to offer double degrees. If you let on that you are in medical school, that's also telling people you had done well academically.

I had also explained to my daughter that a scholarship often do strange things to a scholar's emotional health. I think that is unhealthy. In fact I also had a successful non-scholar example for her to learn from: DPM Tharman. Scholars often take themselves too seriously. There is great strengths and advantages in true humility. In fact nobody can be truly free and happy without humility. It is the crowning virtue which most people do not understand.

And I often remind her don't try to win for the sake of winning. The laurels isn't worth it because the price you pay is you will never learn until too late what you really want. You would be too busy trying to look good by coming in tops all the time. You have become a slave to success. Many have fallen into this trap. They are always stressed, anxious and insecure. It didn't used to be like that, but now you can find a ton of them at Harvard and the other top Ivies.


  1. It is all about paper chase. So much with all the credits behind a piece of paper and no productive work experience or good work attitudes and ethic? Only the institutions dishing out the papers make the money and breed the lust for degrees.

    1. It's also more socially acceptable to tell others that you are pursuing a double degree than how many As you have.

      The same goes for driving a luxury or sports car, wearing an expensive watch or carrying a LVMH handbag etc. A less vulgar way to tell others you are successful.

    2. One should not be too judgmental. A so called luxury car is usually a well engineered car. It handles well, makes you feel secure and yes, it can affect your state of mind . Maybe it encourages you to do a better job. Perhaps if epitomizes values you hold dear. If you just enjoy it for yourself and don't show off, nothing wrong.

    3. Nothing wrong even if you show off. You earned it, you have the right to flaunt it even if refraining from boasting is the superior choice. Meanwhile often unknown to the "lucky" one something precious inside him is eroded away. So precious that no money can buy.

      A boast is vulgar when it is unambiguous e.g., telling others you have straight As. Now if that is converted into say you qualify and accept a double major program, it can carry two messages. They are you are academically superior and/or you are a very interested learner. All socially acceptable boasting mustn't be vulgar and will carry two or more messages, so that the more laudable one can cover the other one.

      Dig deeper and understand what's going on. On my blogs I rarely share 10% of anything I that was on my mind. I am in a hurry and there is no time. I am responding to this comment here more for my kids to read.

  2. Actually a lot of times, it is the selling of the universities and the peer pressure that makes for a craving for double (maybe soon, triple) degrees. So in the end, can a good piece of work be done or just a job fulfilled according to KPI (including how many degrees one holds)?? Pity the poor who will never be able to excel - and that in the end, leads to the widening of the income gap and ... social unrest. Sad

    1. "it is the selling of the universities and the peer pressure that makes for a craving for double (maybe soon, triple) degrees"

      Absolutely agree with you. Locally NTU is turning all its gears to try to attract away the top students from NUS. We know that they really try because we were on the receiving end. Thy see this as a zero sum game. Not interested like some of our secondary schools are in value adding the students they receive.

      Like many I celebrate when our sons and daughters rejected by the local unis go overseas, did well and leave a huge footprint. Recently Jack Sim mentioned one such fellow now working as a space scientist in Australia.

  3. I always rejoice when I learn of someone from the lower-income brackets managed to work himself or herself through the university and achieved well. That is a lot to celebrate as compared to those who are born with silver spoons and can pick up double, triple degrees and a whole string of papers which many institutions will be keen to dish out for a few dollars more. I was quite shock not just once but twice when approached by people who offered to "help" me through to getting a mba and a honorary degree - I just need to pay the price.
    so what's left for the financially poor?