Cal's 27 Triple Majors Learn, Achieve Without Drama

The 27 Cal students who have three majors are an uncommon bunch

By Chris Roberts
|  Friday, Jan 4, 2013  |  Updated 12:35 PM PDT
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UC Berkeley students walk through Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus. 0.1 percent of them are triple majors.

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So you made it into UC-Berkeley. Congrats -- you are a slacker.

Among the school's 25,774 undergraduate students are a very rarified 0.1 percent: the triple majors, the students for whom one area of study is boring, and two insufficient as well, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

There's Shuonan Chen, a Canadian 20-year old for whom packing three areas of study into four years wasn't quite the thing either: she'll graduate with degrees in economics, business administration and rhetoric in three years in order to "save up for law school," she told the newspaper. And her job in between law school and her diploma day in Berkeley? Investment banking for Goldman Sachs.

Triple-majoring like Chen required taking 20 course units a semester instead of 15. A student needs 120 units to graduate with a degree; Chen will have 240.

And of course she tells the paper her course load "isn't heavy at all."

Students such as these are clearly highly intelligent and motivated. But are they freaks?

They may just be curious, like Sergiy Nesterenko. The 22-year old has a 3.5 grade-point average -- more normal -- while studying math, physics, and chemistry. Less normal.

These super-students may simply be motivated to learn rather than socialize or party, like some college students, experts say.

"They're highly organized and busy," said Catherine Koshland, the vice provost for teaching, learning, academic planning and facilities (which sounds like a quadruple major). "Some may be extraordinarily gifted intellectually, but others may be the same as the next Berkeley student - just focused and driven by questions."

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