My Dual Degree Experience – Pursuing Both Music and Neuroscience

Hello! My name is Lauren Case and I am currently a senior pursuing a dual degree at Eastman and the University of Rochester studying Vocal Performance and Neuroscience. Any time I meet a prospective student who is considering a dual degree, I get lots of questions about what life is like studying at both Eastman and the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. Today, I thought I would try to answer some of the questions I get most often!

What is the dual degree program?

As a dual degree student, I am pursuing two degrees that are overseen by separate schools at the University of Rochester. I will graduate with a BM in Vocal Performance from Eastman, and a BS in Neuroscience from the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering.

Why did you choose Eastman and the University of Rochester?

The dual degree program played a huge role in my college decision process!  In high school I knew that I wanted to continue studying both music and science when I went to college, but I wasn’t totally sure how. While many schools were open to the thought of two degrees, there wasn’t a guarantee that I would be able to pursue both. However, when I reached out to Eastman about their program, I was told that it was absolutely a possibility and that there were even advisors assigned specifically to helping those pursuing two degrees.  

Is it a lot of work?

I won’t lie, working towards two degrees simultaneously can be a lot of work. You will end up taking more classes than many of your peers throughout your time here. But there are many ways that this program is designed to help relieve some of the stress that would usually accompany a large workload.

  •  An extra 5th year of financial aid to spread out your course load. This 5th year is super helpful for students interested in majors that may have higher credit loads than others, or for students who would like to spread out their schedule. I am currently on a 5-year plan, so while I will finish up the majority of my voice degree in the spring, I will have an extra year to fill in the final courses of my neuroscience major. I plan to continue taking lessons during this year, even if most of my courses won’t be at Eastman!
  • Certain credits that overlap. Eastman’s humanities requirements can be filled by many courses taken for your River Campus major and clusters (general education requirements) at the College of Arts and Sciences can also be filled by your music theory and music history courses.
  • Advisors specific to your program. Each campus will give you advisors that are there to help you navigate the dual degree process and each of your majors. They are a great resource for scheduling help, any questions you have about course requirements, and advice on managing your time between two campuses.

Do you get any free time?

Yes, absolutely! While dual degree students typically take on more courses than others, that doesn’t mean there’s no free time. I often enjoy exploring Rochester with my friends, participating in student clubs and activities, and just taking some time off to read a book or watch a movie. In fact, I’m even serving as the President of Eastman’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota this year. There is also time to have a job (either on or off campus) if you plan your schedule well. I currently work as a choir section leader at a church, and as a student worker at Eastman’s Admissions Office. It all comes down to choosing what you want to prioritize and making sure you keep organized.

Do you focus on one degree more than the other?

Honestly this answer will vary based on who you ask. For me, I put equal energy into both degrees because I am passionate about both voice and neuroscience. I chose to pursue both because I knew I wasn’t ready to give up one for the other after graduating high school. However, some students find they begin to lean towards one over the other as they get deeper into the courses for each degree!

How do you get between campuses?

As you may know, Eastman’s campus is located in downtown Rochester, whilte the College of Arts, Sciences and Engineering is located on a separate campus known as the River Campus. There is a university shuttle bus that is free to all students and goes back and forth between the two campuses. The shuttle picks you up outside the Eastman Student Living Center and drops you off right in front of the main library at the River Campus. It only takes about 15 minutes and runs on a set schedule.

What are you planning to do after graduating?

The short answer? I don’t know yet! I’m just trying to figure things out as I go. The long answer? In the past 3 years I have really come to love both vocal performance and neuroscience, and I am looking into ways to keep both in my life after I graduate. There are a few potential paths I could take including a) researching the effects of music on our brain, b) becoming a speech pathologist and working directly with professional singers/actors/public speakers, or c) pursue performance and using my scientific knowledge to further learn the technical aspects of singing and performing. I hope to use this next year to dive deep into which of these paths I might follow! I know that whatever I choose to do next, I am prepared to take on any of them after studying at Eastman and the University of Rochester.

Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in the dual degree program?

Study what you love! This program is available to allow you to follow your passions, so why not take advantage of that?

Don’t be afraid to become involved in both campuses. I find that if I ever need a change of scenery, it’s nice to visit friends on the other campus and grab coffee. The ability to reach out to people, whether at Eastman or the River Campus, can provide exactly the break I need.

Finally, organization is key! I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your work and classes organized. I use a planner to keep track of everything, and it has saved me from forgetting an assignment or a meeting more than once. If you can keep organized, it will make your time as a dual degree student significantly easier!

I hope this gives your some helpful info as you consider your options for the next few years. Best of luck in your college search!