Too Many Interests? Educational Tips for Polymaths
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By Dixie S.


A polymath or “Renaissance Man” is commonly defined as someone who has a wide range of varied interests. As described in a recent TED talk, there are numerous advantages to being a polymath, but society also tends to shut them down or force them into focusing on a particular field of study. Choosing an education or career path can be very daunting for polymaths because they don’t want to be constrained to a single field. Although it may seem like the academic world is out to punish those who refuse to specialize, it is possible to reap many benefits of being a generalist.

Attend a Liberal Arts School

The various options for college students have exploded in recent years as technical, vocational and online learning programs have become more popular. This is often due to a belief that finishing a college education is all about efficiency. Students are out to spend as little money and time as possible to get that degree. This often robs the educational experience of its richness. A polymath benefits most from the more traditional liberal arts college experience. You will be more rewarded in this setting for experimentation with subjects and will be introduced to a wider variety of topics.

Find Ways to Integrate Topics and Stick a Plan

In a liberal arts setting, a student may also choose to integrate a variety of topics into their educational plan. It is still important to have a plan and aim to finish a degree in about four years. Spending too much time flitting between subjects and different classes is a good way to waste a lot of money and time. That doesn’t mean a student has to shoot for only one subject. They could pursue a major of serious interest and then add on two or three minors to their degree. While multiple minors may lengthen the time it takes to get the degree, it will broaden your experience and touch on multiple topics of interest. In choosing minors, it will be important to consider subjects that are easy to integrate and support each other. One of the great advantages of being a polymath is the ability to draw on a broad base of knowledge to come up with novel ideas, and this is a perfect way to make that happen while still giving a good foundation for a career and money making opportunities.

Use Volunteer Experience

Volunteering is a great way to get more experience and connections while padding a resume to look good on future job applications. Colleges usually are able to steer students toward a wide variety of opportunities. This can give you experience and knowledge in things unrelated to your degree while still providing valuable connections and real benefit to your future career.

Embrace Open Ended Degree Options

There are many degrees that provide graduates with a wide variety of career opportunities and allow them to integrate other skills and subjects. Key examples are business degrees, criminal justice degrees and law degrees. A business degree gives a graduate the tools they need to run a successful business, but what that business might be is completely open to your other skills and abilities. A degree in criminal justice opens up a wide variety of versatile positions in both law enforcement and the legal world. A law degree also demands a wide variety of skills and knowledge, which is why many law schools desire applicants with varied backgrounds.

Although embracing your polymath preferences can be daunting in a world that seems to reward the specialist, you can choose certain educational and career paths that do reward those with a wide variety of skills. The options and amazing opportunities are out there if you look for it

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