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Choosing the “right” major

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By Nia Sanders

Web Editor


March 31, 2015

There is a common misconception that majoring in the humanities and social sciences curriculums are impractical.

People who major in these areas are very familiar with certain questions people ask them:

“So, what do you plan on doing with that?” or “Are you going to be a [insert the only career people associate with your major]?”

Others can be quite blunt in their responses.

Zac Bissonnette, a Financial writer for The New York Times, highlighted a parent’s response to his son’s major in his article who said, “I am appalled, even horrified, that you have adopted Classics as a major. As a matter of fact, I almost puked on my way home today.”

I have had first-hand experience of situations like these as a history and sociology major. The person’s smile begins to dwindle, and they take a moment of silence before they feel obligated to say how they really feel about my majors.

My course load has been challenging, yet insightful at the same time. I am constantly exposed to professors who are experts in their field of study and provide me with a wealth of knowledge.

Employers never seem fazed by my choice of majors. In fact, they are impressed by my grades and my overall decision to have those subjects as a major and they feel more compelled to get to know me and see what I can contribute to their work environment.

It is true that the humanities and social sciences are not designed to train you for a specific field. This is great for students who are unsure as to what they want to do career-wise. The humanities provide students with sufficient written, reading, and analytical skills, which are increasingly desired in the workforce.

If these majors were useless, then institutions would not include them in the curriculum. Somehow, they seem to hold their ground because people enjoy taking courses in those subjects. Take a look at the University at Albany for example; Psychology, Political science, English, and History are among the top majors at this institution. It is hard to downplay these majors when so many people are attracted to them.

If someone is not prepared to hear the “right” major[s] come out of someone else’s mouth, then they should refrain from asking people what they are majoring in. I understand that people may not be knowledgeable about the humanities and/ or social sciences, but inquire about them instead of judging a person for choosing to study in that area.

People should realize that everyone has their own tastes and that is why so many majors exist. I would rather see someone excel in something that they are interested in than see someone fall off the radar because they are confined to the last subject that they want to learn about.

There are people who have the mindset that a major is supposed to lead to a job and emphasize specialized majors like engineering and accounting. However, the College Board sums it up perfectly by stating, “For many students, picking a major is not the same as choosing a job. It will be up to you to pick a career path you like.”

With that in mind, a major will not necessarily determine an individual’s career, but help gear them towards something they are interested in.

Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, received his Bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in Philosophy. First Lady Michelle Obama majored in Sociology at Princeton University. Notable film director Steven Spielberg studied English at California State University, Long Beach for three years before he dropped out.

Overall, it is important to acknowledge that a student is responsible for choosing what he/she wants to learn over the course of his/her time in college. If what the student is learning is fulfilling, then he/she is in a good place.

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