In the college apps world and higher education, we have tons of “major” problems (and cheesy jokes). You know we do – and you probably do as well. Whether you’re going into your upperclassmen years or applying to colleges this fall, every college student deals with the roller-coaster ride of deciding a major.
Orientation and college apps conversations sound like a chorus of this:
“I’m going to major in [insert major here] because that’s what I want to go into!”
“I’m a [insert major here]…I’m going to be [same major]-er/-ist.”
Makes sense of course. Major in journalism if you’re the next Times editor, fashion design to be Louis Vuitton’s next head designer, biology for medical school.
By the way: those are lies. There are journalists who have majored in math; lawyers reading finance; doctors who studied philosophy. And it’s not at all uncommon, or wrong.
Heck, if you’re thinking of pursing a graduate degree: You’re not exactly required to major in the subject to be in that graduate program. (Of course, just like other post-graduate studies – law, business, medicine – you’re going to have to have some sort of background, usually in non-academic experience or elective courses).
Let’s check out a few examples.
The Prospect’s own co-founder, Lily Herman, is something of an editorial and journalistic gem. At 20, she’s running TP, is a writer and editor for USA Today College, Her Campus, The Daily Muse; even has been featured from Forbes to TIME. (She’s double majoring in Government and Sociology. She’ll deny it, but…future POTUS?) Obviously, Lily’s putting what she’s studying into play, managing a site with over 120 contributors and various social products.
That Art History Major Though
At the Her Campus #HerConference in mid-July, that hot question was brought up: “Will my art history major help me?” (In January 2014, Obama got caught in the crosshairs of liberal arts academia, stating, “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.”) Editor of People StyleWatch, Susan Kaufman spoke about her path from art history major, to major journalism figure. Kaufman’s advice focused on how her major classes at Washington University taught her ways to think: “The reason why I think it’s such a great thing to study, because it really makes you think on all cylinders; because you’re thinking about history, philosophy…it’s interpreting, learning how to write cohesively…it’s investigative.”
A Little Love for the Liberal Arts
Kaufman elaborates on the same defense that general education and liberal arts proponents will argue: It’s not the facts, the training, or how fast you can draw the Krebs cycle; it’s what you think (from what you study), where, and how you apply that. As the token California transplant in the big city, I’ve come to see and appreciate this way of thinking in infinite ways – whether that be writing for a college admissions website, to talking up a stranger about new electronic medical record systems – both networking me to great connections and resources later on.
You’re not married to your major (though those long nights in the library definitely make you feel like you are). It has been said over and over again at TP, and as cliche as it sounds – study what you love. Regardless of the subject, you’re in a field and learning environment that will teach you various things, and the application of your studies into your career path – from classroom to internships to jobs – will carry you through.
(I know…my science major with a liberal arts bias is showing. Deal with it.)