Ah, college. The golden years. The glory days. Oh, yes. How I long to relive my heyday as a young rabscallion, attempting to remember what I did the night before with my fellow hooligans.
I, of course, am attempting to be tongue-in-cheek. In reality, I was locked away in my room, reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason by lone candlelight.
While I may be mostly joking about these hyperbolized anecdotes, there is something to be said about how the terms “college” and “university” have evolved in the general psyche. It has become more than just an institution where one can choose to earn degrees — it is a cultural phenomenon that folks tend to glorify. For many, there is substantial social pressure to go this route because without going to college, “you won’t get a high paying job” or “you won’t have a fulfilling career.” Now, most of us know this isn’t necessarily true, as alternatives like trade school and apprenticeships in the “blue-collar” realm of industries and professions (to name a few examples) can be equivalent or better options. But, mentioning this in a blog somewhere doesn’t change the stigma overnight. From a hiring and selection perspective, being a proud owner of a shiny Bachelor’s degree is still expected of many attempting to enter the professional world.
So, how to get there? The first challenge is applying to universities you take interest in. The second challenge is admittance. Perhaps you’ll have to choose from a few options. Then, the real fun begins: what will you major in? Of all the follow-up questions arising from the ever-echoed “what do you want to be when you grow up?,” this one in particular eventually takes center stage. Some are lucky, or have enough surety to already know the answer. Others, though, might spend time figuring it out until the last possible second, even pushing graduation back a year or two, and still lack the confidence that they made the right choice. The main assumption of major selection is that your eventual choice will be a direct reflection of your entire career. However, reality is more complicated than that.
Regardless of focus, whether you’re STEM or liberal arts, your major gives you more than just associated hard skills. Each field of study brings a toolkit of soft skills that students passively acquire, whether they‘re aware or not. Engineering majors learn how to critically analyze processes and systems. Communications majors develop an uncanny ability to clarify language for others to understand. Math majors can see how to construct thorough deductive arguments using simple mental representations. Philosophy majors become more pretentious, or whatever (note: self-deprecating humor). The point is this: people tend to value their major entirely based off the hard skills associated with its label. In doing this, they neglect the entire reason why majors retain their innate value. It can be argued that hard skills become less valuable over time as fields change and innovate, but the importance of soft skills spreads outside of the workplace, utilized constantly. Of course, this is contingent on the specific major in question.
This is why I am writing this series of blog posts, titled A Major is a Minor Commitment. I want to explore different college and university majors, evaluating them based on both hard skills and soft skills alike. Then, I will provide some ideas on how these can be applied in the professional world, walking through both expected and unexpected applications and industries. The aim of this series is to provide suggestions for those who need help choosing a major, or even those who are already graduated, attempting to retroactively interpret their major.
Be sure to find me here on Thursdays. I will be covering all sorts of majors, ranging from Art History to Zoology. If you have any suggestions for majors I should cover, feel free to go to our contact page and let us know.