I Am Smarter Than My Major Says I Am

I Am Smarter Than My Major Says I Am: Why We Need To Stop Judging Individual Intelligence By College Major

It is unfair to attribute levels of intelligence to students based on their major, and we've got to stop.


Ok, rant time. This is a topic that has affected my pride deeply, and it's the subject of major-based intellect. What I mean by this term is subconsciously, or even consciously, attributing a level of intelligence to an individual based on the perceived difficulty of their major. The infamous business major stereotype is a perfect example of this. At Baylor, it's common to say phrases like "business by Christmas" or business majors have it easy.

Truthfully, I used to partake in dumbing down business majors because it made my major feel more prestigious. However, after several incidences of experiencing my own major and intellect being depreciated, I've come to discover this: majors are not an accurate measurement of an individual's intelligence, and in believing they are, it promotes unfair stereotypes.

To begin, here's a little about me. I am a Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) major with a concentration in speech pathology. I like to say I am "speech path," though, with the excuse that my major title is too long. However, to be honest, I mainly say this because I don't want to be confused as a Communications major whose coursework is belittled due to its heavy association as the "football player major" and stereotyped as less esteemed (totally unfair, and I have stopped this mindset, by the way). I am an honors student, Baylor writing tutor, research assistant to the chair of the CSD department, and more. I feel confident enough to say that yeah, I am smart, but this doesn't always seem to be shared with other people.

Upon telling people I am a speech pathology major, among many, their attitude shifts slightly. I can't quite describe it, but it's more of an "Oh, OK" response versus the "Woah!" I got when I was previously pre-physical therapy. I've thought about why this occurs towards my major. Is it because people aren't aware of what speech pathology is? Possibly, but a common response I get is some sort of comment on my major's high sorority makeup. Whether it's angled towards mentioning how many *insert sororities* girls they know in the major or asking if that's the major with a lot of sorority girls, there seems to be a recurring theme.

So, I've come to a conclusion: intellectual capacity is generally based not only on the rigor of the major but also the student stereotype associated with it. Think about it, when we talk about business majors, more often than not, there's a mental image of a fraternity guy bathing in his daddy's money. Because this is a negative stereotype most of us can't relate with, we feel turned off by the major the stereotype represents, making it natural for us to discredit it. The stereotype also ties into the amount of prestige a major has. By this I mean, the student stereotype also comes with a level of intellect, which contributes to "determining" a major's level of honor. For instance, sorority girls are unfairly represented as ditzy and unconcerned with academia, making a sorority concentrated major seem less esteemed. But this is clearly wrong; some of the smartest women I know are in sororities.

OK, so we know there's a stereotype component but then there's the assumed rigor of a major. It's fair to conclude the harder the coursework the more laudable the major is, which is why Baylor pre-meds are the major gods of the school. But what determines a major's difficulty of coursework? For instance, I could not imagine doing engineering, it's simply not my forte, so I think engineering is one of the hardest majors, whereas an engineering major may think my writing intensive courses are too difficult for them. So, there's a disparity between defining what is "hard" within that definition. We could make the argument that difficulty is determined by the amount of coursework.

This seems to be the case concerning this topic. It is proven that, for instance, engineering students spend five more hours studying than science or business majors. Because of this, we're going to attribute engineering to be harder, thus more distinguished. And because it's more distinguished, are we not going to stereotype engineering students to be smarter than say, business majors?

However, this is where some discrepancy comes in. If we solely determine students in heavier courseloads as inevitably more intelligent, we are forgetting to take into account other factors, such as the student's ability to excel in the major. To clarify, engineering may be a hard major, but that doesn't equivocate to an engineering student being able to do well at it, which delegitimizes the point of major-based intellect. Even then, just because a student is doing poorly in their major, does not mean they lack academic merit.

At the end of the day, a major is not what defines the student's intellectual ability. Another question is how we determine intellectualism, but let's not get into that today. My point is that it's unfair to promote stereotypes and discredit students based solely on their major. There is credibility in every major, whether we see it or not. With all of this being said, I am smarter than my major says I am!

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Friendship: From School To College

The only thing I know is that I don't know


In the first version of my common app essay I wrote about friendship. I started by describing this mural I have in my bedroom. It occupies about two walls and is as huge as you are probably picturing in your head. I have always been slightly entitled, and so at the time I really thought I understood what friendship was about. I had just had a massive fight with some people whom I used to consider very close friends, and I had proceeded to (very dramatically) take down some pictures from this mural. So the mural was incomplete, and I used this as a metaphor in an essay that if I had submitted it at the time, I probably wouldn't be writing this article for Odyssey at Emory because I wouldn't have gotten into college in the first place.

Thankfully, I decided against that essay and submitted a completely different version in December of 2016. The mural, however, continues to be incomplete. I have made peace with some of the people I had fought with back then, and have made new friends in college and matured quite a bit since that first draft of my common app essay. Now, I can more humbly say that I don't really know much about friendships, or people in general, despite pursuing a psychology major for the past two years. The mural is incomplete because of this lack of knowledge.

Something that I have learned though is that college friendships and school friendships are fundamentally different. I went to a small school from when I was six years old to the time I graduated. That is a whole lifetime seeing the same people every day, growing up with those people, a whole lifetime to understand the values and habits of those people. And even then they can surprise you. So how arrogant did I have to be to not expect any surprises from people I knew for only one year in college. It's true that it's a different way of knowing people, that living together away from home pulls people closer than in any other situation. But how well can you really know someone after one or two years?

Not well enough, is the only answer I have been able to come up with. There is a certain symmetry I think, of me writing a bad essay about my broken mural after having a fight with my friends in school, and now three years since then here I am, writing a more humble version of that essay about that same mural, which remains incomplete. But this time, the mural isn't incomplete because I am mad or hurt and don't want to look at certain faces. Its incomplete because I am not sure who I want to put up in the mural yet.

I have never liked the idea of family being your blood relatives, because there are many blood relatives that I don't like, and many people whom I am not related to by blood but am related to by heart. There are few certainties, and these are up in my mural. But as I mentioned before, it's a huge mural, and so there is still a lot of space left for more.

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