majors, college, academics, misconceptions, judgement

Don't Be Ashamed of Your Unconventional major

Majoring in a STEM field? Great! Majoring in the arts? ALSO great!


About a year ago, I went to an event in my hometown called the annual "SCend off" for new USC freshmen. We eagerly mingled with other incoming students, got cute goodie bags of USC merchandise, enjoyed some classy refreshments, and even learned the SoCal Spellout. The only negative part of this otherwise exciting experience was one woman's comment about my potential major. It started out innocently enough: "What are you thinking of studying?" I told her that I was thinking of double majoring in Theatre and Global Studies. And then, it happened. To my surprise and embarrassment, she audibly scoffed, "Oh. Two easy things."

Ouch. Let's take a step back. It's safe to say that most of us pursuing majors in the arts or humanities (or, in my specific case, combinations of arts and humanities) have been caught in a situation in which we're judged for our majors. Whether at a family reunion, an interview, or the doctor's office, the dreaded question of "Hm. What are you going to do with that?" never fails to come up when discussing our studies. And, in a truly paranoid fashion, we suddenly forget how to coherently explain our reasoning and plans. Rather than be honest and say "This is what I'm passionate about and good at," "I'm keeping my options open," or "I'm going to use this to create unique opportunities." Even if the person we're talking to is asking out of genuine curiosity rather than spite, we psych ourselves out. We improvise generic answers we think people will want to hear from us, or tailor our explanation to what is more conventionally acceptable and practical.

I've noticed that students and professors at USC tend to encourage and show genuine interest in studying with more regard to our passions than what will most easily get us hired, which may involve studying vastly different disciplines in tandem. Outside the bubble of academia, lots of people see college as more of a resume factory than a place to hone our unique skills and eventual areas of expertise. While steady employment is, of course, important, what qualifies as a "legitimate" line of work is constantly evolving due to technology, innovation, and research. Forecasting someone's career success or judging the rigor of someone's workload based on major alone is ultimately an oversimplification. The way a major is combined with minors, additional majors, internships, and extracurricular activities is a much more significant determinant of success than major alone.

As of now, I am a proud double major in Theatre (B.A) and Law, History, and Culture (B.A). Do people falsely assume studying and practicing theatre is all fun and games? Of course. Does it confuse some people that the Law, History, and Culture major sounds like three different majors? Absolutely. But none of us should feel guilty or odd because we have "weird" and/or "easy" (and they're not easy) majors. Having a major in Philosophy or Comparative Literature is truly just as valid, intellectually stimulating, and full of possibilities as something more traditionally lucrative, like Engineering or Business. Combining and delving into more obscure or abstract disciplines is something that can provide both intellectual fulfillment and, to the surprise of many, a well developed, intriguing career path.

At the end of the day, the best path for you is not necessarily the most straightforward or predictable one. That being said, own your educational choices, whether they're geared toward STEM, the arts, humanities, education, bureaucracy, medicine, or commerce. Don't be ashamed of your quirky major.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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