FYI: Your College Major Doesn’t Make Your Soul

By on August 29, 2014
Glasses and Book

“What’s your major?”

Oh dear.

This can become one of the most pestering questions throughout college. Besides being that ill-fated, universal ice-breaker that most conversations must suffer, it can also be somewhat daunting to answer if you are “undecided” or unsure if you actually want to learn about mechanisms of animal sex…for 4 straight years.

Unless you are planning to snatch that sugar-daddy or run a huge heist, you need to eventually make a decision. Otherwise, you might be stuck in college for 8 years, racking up debt. So, yes, unfortunately, you should choose a solid major by your junior year.

You are here for a degree. You know that.

Does it really matter?

This is one of those age-old questions to which no one really has the answer. They will tell you your decision really matters; they will bend their backs five different ways to convince you out of certain programs or to shove you into others. To them, it is like your college major is the only thing that makes your soul.

Do not pay them too much attention because you need to be discerning. Potentially more important than your major are your connections, your skills, and your coursework.

Repeat after me: Connections and Skills and Coursework.

Also, you need to think. You have to figure out three different things:

  • What do you want to do after college? Do not worry; you’re not getting married to your major. Your answer is not a commitment.
  • What are potential employers or admissions committees actually looking for?
  • What are your backup plans? Don’t be a one-trick pony.
This could be any disgruntled employee. Please don't let it be yourself.

This could be any disgruntled employee. Please don’t let it be yourself.

Employment after college

Yes, a major can be important because it can indicate you have background knowledge relevant to a job you’re applying for. Once you think about it, an employer might just skim your resume and make a snap-judgment based on your major. Or, they might not. They might just be looking for, you know, work experience? References? Portfolios? Other things that indicate you are not just an academic junkie, who can say they can do something, but have nothing to back it up?

An easy ride into a career will be difficult if you only have “the right major” under your belt. Always remember you can major in one program and minor in others. Here is another idea: just take a few classes outside your major; students do not need a minor, per se.

Medical school or graduate school

These are two different beasts. Medical school will teach you everything you need to become a doctor, so all they ask for in return is that you complete pre-requisite courses in college … and pay them upwards of $200,000. With all that leeway, you can major in anything from biology to film studies so long as you do your pre-reqs and make yourself an attractive applicant. Volunteer, shadow doctors, the works.

Grad school is specialized, folks, so they might be a little trickier in admissions. However, given that you have had a lot of coursework in the field you like and that you have had months of research experience, you should still have a shot at getting into grad school. Even here at UAB, a few students in the Genetics grad program were humanities majors, like theatre or English.

When it comes down to it …

You need to weigh two things: 1) your desire to major in whatever you want and 2) the risk of unsuccessfully paying back debt. Let us place emphasis on that first word: you. College is really cool because it is a time when you can make these decisions (more or less) for yourself. My advice to you? Do not stick yourself with some major you will hate, and do not just get a degree.

Do more. Be more.

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About Rhiana Simon

Neuroscience student. Aspiring researcher, writer, and avid insect collector.
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