Not all English majors become baristas

Choosing a major is one of the most difficult and important tasks for a student. The choice impacts the student’s experiences over the next four years and their prospects for decades. Some choose their field for money, others due to pressure from family. But the most important reason for picking a major is love.

A recent article by Forbes Magazine reports that people who love their jobs have higher levels of general success. And as any academic adviser will say, the first step toward a career one loves is a major one loves. But for students who are sent a dizzying array of messages by family, friends and counselors, passion can get lost in the shuffle.

Psychology senior Jeffrey Coleman started his college career in biology, but switched to his current major when he realized he was better suited to working with people rather than plants.

“I switched from bio because I felt like I was more interested in people than the actual study of life on Earth,” Coleman said. “(Biology) is a dynamic major, (but) I enjoyed personal one-on-one conversations (with people). I can talk to people very easily.”

One of his favorite things about his major is helping others through interpersonal communication.

“You have to be open. You have to be an ear for people,” Coleman said.

Creative writing sophomore Ian Overstreet also appreciates the communication aspect of his field, but in a different context. 

“Writing has helped progress people throughout the years,” Overstreet said.  “It’s the most direct way for ideas to be exchanged.”

Sociology senior Maria Garcia says she chose her major because she has a passion for working with others.

“I want to be able to talk with people and get to know them,” she said. “And I feel like it’s a way better experience than working behind a desk.”

Students like Coleman, Overstreet and Garcia are happy to be pursuing their passions. Coleman says he wanted to be a doctor, but felt he could do more good in a social services profession. Overstreet hopes to teach English overseas someday. These students have a verified devotion to their craft, a devotion formed from love of a subject.

But over the past few years, students have been nudged to choose their majors based on what careers are profitable and sustainable.

According to The New York Times, President Obama pushes the sciences, urging colleges to “graduate 10,000 more engineers a year and 100,000 new teachers with majors in STEM,” or science, technology, engineering and math. But multiple studies have found that 40 percent of students studying science or engineering either change their majors or fail to get a degree.

While STEM careers are both necessary and admirable, they are not for everyone and should not be treated as such. If a student loves engineering or chemistry, he or she should certainly pursue it. But if not, that student should feel free to choose something they feel strongly about.

Not every major leads to big job prospects or wealth. But a passion for political science could lead to a law degree. An interest in art could make a great teacher. And English, the butt of every post-college fast-food joke out there, opens many career doors for its students: education, technical writing, script-crafting for the entertainment industry, even literary representation.

Choosing one’s major isn’t just black and white, but with a little creativity, it can work. For Coleman, the process of choosing how to spend one’s life is simple.

“It’s about doing what you were meant to do,” he said, “and doing it with vigor.”

Opinion columnist Elizabeth Murphy is an advertising sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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