In choosing a major, go for what makes you happy, not what makes you money

In high school, the question is: Where are you going to school? In college, the question changes to: What’s your major? And if the answer is English, then comes the inevitable follow-up: And what are you going to do with it? (roughly translated: do you plan on being poor?)

By now, I’m used to the drill and the jokes of being an English major. I have formulated an answer to The Question which includes just enough details to erase at least a third of the amount of doubt in the inquirer’s eyes. The image of me up to my elbows in french fries with my hair trapped in a net has been replaced by one less humiliating, but perhaps not any more economically beneficial.

Recently, I was asked if I plan on working at Barnes and Noble now that Borders is in the gutter.

For many humanity-based degrees, this look of disdain mingled with a pinch of pity is commonplace. We know the “hard” science kids think we’re welcoming poverty, and the business majors can’t wait to do our taxes. Our degrees have built us a thick skin.

Contrary to popular belief, we are not languidly lying under a tree with Shakespeare propped on our knees, a glass to our side of ice tea balancing upon a dictionary (somewhere, a poet is crying).

We are stapled in front of our desks, leaning over our books with a highlighter in one hand and a gallon of coffee in the other.

This is all done in horrible, dim lighting. There is no sun shining on our pages, no illuminating A-ha moment analogous with a light bulb burning bright.

Yet, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because underneath all that complaining and rhetoric is something I sincerely love: words. For the math major scratching his head, I’ll break it down. Reading Writing – Arithmetic = Happiness.

And I’m not so sure how many “practical” majors can construct the same equation.

When I see some of my friends who are in science and engineering (the “hard” stuff) and hating it, I can’t help but ask them a couple questions of my own: Is it worth it? How practical is it to do something you can’t stand to be in school for? Why stay in something that makes you sick to your stomach just because it’s deemed an acceptable route for making money?

And then I get hit in the head with a chemistry book four times thicker than “Pride and Prejudice.”

This isn’t to say all non-humanities hate their majors. That is far from what I am attempting to say here. But, if a few of them do, the world will not come crashing down if you decide you’re really into World War II and want to pursue a History degree instead.

There are jobs out there that don’t require a minimum of 300 hours spent in Grainger before graduation. You can find work that means more to you than meiosis while keeping your GPA intact.

But then again, what do I know? I’m just an English major.

_Emily is a junior in LAS._