When I thought about college before my freshman year, I fantasized about the ability to choose almost all of my classes to my liking. There was little else that excited me more than not having to take a predetermined set of classes that I must plow through in order to graduate. College seemed like the perfect place to focus on exactly what I wanted to study.

To major in a topic I was passionate about, even with general education requirements on the fringes, meant I could completely mold my education. Why wouldn’t I seize the opportunity to choose courses that would make the next four years of my educational life as intellectually stimulating as possible?

Experiencing “major shaming” might have been one of them.

“Major shaming” — being made fun of because of your major — is exceedingly common. Just 20 years ago, having a college degree, regardless of your major, was enough to get your foot in the door. Nowadays, college degrees are about a dime a dozen. And so, many people use college majors as distinguishing factors between one person and the next.

You’ll often hear that STEM majors are more hardworking. Meanwhile, social science and humanities majors are often dismissed for pursuing “easier” areas of study. Both ends of the spectrum have their fair shares of difficulties, though. STEM majors almost always have to tackle time-consuming, complex problem sets. Humanities and social science majors, on the other hand, write lengthy research papers and in-depth analyses of convoluted literary texts that the average person cannot understand. 

Simply put, deeming one type of major as better than another is counterproductive if both types of majors require a great deal of work. Even though the top five easiest classes, according to Penn Course Review, are humanities courses, most, if not all, of those courses are taught in a way that’s palatable to students who just want to dip their toes into that area of study or fulfill general education requirements, rather than fully immerse themselves in the topic. 

The papers you write or the problem sets you complete for your classes are so far removed from the work you will do in the real world. In fact, only about 27 percent of college graduates have jobs that relate to their major. No, the world is not just one big classroom.  

Why, then, do people choose non-STEM or business-related majors if they may be looked down upon for it, by either their peers or potential employers? Two main reasons persist: genuine enjoyment and less damage to their GPA.

Enjoyment first. To keep things pre-professional, when an interviewer asks you why you studied what you did, you’d be hard-pressed to find a convincing reason if you really disliked your major. Analogously, it’s hard for a food critic to describe an awful dining experience positively. Likewise, interviewers can see right through your facade of falsified enjoyment.

Do your eyes light up when you talk about what you studied for four years? Did you love that area of study so much that you did research on it over the summer? The relative enjoyment you derive from what you are learning is often tied to the quality of your work. Someone who does the bare minimum will evidently perform with less proficiency than someone who was motivated to take the time to perform that task. 

If we continue to major shame on a larger scale, we’ll most likely study subjects we don’t care for and will perform poorly in our studies. If we don’t enjoy what we’re doing, it will be much harder for us to succeed in the long run. 

If people are pursuing their passions regardless of what others might say, is there really any way to remedy or at least lessen “major shaming?" Understanding that it’s unavoidable from all fronts may be the first step. The second step would be to embrace your major, since you’ve probably thought about what your major will be with care.

Remember that all of these assumptions about one major versus another are essentially baseless. Why? Because college is just the beginning of your adult life. You’ll have your whole life ahead of you once you graduate. I often have a hard time reminding myself of this.

I have not committed to a major yet. I’m not sure where my interests "don’t" lie. This is making my decision more difficult. Yes, there are certain areas of study that I’ve eliminated (because you can’t love everything, right?), but I want to get something meaningful out of my major. More than anything else, I want to make this choice based on my preferences and my abilities, not exclusively from the words of others. It’s my choice to make.

ALEX SILBERZWEIG is a College sophomore from New York, studying mathematics and economics. Her email address is alexsil@sas.upenn.edu. “Brutally Honest” usually appears every other Tuesday.

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