College degrees should be built on passions

By Rachel Smith

Through my first two years at the College, I’ve heard more than my fair share of contradictory and unsolicited opinions about the usefulness of a college degree. As a communications and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major, I’ve had other people judge me based on which major I favor for a prospective career path.

I personally like to think of my double major as a two-for-one sale. When interviewing with future employers, I will be selling them on why I am fit to fill the role that is available. Maybe some employers will like one of my majors more than the other. Maybe they will hire me based on one of my majors and see my second major as a bonus. Conversely, maybe I will be able to leverage off the strengths that both majors have given me, proving I am well-rounded and would provide an asset to their team.

People should not measure their worth based on their major. (Flickr)

Dedicating our lives to the pursuit of higher education is a challenge, made even more difficult by those questioning whether the career path we’ve chosen is worth the money and the stress. During our college years, we’re bombarded with conflicting ideas of how to measure the true value of higher education. There are many myths around choosing a career path that are often sold as absolute truths.

I’ve heard more than enough times that if I want to do something that makes me happy, I better be happy being broke. Teachers who have a passion for education and love developing the young minds of children can be seen as settling for a safe, paying job. A teacher might not be afforded the same respect as a doctor or lawyer because certain jobs hold royalties and evoke admiration in the American culture. Stigmas such as these need to be broken. Every job is necessary toward the survival of a society. Do not weigh the value of someone else’s career goals on your own scale.

I disagree with the notion that if I want to do something revolutionary, people assume I’m an idealist who thinks I’m the exception. We’re taught that trademark motivators such as passion and the desire to contribute to something bigger than ourselves is just a stage we’ll grow out of in time. In college, we’re taught to be confident, but not too confident. It is here that adulthood is taught to be less about freedom and more about complacency and acceptance of power beyond our control. The people who tell us that we can’t change the world are the ones who were too afraid to try.

So often I have heard that if I want to make the most out of my college experience, I must pick a minor that makes sense with my major. Good advice is objective advice. When advice is based solely off of one’s own experiences, it can become skewed and biased. When I consulted with high school guidance counselors, my parents and college advisor, they all told me that I should have a narrow focus looking into the future, regarding my education.

Maybe I don’t want to think small, I want to think big. Maybe I don’t want to reduce myself to being relegated to one area of study, because I know I’m capable of more than that. It’s okay to think outside the box and pick a minor, or second major, in something that has nothing to do with our primary major because it will set us apart from others and make us stand out.

A great part of becoming a functioning adult is learning to balance our wants with our needs. What is the moral of the story about higher education? Everyone must rationalize the risks and rewards for themselves. We can ask advice on our area of study all we want, but at the end of the day, we must live with our own choices. It’s terrifying to consider that spending time, money and effort still can’t guarantee a safe and secure job. That being said, just as we were able to embrace the often embarrassing saga of high school, we will also make it through college relatively unscathed. We will persist, student loans in hand, and hopefully give life to a new system where passion will always outweigh second-guessing.