Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

You are not your major

Every day college students are faced with that inevitable question: What is your major? It seems that whenever we try to get to know someone, that is the first thing we ask. Based on the answer, we might look for some common ground, or we might say, “Oh, that’s tough,” or “Really? I took a class on in high school.”

Marsha Gelin/Collegian
Marsha Gelin/Collegian

But it seems these days that majors have become a defining characteristic of a person’s personality. History majors are often asked, “So you’re going to teach?” and, as a journalism major, people often ask me, “Oh…what are you going to do with that? How are you going to write for a paper if newspapers are becoming less prevalent in today’s society?”

I guess I can’t blame them for that. When someone tells me they are a biology major, I wonder if they are going pre-med. But that is not to say that I assume they are going pre-med; I just think of that as a possibility. It seems, for the most part, that the general public has some sort of assumption about each major. It is important for people to remember that it is in fact a big world out there.

In college my dad majored in history, then political science, then journalism and then communications; he had some difficulty in making up his mind. Now he manages a bookstore. My mom majored in psychology and got her masters in school counseling.  Now she runs her own business managing association companies. I have no doubt that whatever my parents learned in college helped them in their careers today, but do you really think that people went around asking, “Oh, you’re majoring in psychology? So do you think you’re going to do association management, maybe?”

The future is not as predictable as some people would like it to be. We take comfort in the idea that our degrees will place us into a directly related career, but that is all it is – a matter of comfort. I’m not saying that I’ll get out of college and wonder, “Okay, what now?” I’m sure that I will have some sort of idea of what career I would like to pursue, but I know that I might end up somewhere else despite my plans.

Relatives, administrators, teachers and probably many others might become frustrated when you announce that you are unsure. What they do not understand, however, is that they are just as confused as you are – you are just being honest. When people ask what I want to do with my major, I respond, “Public relations – or at least that’s what I tell people so that they can have an answer.”

People find uncertainty to be an uncomfortable experience. I, however, think uncertainty is liberating.

Unfortunately, like many popular news stories, a lot of people are more interested in you if you are easy-to-read. Magazines everywhere will feature Kim Kardashian’s wedding, yet mention nothing about international issues facing the world today For many, it is just so much easier to read about the Kardashians. This type of thinking prevails in our daily lives. It’s easier to understand someone if only they had a major, a favorite movie or band, a hometown, a name, anything. But is easier always better? Not to my knowledge.

My common answer to most questions is, “I don’t know,” but I do not see that as a bad thing. It is not an inner conflict or insecurity, as some might assume. My preferences or choice of major are not who I am. If you really want to figure me out, I guess you could say that I am a girl with many varying interests, unable to ever settle upon one specific answer. The world is too big for settling.

Katie McKenna is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].


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    DanSep 14, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Thanks for this column; you’ve communicated an important lesson. Let’s hope freshman read it.