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

Studying what you love


Though this belief might make me naïve and idealistic, maybe even self-righteous, to some, I would much rather spend tens of thousands of dollars to go to college to study a subject that I love than study a subject that will make me a more desirable candidate for job placement.

Before I continue, it’s important that I address the misconception that because I feel this way, I’m lazy or I just don’t want to apply myself to a subject that will land me a “real” job. Nothing could be less true. I believe that students should want to go to college. Not because of the intimidatingly dwindling job market or the pressure of their parents or other institutions of “authority,” but because they have a passion for learning and they want to pursue this passion so far that they can make use of it for the rest of their lives.

This is why I’m an English major. All throughout elementary and high school, I loved English more than any other subject. In fact, English was the only subject that inspired me to excel and expand my thinking. Regarding math and science, I couldn’t care less (and I couldn’t have done worse) and in terms of history and foreign language, they never challenged me in a meaningful way.

When I applied to secondary education, I entered as a communications major because my college planner said that it would be an attractive degree for employers to see on a resume. When I began taking communication classes at UMass, however, I didn’t find myself challenged, or even interested. What I felt was a major throwback to my days in high school, when I would slump over my desk in classes I didn’t care about, taking diligent notes in order to succeed despite my lack of investment. And that is no way to proceed through college.

When students apply to universities, they are told that they can do anything they want. They can take classes in any subject and explore any academic terrain. In short, college has become synonymous with following your dreams. On the other hand, it’s also become synonymous with selling out – choosing a major that you find only vaguely interesting or prolific and sticking with it, even if it doesn’t excite you. This is because our parents, our teachers and every media influence that we encounter tells us that we need to graduate with a degree that will look good and pay off our debts. Think about it: students are encouraged (and pressured) to choose a major that they are not passionate about so that they can pay back the student loans that they accumulate from pursuing a degree in a subject they never wanted.

This is why I encourage every student to consider this: are you really doing what you want to be doing? When I came to UMass, I could have chosen anything. I could have studied communications, psychology, education, legal studies, management or any number of other more “practical” career paths. But I know that I would never have been happy. After my first semester in a major that didn’t interest me, I decided that, despite the consequences, I would switch to English. I would rather follow my passion than close for good my outlet to the only career field I could see myself working in by choosing more “realistic” aspirations.

There are many stigmas behind following your dreams, especially for students who find themselves compelled to study the humanities. Every day, people make comments like, “English isn’t challenging,” “You can’t do anything with an English degree” and “You’re wasting your education.” The same applies to countless others who decide that their time and money is best spent cultivating their passion in fields that make them happy. I would encourage these people, people like me, not to give in to pressure from skeptics, and to fight back.

You’re right, English isn’t challenging, but only for people who don’t try. For those who do, it can open infinite possibilities of philosophy, exploration and social awareness. You’re wrong. There are countless things that I can do with an English degree – I could become an author, a teacher, a publisher, a journalist. In fact, I could work anywhere that recognizes the necessity of the analytic skills that require intense concentration and interpretation of words that I have gained from studying English. And no, I am not wasting my education. As long as I love what I’m doing, I consider my money well spent.

Students who choose to study what they love and what they think they’re talented in will excel. Because they already have the drive and the skills they need to succeed in their chosen field, they will work harder and enjoy their work more. They will push themselves harder. They will pursue opportunities within their field and immerse themselves in what they love doing. They will gain experience and knowledge far beyond students who are not passionate about their major because they will actively seek out more and more ways to fulfill their passions.

Any degree is useful if you’re passionate about it, if you intend to pursue the work that you love until you’re satisfied with the life you’re leading. But if you cut off your resources, if you decide that your dream isn’t practical enough to achieve, then you’ll never find out.

Elise Martorano is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    Beth ThomasNov 6, 2013 at 1:11 am

    Amen to all of this! It’s so sad that people are ridiculed for pursuing careers that they love, rather than just what they can get a job in. What’s the point of having a degree in something that makes you unbelievably miserable?