Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever stared at a blank Word document for so long. Is this why so many writers go crazy? I could be doing something productive right now — like sleeping. No matter what I do, I just can’t seem to think of anything to write about. Every little thing is distracting. Swiveling in this chair sure is fun. Oh, look, a bird. How fast can I say “toy boat?” Before I know it, an hour has passed.
Welcome to the life of an English major. I agonize about writing on a weekly basis. Over time, it doesn’t become hard to relate with Jack Nicholson from “The Shining,” beating away the same sentence on a typewriter. But that doesn’t change the fact that I love my major. Writing is a passion of mine, and I enjoy every second of self-induced insanity. So when people ask me my major, why am I reluctant to tell them that it’s English?
I think it has something to do with also being pre-med. Before I continue, let me clarify that “pre-med” is not a major. It simply means that I’m taking a set of classes — organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, etc. — necessary to succeed on the MCAT and in medical school. That’s why when I tell my fellow pre-med students that I’m majoring in English, I’m usually met with blank stares and confusion. I feel a bit like Billy Elliot admitting his love for ballet in an unwelcoming environment.
Once they process my seriousness, they usually say something blunt like, “Why?” Whether it’s asked in disgust or awe depends on the person. But no matter the tone, I always give the same response: “Because I like it.” It’s as simple as that.
I think that a lot of students in college — especially pre-meds — major in subjects by default without exploring other interests. For example, I would guess that a lot of people majoring in biomolecular science aren’t doing it because they have a yearning passion for biomolecules. The more likely reason is that the required classes for the major line up conveniently with the prerequisites for medical school. But who am I to judge? I was once a neuroscience major before I realized that learning unnecessarily detailed information about synapses wasn’t how I wanted to spend my college career. Following the 15 advising appointments and two existential crises that resulted from this realization, I learned that a major wouldn’t define my future.
Especially for those planning to attend graduate school, majors aren’t as important as they seem. While some may provide slightly better preparation — for example, a political science major may be more suited for the LSAT than a physics major — it’s ultimately GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities and others that matter. In other words, a physics major can get into Harvard Law School as long as they perform well in each of the previously mentioned areas and demonstrate that they’re a qualified applicant.
Even if a student doesn’t have plans to attend graduate school, their major doesn’t necessarily have to align with their intended career path. According to one study, only about 27 percent of college graduates are working in a job that relates to their major. As reported in Forbes — maybe this will humble the Ross kids — those who majored in history go on to earn just as much in the business field as those who majored in it. Hear that, Ross rejects? There’s still hope! The same goes for law and medicine. Those who major in topics that aren’t typical of these fields still achieve the same success in their futures.
College is a time for exploration and pursuing one’s interests. Therefore, I encourage other students to find passions outside of their intended career track. Students should major in topics that they genuinely want to pursue instead of topics they feel pressured to pursue. After all, it probably won’t have much effect on the future, and will result in a much happier time at college.
I switched my major three times before I decided to major in a subject I enjoyed rather than in a subject that followed the pre-med status quo. Yes, because classes such as organic chemistry don’t count toward the English major, I have to take an extra eight to 10 English classes on top of the prerequisites for medical school. But to me the workload is worth it. I have another 15 years of schooling to learn about synapses. For now, I want to stick to Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Faulkner; when people ask me my major, I want to proudly tell them that it’s English.
Evan Sirls can be reached at email@example.com.