Love What You Study by Michael Valacer Notre Dame '17
“What can you do with that?”
The question every liberal arts major ever has heard again and again. And again. And again. By parents and friends alike. My philosophy professor this past semester told us about a student who was given two options by his parents: go to his local state school for less than $20,000 a year and study whatever he liked, or go to Notre Dame for $55,000 a year and study engineering, to ensure a return on their investment.
Freshmen often choose their majors because of the job prospects. Yet, as this year has gone along, many of my friends who are engineers and science majors with expectations of being millionaires a decade after graduating or who want to be well-paid doctors once they are done with their education have gone one of two routes almost universally: many are either no longer enrolled in the Colleges of Engineering and Science, or they are working their you know whats off just to keep their GPA above a 2.7. Even my friends who thus far have maintained good grades in their science and engineering majors have suffered for it. My friend Katie, a pre-med student who had a 4.0 last semester, mentally broke down the night before her Chemistry 101 final and began laughing manically and doing cartwheels through the library before her friends removed her to the relief of the other students studying there. My friend Henry is a chemical engineer who pulled 3 or 4 all nighters in the ten days before spring break, though he still has a GPA of around 3.5. This is not to diss their majors, Katie loves her science classes and Henry says his chemical engineering class is his favorite class, but it has come at a cost that would not seem worth it for four years if they were just doing it to get a job and not for love of their studies, as other students have done.
The irony is, two of the past three years, a higher percentage of Notre Dame's liberal arts majors have either a job, enrolled in graduate school, joined the military, or are doing full-time volunteer work than their compatriots in the College of Engineering, and were either tied or within two percentage points of their peers from the Colleges of Science and Business. Philosophy, one of the biggest punching bags in the liberal arts, had zero percent of its graduates seeking employment after college. Zero. The nine classics majors in the class of 2011 all had jobs or graduate programs, including two students studying to be doctors at the University of Chicago, a very prestigious school. And they did this not without studying hard materials, but without working themselves into the ground and while still being able to enjoy college and their studies.
Again, I wish not to diss the engineers and scientists who make the cut and love their studies. They will all be very successful and will probably make much more money than me, as most data shows. But time and time again, I hear how college is supposed to be the best four years of our lives. So don't ruin that by studying something you hate and which controls your life. Study what you love, and love what you study. You will excel in those fields, and will be just fine in the long run. There's no reason you can't enjoy every aspect of college.