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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Success can’t be measured by bank statements

    What is success? In America, it seems to be a perverse product of capitalism — exorbitant wealth with a small side of family and emotional stability.

    But it isn’t the only version of prosperity students should be looking for. I’m not suggesting some neo-bohemian revolution, but it’d be nice to see a departure from the vapid cloning of yuppies that colleges produce every year.

    Liberal arts and other purportedly inadvisable majors should be encouraged, not condemned. But college advisers and parents are notorious for advising students away from liberal arts and humanities degrees, which promote critical thinking and adaptability, because they believe they lack practical applications.

    Fortunately, this stigma is starting to shift. Clayton Christiensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, said in an interview with CNN Money that motivation and satisfaction in work are better measures of success than financial earnings. He warns against judging schools based on test scores, schools will hold their students to rigid standards.

    This reaction is knee-jerk and constant.

    Education is meant to be a bastion that preserves culture, bettering yourself and, ultimately, happiness.

    Not everyone agrees. David Reynaldo, owner and founder of California-based college admissions consulting and major-matching business College Zoom, suggests that “the key with majors is to find something that you’re good at with skills that have market value.”

    According to the Yahoo Education article he’s quoted in, those majors certainly don’t include architecture, fine arts, philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, archaeology or film, video and the photographic arts.

    The number one major it touts as useful when it comes to landing a job that generates the classic American definition of success — wealth, power and 2.5 children — is accounting. It may be a stable field of work at only 6.8 percent unemployment, but for many students who are pigeonholed into this or other “safe” majors — like finance or business administration — it just isn’t quite what they thought they’d do.

    Jessie Marman, a physiology and visual communication sophomore, said she maintains her science major as a backup to please her worried parents.

    “Our society teaches people that what they like to do and what they should do for their career aren’t necessarily the same,” she said.

    “I met a lot of opposition from my parents, peers and even my adviser over concerns for my future job options — ‘Art? But you’re so smart!’”

    I don’t have to worry because if I decide to become a freelance writer or street artist, my parents would support me. But for some, the fear of becoming a financial burden or being incapable of sustaining a lifestyle is a large factor in the pressure to select a “safe” degree.

    “That’s a myth out there that somehow if you major in humanities, you’re doomed to be unemployed for the rest of your life.” said Debra Humphreys, vice president for policy and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges and Universities who co-authored a report suggesting otherwise.

    The report says that by the time they reach their peak earning years, between 56 and 60, liberal arts and humanities majors are earning far more than their pre-professional counterparts who graduated with “safer” degrees. The report also points out the importance of earning a graduate degree when considering a liberal arts or humanities path because job options, while broader and more extensive than other fields, often start at lower pay grades.

    There seems to be a mentality that if you can’t quantify the results of something — a degree for instance — then it’s worthless. That’s simply not the case.

    Students should be able to pursue liberal arts degrees if they meet their interests. Success is not a predetermined endpoint, it is dependent on the happiness of the pursuer, and if creative writing makes you happy, more power to you — I’ll be delighted to read your book.

    Nick Havey is a sophomore studying pre-physiology and Spanish. Follow him @nihavey.

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