Picking a Major: Love vs. Money – Pros and Cons

Gema is a 19-year old from Miami, FL. She loves reading and writing young adult fiction and claims to pass out in the presence of sterile wit.

Picking a college major might just be the bane of every student’s existence. It’s like being in Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.” Do you choose the path that’s been chosen by millions and proven to work? Or do you risk the path less traveled by? While you can change your major later on, choosing is still a big deal. And it usually comes down to two things: the major you love versus the major that will lead to a high-paying career.

Like with all things, there are exceptions to this struggle. There are some students whose dream career is also a high paying one. For example, they want to be engineers, scientists and accountants. If that’s you, I am not talk to you. In fact, I’m so incredibly jealous that I might trip you down the stairs. (Kidding! Sort of.)

Today I’m talking to the artists, social workers, teachers, and anyone who has a passion for something so special there’s no monetary compensation for it. You have a tough decision to make. And, for drama’s sake, it’s a decision that will affect you for life.

Let’s start with the positive – the pros of picking a major you love. First, you’ll be an expert of your own craft. Writers will explore archetypes, genres and figurative language. Actresses will polish their ability to transform into another person, inside and out. Musicians will learn to harvest notes and string them together to create music that will transport listeners to another, lovelier, dimension. Social workers will gain the tools to help those who oftentimes can’t help themselves. Because of this comes the next pro – your happiness. You’ll be working on what you love to do and getting better and better at it.

The cons might hinder the flower and rainbows of it, though. First con – the money. It’s superficial and materialistic to consider, but the fact is that college is expensive. Books alone can go up to a thousand dollars. There are other things to consider: tuition, dorms and everyday expenses. If you use student loans to pay some of it, how will you pay that money back if your career gives you just enough to get by? It’s not impossible to pay but it’s not easy.

There’s also family to think about – if you’re part of a close-knit household. If you come from a rough background with life barely lived paycheck to paycheck, being able to go to college at all is a gift. As a college grad, you’ll be expected to earn enough money to help out your struggling family. What do you do then? Being Hispanic, I see this a lot with immigrant families. Parents have given up everything in their home country in order to give their children the opportunity of a better life. It may sound cruel, but kids are inadvertently seen as investments – the payoff coming when they graduate from college. “Wasting” your time in college on something that will earn you next to nothing can be misconstrued as ungratefulness and selfishness.

There’s also the risk of boredom. It’s one thing to do something you love for the sake of doing it. But it’s another thing when the subject is viewed technically. The beauty of a couple of chords will be broken down to its individual notes and the rules that go into their creations. The writers will decompose every sentence, every metaphor and analyze details invisible to the common reader. It’s like when you really get to know a person you thought you fancied – the magic fizzles out.

The pro for picking a major that will lead to a high paying career is the obvious – money. A future of financial stability seems like an impossible dream in this economy. The increasing percentage of unemployment may tempt students to pick the majors that lead to these high paying careers. And you can’t blame them. Who doesn’t want a peace of mind?

Going back to the family bond I mentioned – if you pick a major that will result in a high income, the responsibility you may feel for your family might be achieved. You won’t be selfish – you’ll be a hero, the pride of the family.

The con, however, is something of a nightmare. Imagine doing something you don’t love for the rest of your life. It’s like the myth of Sisyphus – the punished king who had to roll an enormous boulder up a hill, watch it roll back down and repeat for eternity. Everything is hard work but all for a life of monotone.

What about the college years? When will you have time to go back to school and take classes that you’re truly interested about? Religion. Art. Drama. Literature. Cooking! If you’re so focused on dollar signs you might hinder some eye-opening opportunities.

I’m afraid this is another post with no straight answers. But that’s okay. Every situation is unique. In the end, you could have a hundred pros and one con for either options but the size of the list doesn’t matter – the weight of the individual points does. Which is most important for you? Happiness? Money? Happiness through money? Your family’s happiness through money? You decide.

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