Opinion: When Choosing a Major, Don’t Let Money Pick for You

Money doesn’t buy happiness. I’m a firm believer in that. I grew up in the Bronx, went to school in Manhattan on a full scholarship and haven’t travelled to any exotic countries other than my homeland, Dominican Republic. Money wasn’t something I could pick off tree branches outside my house. Even though I didn’t have money, I was happy, but because I didn’t have money, I wanted money.

When you grow up in a marginalized community, you continuously hear that you need to leave. Nobody tells you to go back and use your knowledge to make community improvements. This creates a selfish attitude that you believe is selfless. If I’m going to college, I need to major in something that will get me money. So when the time came to apply to universities, I looked at schools with the best business programs. Money will buy me happiness.

I knew I wasn’t interested in business, but I was also told that business guaranteed a lucrative future. This mentality led me to a decision that would change the course of my life. I had two options: Go to Boston College and attend the Carroll School of Management, one of the top business schools in the country on a conditional acceptance (I was accepted through the Options through Education Program), or go to Syracuse University and attend one of the most well-known universities in the country that also has a very good business program. Looking back now, I don’t regret choosing BC, but at the time I thought: Money will buy me happiness. I chose BC and what happened next surprised me.

Alex Krowiak / Gavel Media

Alex Krowiak / Gavel Media

After my first semester freshmen year, I knew business school was not for me. There was no satisfaction, no sense of direction and no indication that a career in business would provide me happiness. For the first time I realized that one should not choose his or her major, based on how much money it will make them after college, but rather by the intrinsic happiness it will bring. A major should be something you are interested in studying in the hopes of enhancing the area of study and applying it to your future after college.

Over break between first and second semester freshman year, I was sitting at home watching ESPN –  something I hadn’t done for so long given my hectic schedule in high school. After religiously watching Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption and SportsCenter, I thought, “Hey, I like sports, I like talking, I make good predictions. I could do this stuff.”

So when second semester of freshmen year came, I did what a lot of freshmen should do. I reconsidered my major after careful reflection and decided to not only change majors, but also switch schools. I applied to transfer to the College of Arts and Sciences out of CSOM and I finally declared a major in communication. I registered for Rhetorical Tradition with Bonnie Jefferson, who was leaving at the end of the semester, which I found poetic in some way. As one of the most respected communication professors at BC retired, I entered into communication uneducated, but with an excitement to learn.

That was the difference between communication and CSOM. I wasn’t excited with the material I learned in CSOM. I ended up taking one last CSOM class called Computers in Management with Professor Gallaugher. It is still one of the best classes I’ve taken at BC, but this was mostly because of how great of a professor he is. He educated me on the technology boom in business and how intertwined technology and business were becoming.  On the other hand, Jefferson lectured our class on the history of rhetoric and I saw myself becoming immersed into Kenneth Burke and found myself critically analyzing everything in my path. Communication was teaching to me to think critically, respond critically and study in a way that offered me so much enrichment, so much more happiness.

I was happy, but I felt something missing, so I decided to pick up another major. I declared English to be my second major, but I found that while I liked poetry and writing (and still love to write clearly), I noticed I was passionate in another field. During my time at BC, I had become more aware of social issues and I wanted to study the science behind them, so I decided to take care of my social science core in one semester, while also figuring out if I really wanted to drop English and declare a Sociology major instead. My second semester sophomore year, I registered for Intro to sociology and Inequality in America and halfway through the semester, I dropped English and declared sociology as my second major.

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2012/ Flickr

Photo courtesy of 401(K) 2012/ Flickr

To freshmen undecided about what major(s) or minor(s) to choose – don’t go by the dollar sign. Go by how happy you would be in this major and how interested you are in your area of study. It’s easier said than done, but it is the truth. It is not even guaranteed that every economics major or every finance major is going to make big bucks. There are history majors, philosophy majors and psychology majors who have lucrative careers solely because they took electives or internships that got them into their fields.

You have four years that are slated to be the best four years of your life, but would you want the best four years of your life to be filled with studying material you don’t find satisfying? Or would you rather major in something you like, take electives related to a career you think you may enjoy and graduate with a complete experience and a rough understanding of what you will do after graduation?

There is no right path to success, but the old saying applies even to deciding on a major. Money doesn’t buy happiness, so don’t let it dictate what major you choose.

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