Notes On Majoring In Humanities


Congratulations, you’ve chosen a humanities major! You are either really brave or hopelessly idealistic and clueless. Probably a healthy mix of all three. Below, a list of simple yet useful points I gathered along the way to completing my useless humanities degrees.

Follow your <3.

To everyone who has chosen a “useless” major or is thinking about choosing a useless major: shine on, crazy diamond. Seriously. It takes balls to stick to your guns and do what you love when everyone else is smirking at you going “So what are you gonna do with that?” (By the way, people will do this for the rest of your life — even after you graduate.) At this point you’ve probably already had your ears talked off top to bottom about the economy, the job market, “doing something practical,” whatever, and you’re all like…but I just want to study medieval German architecture, what the hell is the problem? NOTHING. There is no problem. You are perfect the way you are and the world would come to a boring standstill if not for amazingly impractical passionate weirdoes like yourself.

Know thyself.

Don’t major in something because your mom thinks it’s a good idea. Don’t major in something because your best friend’s mom thinks it’s a good idea. Don’t major in something because Newsweek’s Top 10 List Of Whatever thinks it’s a good idea. You know yourself best, so don’t let someone talk you into majoring in accounting when you can’t even add. Yes, it’s good to major in something that makes you happy, but it’s also good to major in something you don’t inherently suck at. I started my freshman year as a neuroscience major (…?) because a) I had this idea that it would benefit humanity somehow, and b) I must have the science gene because my parents are scientists, so I just need to try a little harder, right? Wrong, and it took me several C’s and a nervous breakdown in the neuro lab to figure that out. Don’t do that to yourself. Trust your own judgment.

Actually do things.

Just going to class (or not) and getting A’s in stuff will not do anything for you, I promise. You’re paying out the ass for this education, and if you really do want to be there, why not make it worth the time and money? Just do stuff. Seriously. Don’t worry about fulfilling a list of “requirements” and just goddamn learn. Work on a research project, do independent study, do a senior project on a topic you’re excited about, whatever. If your school doesn’t offer the major you want, make it yourself. Stop worrying so much about your resume and the details you can stuff it with and start making moves in the field you’re truly interested in. Make advances. If you kick ass at something, the right people will notice. And yeah, if you can get a 3.8 while being a drunken mess, cool for you. But if you can get a 3.8 and complete a senior honors thesis on Beat literature through a feminist lens while being a drunken mess, you’re a god.

Go to office hours.

No one ever does until they find themselves failing a class or needing a letter of recommendation, but you should do it. You don’t have to pitch a tent outside your favorite professor’s office every week to build a good relationship with them, but if you’re taking a class with someone you admire who you can learn more from and could possibly work with later, it would make sense to get to know them. Plus, if you know you’re going to be asking for a letter of recommendation eventually, you should probably make sure they know your face as something other than drooling blankly on a textbook in the far back during lecture.

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