The myth of a superior major or field of study has created drama between students with different academic interests. Instead of promoting a supportive community of intellectual equals, we are promoting stereotypes that exclude others simply based on one’s major.
Typically, majors that lead to more high-paying job opportunities are considered superior and students with those majors sometimes perceive themselves as superior to students with other majors. This, however, is not always the case; not all students with so-called prestigious majors will be more successful than those with less prestigious majors. It is not difficult to find successful people with less prestigious majors, just as it is not difficult to find people with STEM majors who have not had any career success. There is no one or set of majors that translates into economic prosperity. Success is not determined by the difficulty of a field of study, but by so many other factors. Some claim career success is determined by interpersonal competence, others claim it is the ability to work well under pressure. There is no one right answer, but intelligence or field of study is not the sole factor of success. Therefore, it is unacceptable to promote the notion that students with the most prestigious majors will end up working the most prestigious jobs, this is a disunifying stereotype on college campuses that hinders the sense of community among college students.
One’s perception of a major’s superiority can also be determined by the difficulty of the courses it entails. Many people associate majors with intellectual capacity; in other words, they judge how smart you are by your major. So people with prestigious majors such as PNB (Physiology and Neurobiology) can be seen are more intelligent than those with less prestigious majors. This is a misleading stereotype that discourages and intimidates students on campus. Making one group of students perceive themselves as smarter or more capable than the rest of the student body can also instill a sense of inferiority in students who are not part of that group. This discourages them from branching out into different fields of study and expanding their knowledge because they do not feel they are smart enough to handle the challenging courses in prestigious fields. Excluding students from courses and programs by implementing an intellectual hierarchy gives an unfair advantage to those students who are in that ‘superior’ group. Those students often impose these stereotypes upon their friends in less prestigious majors than them and promote this sense of inequality of majors.
Instead of promoting a misleading stereotypic academic hierarchy, it is important to promote the pursuit of something one is passionate about, to choose a major because you are excited, interested and passionate about the field it can lead you to, not because it is perceived as being superior. Success comes more naturally when it is in a field you love and from a job that fulfills you. Perceiving yourself as superior to others because your major is considered more prestigious shows a great deal of weakness and insecurity on your part. If you are confident that you will be successful in your major, whether prestigious or not, you should rid yourself of any qualms about superiority and inferiority. In a campus community, all students, regardless of their majors, should feel equal to one another and supported by one another. Without this, our community becomes overly competitive, which commonly brings out the worst in my students.
Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.