WASHINGTON – As a one-time college professor, I’ve been attempting to answer a torrent of questions via Quora from prospective students looking for help in the admissions process and advice as they plan their upcoming college majors and degree programs. Some of these questions are naive and silly, as they’re essentially unanswerable. Others, however — those involving the choice of a college major and the likely job prospects in such an area — are crucial. Practically speaking, making the right, not the emotional, choice here will determine whether the student will earn enough to pay off his or her absurdly high college loan debt; or be consigned forever to the dismal hell of sharecropping one’s way through life.
Many of the questions I get are actually unanswerable. As in: If I have a GPA of 2.9 and have some Martian ancestry, can I get admitted to Ivy League University? I just take a pass on these. In all seriousness, how the hell should I know? I’m not on any college admission committee. Nor am I aware of each university’s Byzantine methodologies for dumping a prospective student’s grades, test scores, politics, diversity and wokeness into a unique, virtual Cuisinart to decide who gets admitted. And which offers will signal the greatest virtue for a given institution.
On the other hand, answerable questions I get include practical matters, like choosing a major. Here, in expanded form, are a few of my observations on these topics. Hopefully, they’ll help out at least some of our college-age readers and their families to examine the prospect of a college education, and life thereafter, with a clear, rational eye.
Do you want truth, or fiction?
My answers can be rather acidic at times. But to be honest, looking back, I wish that many people I consulted on such matters back in the day would have been more specific – and blunt – about prospects and career paths when I was seeking guidance. Currying favor with and admiration from a young questioner is doing that young person no favor. Frankness and honesty is the way to go. If that idealistic questioner ultimately chooses to ignore your hard-earned advice, that’s his or her choice to make.
That said, let’s get going on today’s burning topic. One that ultimately determines whether you’ll find a good job, a bad job, an ugly job or no job at all once you head off into the sunset with your worthwhile — or worthless — degree.
What’s the best academic major?
Theoretically, there is no “best” college major. That said, upon graduation, do you expect to work at McDonalds? Or do you expect to program high-speed trading computers for some mega-huge Wall Street hedge fund?
Back in my younger days (1960s and 1970s), pretty much any degree would get you in the door at a decent company, many of which were seeking smart, creative generalists with nearly any background.
But today, things are very different. And for that reason, assuming you’re up to the task, your best choice is to choose a STEM major. I.e.,earning a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math.
There are quite a few reasons favoring this choice, not all of them uplifting. But in my increasingly long life, I’ve learned one very big thing: Following your heart can feel better than anything in the world; but following where reason leads you is ultimately the best way to go. At least when it comes to choosing a college major.
Humanities and “Studies” degrees in an age of academic ideologues: In pursuit of the romantic. And the worthless.
Choosing to pursue a degree today in the humanities – my academic choice, for better or worse – is a recipe for disaster in 2019. Unless, of course, you seek training as a social justice footsoldier. Disciplines involving history and literature have been eviscerated over the last 40 years. The English and American literary canons have been thrown out the door at a majority of American colleges and universities.
Even worse: Departments who grant degrees in various faux disciplines ending in the word “Studies.” Graduating with a degree like this gives you roughly two alternatives when it comes to looking for work after college. Since you’ve likely learned to become a professional radical, or, at the very least, an unpleasant and potentially disruptive ideologue, a great many employers won’t bother, leaving you to that proverbial burger-flipping job at Mickey D’s. Or worse: At low pay, you can become what’s euphemistically known as a “community organizer,” stirring up trouble and “revolution” wherever you go. Even worse, Antifa will probably be glad to have you.
“You want fries with that?”
The problem with academic selection these days is this: Leftist radicals now running humanities and related “studies” departments have systematically replaced the study of Western literature, philosophy and history with ideological indoctrination consigning our rich literary, historical and cultural traditions to the trash barrel. Marxist academic committees systematically replaced western tradition and culture with “alternative” tracts, texts and historically selective readings. All focus on various flavors of anti-American, anti-Western and Marxist thought.
Ruthless replacing history, literature and the arts with Marxist-flavored ideology deprives today’s students of historical, social and artistic context. As a result, students who choose to major in these “disciplines” have wasted their money on an academic dead end. Their diplomas mean nothing to most employers. In fact, most employers know a likely HR problem already lives within these graduates’ heads. Consequently, earning a BA in these areas today will likely get you a job at McDonalds and not much more.
Additionally, in most humanities disciplines today, pursuit of advanced degrees, particularly the Ph.D., is not worth the time or the money. Mainly because you rarely discuss the expected discipline. In the general area of business, an MBA can eventually prove to be a good credential. Particularly if your company has a program that pays for your tuition. But in 2019, even some prestigious MBA programs are suffering drop-offs in enrollment. They’ve become too expensive for what you get in the business world. As a result, prospective students increasingly view them as not worth the money.