Why Choose if You Don’t Have To?

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  • You think you know everything about going to college. You know when to send in your applications and what to say on them. You have the perfect essay all planned out. You have a hard timeline for applying for financial aid. You’ve even figured out how to get good deals on textbooks. Here is something that nobody ever tells you: the smaller details of college are easy. It is the bigger details, like picking a major, that are hard.

    That’s right: choosing a major, for a lot of students, is really hard. This is because we still believe, in spite of the evidence that tells us otherwise, that the thing we major in while we are getting our undergraduate degrees is what will dictate the rest of our lives. We’re told that we have to choose a subject and make a lifetime commitment to it. It’s natural to be freaked out by that, especially if your interests and passions are varied.

    Combining Passion With Practicality

    It is also difficult if you have parents who are pressuring you away from your passions and toward something more practical. For example, let’s say you love graphic design and you want to be a graphic artist when you leave school. Your parents, though, keep saying: “why can’t you just go into HR and doodle on the weekends?” There’s nothing wrong with a career in Human Resources, of course, but the idea of studying basic communications and business stuff for the next four years fills you with existential dread.

    Here’s a truth that your parents don’t yet know but that you can help them understand: in the new millennium, there are lots of opportunities to combine passion and practicality. Better still, most of these “hybrid” careers are well paid!  Here are just a few ways that you can combine the thing you love and the thing that will better your chances for steady employment.

    Designing Websites

    You love digital art and you want to build a career as a digital artist. Your parents, however, are insistent that you choose something more practical to study than “art.” Enter: the Media Arts degree. A lot of schools now have degree programs in which students enrolling in web design courses pair what they learn in those classrooms with the “more practical” skills of coding, usability, visual editing programs, etc. If you want to be guaranteed a job after you graduate, knowing how to build and design a fully fleshed out website is the best way to do that.

    Sound Engineering

    Yes, you might be your school’s first chair for the cello and you might have even won some awards. Still, paid positions for cellists are difficult to come by. That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to resign yourself to only playing for fun. Why not find a way to add some practicality to your music major by adding a specialty in engineering? Knowing how to build and engineer sound for other musicians–both live and in the studio–is a practical skill that is incredibly useful, even if you don’t really want to work in a recording studio. Television shows, news broadcasts, podcasters, web videos, movies, concerts, live events–they all require someone who knows how to make things sound good. Plus, the education you’ll get in cabling and wiring can help you get other jobs that might not relate to sound at all.

    Editing and Journalism

    It’s true that when your parents went to college, the English Lit major was one of the least practical majors students could choose. Today, though–so much of what we do depends on our ability to communicate well. With a communications emphasis, you can go into editing at a publishing house, working as a copywriter for an ad agency or even building a career as a journalist. Knowing how to work with words and “bend them to your will” is one of the best things that you can learn in college.
    Have you found a way to add practicality to your passion? How did you do that?

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