October 15, 2015

JAIN | Did I Pick The Right Major?

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A recurring joke my friends and I make is chanting “STEM” at random times. An acronym standing for science, technology, engineering and math, STEM represents the career fields many Cornell students will likely pursue after graduation. I will not be one of those students, and I’m honestly not too sure how I feel about it.

Currently I am double majoring in art history and performing and media arts, two subjects most Cornelians would probably call hobbies before they would call them majors. My life wasn’t always so devoid of STEM though. I came into Cornell pre-med.

My parents are doctors and my brother is in medical school, so it just made sense for me to follow the same path. I was never really even asked what career path I wanted to pursue. Medicine was always the assumption, the safe path that would guarantee financial certainty and therefore lifelong happiness.

There are a lot of reasons I decided to quit the pre-med path. Not to sound arrogant, but it wasn’t because I couldn’t do it. My GPA probably wasn’t going to get me into Yale Medical, but I could have gotten into a middle tier medical school as long as I did fine on the MCAT. My resume was tailor made for medical school, but I was not.

I chose to abandon the pre-med track because of the same reasons I chose it in the first place. It meant nothing more to me than a definite source of income. I saw it as a way to please my parents, but not something I could ever see myself happily doing. I realized I was doing it for all the wrong reasons, so I finished organic chemistry and bowed out. So, now what?

Nearly all my friends are pursuing degrees in engineering or finance-related subjects. I hear about their internship plans almost everyday. On Monday, my best friend got an internship offer from Apple. On Wednesday, another one of my friends got a summer offer from Verizon.

Humanities majors aren’t necessarily expected to get big name internships, but that doesn’t calm my anxieties about the future. I find myself questioning my choices almost everyday. Although I have all the passion in the world for art and cinema, I cannot help but ask myself if I made a mistake by dropping out of the pre-med track.

As an art history major, my career prospects are simultaneously slim and broad. Plenty of art history majors have made it big in completely unrelated industries, such as marketing and finance. However, for every one success story, there exist thousands of not-so-happy endings.

I find myself wanting to be like my friends everyday. I want to secure an internship offer at a Fortune 500 company that will later offer me a full time job upon graduation. I have plenty of applications open on my laptop, but I find it difficult to press the send button. Will these companies take me seriously as a non-STEM major? Does my major automatically disqualify me?

Regret is universal. We all make mistakes, but it’s sort of relieving to see your mistake fully realized. I seem to be somewhere in the middle right now. Should I have quit pre-med earlier and switched to AEM? Only time will tell. Until then, I suppose I will continue to deal with any anxiety I have about the future. At least I can study something I care about in the meantime.

Akshay Jain is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences. College Stuff appears alternate Fridays this semester. He may be reached at [email protected].