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Here’s what it’s really like to major in the liberal arts at Clemson

Going to college is a big decision. For most new students, it is a decision often met with congratulatory messages from friends and family. It is an accomplishment that students should be happy and proud about. However, while the decision to attend college has always been encouraged, when it comes down to choosing a major, different majors can have varying reactions.  

“I had a lot of negative stigma towards choosing my major,” said Madison Wakefield, a freshman in Production Studies for Performing Arts. “I constantly had the ideology that I was going to be looked down upon in society just because I was pursuing what I love, what my passion was.”
Combined with government initiatives that encourage STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, the pressure not to pick a major in this field can be daunting.
Wakefield talked about this issue and highlighted how important the support from her family was in her final decision.
“My parents were not against me majoring in theater, they actually supported it. When I was deciding which college to go to, I told my family I was going to a small school in Maryland, studying forensic science and getting an actual job,” Wakefield said. “And they just laughed in my face. They said, ‘No you are not, you are going to do what you love.’ So I had a very supportive decision process.”
Roger Bishop, a part time master’s student in English Literature, shared a similar response.
“I have always felt pretty supported. I don’t think I have ever gotten any kickback, and I think maybe that has to do with my personality,” he said.
Bishop expressed how important this support has been to him as he focuses on the impact of his work as a graduate student while balancing a full time job.
“I have never questioned it and the people around me have never questioned it. I guess I’m lucky. I am privileged. I recognize that, but I try to use that to work as hard as I can,” Bishop said.
Browsing through any list of highest paying majors, it is easy to see why on the surface, there seems to be such a divide between the majors. Engineering and other STEM majors dominate such lists, and they are very tempting to pick simply because of this. Often times, it is not until a student experiences classes that they start to see what they really want to do.
Danielle Strangie, junior in Economics, spoke about the reaction she got from switching away from a biological oriented degree.
“My whole life I had been saying that I wanted to go into the healthcare field so at first [my parents] were like is that what you want to do, are you sure you want to switch your life goals?’” Strangie said. “They were supportive of me, but they wanted to make sure I was making the right decision. All in all my family has been very supportive of my decisions”
Alexandria Cousart, a freshman in Language and International Health, spoke about why she changed her major away from general engineering.
“I really didn’t have a passion for it. It wasn’t something I enjoyed doing. And so, I decided to get out of that. If I was going to hate what I was doing then there was no point,” Cousart said. “My parents were a little skeptical, they were a little like ‘What are you going to be able to do with that, what is going to happen here?’”

Cousart added that her parents were supportive overall.
“They [my parents] were like, ‘You know as long as that is what you want to do and you think you can do something out of it, then go for it,’” Cousart said. 
Haley Horton, a sophomore in Physics, offered her own perspective.
“I have a lot of respect for the liberal arts, even though I’m not in it,” said Horton. “I love it because when I hear someone chooses a liberal arts major I know they are choosing it because they love it. And that’s what I want people choosing,” Horton said. 
Horton further explained that the assumptions people make about the liberal arts, just like assumptions made about STEM majors, can both be equally wrong.
“I think that there is an interesting dichotomy that people make between the liberal arts and the sciences of what I call, left brain right brain. People assume you have to be one of them but you can’t be both of them. Which is crazy because humans are dynamic creatures, we are never one thing. We are a mix of things,” Horton said.
While STEM majors may dominate the lists with highest paying starting salaries, those lists are no excuses for pursuing careers that one has no passion for.

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