Last week, my professor gave my class some personal advice. To sum it up, he told us to choose our majors and aspire towards certain careers for one reason and one reason only: a love for the subject and an interest in the profession.
Later, during our weekly section, one of my classmates challenged what our professor had said, telling him upfront that it was probably the worst advice she’d ever heard. While he thought that careers should be based off of interest and natural talent, she thought it was completely irresponsible and impractical to ignore the economic concerns that vary between different career paths. With our undergraduate education costing around $30,000 a year, she argued that students could not simply wait around for the subject that “clicks” with them; students were making the right, informed choice when choosing certain majors that led to higher incomes. Money, being one of the fabrics of our society, plays an important role in the decisions we make as pre-career, undergraduate students.
Yet if money were to be the only thing we based our decisions off of, why wouldn’t we all be engineering majors? Besides the fact that I would probably drop out after the first quarter, there is also the underlying yearning shared by all of us whether we like it or not: we crave passion.
We hear both sides every day: “Follow your dreams,” and, “Find your passion,” versus, “This market has really good job opportunities,” and, “This career will make you a lot of money.” In high school, you may have taken a test that assigns you the professional career that fits you best. My results told me that I would excel at being a wedding planner, and while I do enjoy planning events such as parties and dances, let’s be honest: I’d much rather crash a wedding than plan one.
Then my counselor told me that I should major in English because I scored well on the AP Literature test and on the writing section of the SAT. However, to me, writing essays upon essays for the next four years sounded more like selling my soul than attending college (no offense, English majors).
The bottom line is that in these early years of young adulthood, most students aren’t sure of what their passion is yet. We want to find it, but we just don’t know how. And the one thing we’re sure of is that money is important, because it lets you live comfortably and escape the worries of not being able to sustain the lifestyle you desire.
Coming out of high school without a clear vision of what path to take or which passion to pursue, many freshmen (including myself) respond to the words “jobs,” “money” and “opportunity” with open ears. Is that bad? My professor would argue yes and my classmate would argue no. I say to hell with both of them. Yes, financial security is an important factor when making decisions about your future. Yes, happiness is also an important factor when thinking about the job you’ll be doing for the next several decades. But do these two factors have to be seen on the opposite sides of the spectrum? To say, “Yes, definitely,” would be as ridiculous as UCSB’s ranking at No. 2 instead of No. 1 on Princeton Review’s Top Party Schools (seriously, what is the deal with that?).
So what’s the best answer then? There isn’t one really, or at least not one that’s the same for all of us. Although “money can’t buy happiness,” it sure as hell can put a roof over your head and a nice warm meal on the table. However, how you get that money is completely up to you. Chasing a goal solely for the end amount of cash isn’t the best strategy in the book. No matter who you are or what you’re after, you’re going to want have fun while you chase whatever it is you decide to pursue. Sure, an engineering major might statistically be better off than a psychology major, but the world we live in wasn’t built by statisticians. And we wouldn’t be college students in the first place unless we adhered to the motto “#YOLO.”
As young adults, the only way we’re sure to avoid the constant, pressing advice of those around us is by locking ourselves in our rooms and shutting off all human contact, something I’d strongly advise you against doing. The thing is, it’s a natural tendency for those older than us to warn us about the future based of their own experiences or observations. But it’s our job to decide which advice we’re going to listen to and which advice we’re going to throw into the lagoon. Most importantly, take to heart the advice that is going to further your own interests and passions. After all, today’s top scientists say that the only reason our lagoon smells so bad is from all of that rotten advice.
Travis Zane is a first-year economics/accounting major.