Making your major (and your life) work for you

“ESCAPE THE MATRIX!”

“Here’s how I made 30k my first month as a _____!”

“DON’T GO TO COLLEGE!”

“If I started my _____ journey to 100k again, here’s what I would do!”

 So many toxic motivational videos—particularly short-formed ones like TikTok or Instagram’s Reels—tell their hundreds of thousands of viewers how to live their lives. There is an entire universe of alternate lives we could have lived, choices we could have made, and career pathways we embarked on and avoided all accessible in the palm of our hand. From advice on “how to become a millionaire in your 20s” to calls to “escape the matrix, join the wealth universe,” motivational influencers of TikTok and Instagram deliver less motivation and more anxiety with their slogans of rapid success.

As I see people and voices and articles all around me convinced me of what exactly it is I need to do in my post-graduate life—while I have not even heard back  from my undergraduate college applications yet—it has become second nature to be overstimulated and overwhelmed with feelings of envy, misery, self-loathing, and regret every time I start to scroll. 

Did I major in the wrong thing? Where did I go wrong? Is it already too late for me?

As a high school senior two months away from adulthood, frankly, I am already prone to worry about the uncertainty in the future ahead of me. For many of my peers alike,
“motivational” content like this only feeds into growing self-doubt and insecurity: scrolling through one “how did I become financially independent at 20” video after another, we fear that  we invested our time into the “wrong” extracurricular activities that set us up for the wrong college major, wrong internship, wrong career, and thus falling into a lifetime’s financial and overall instability.

But how focused are we on other people’s lives to the point that we discredit our years of dedication towards academic fields and professional pursuits because it differs from those with millions of likes on TikTok

For college students and graduates of the liberal arts fields, they are constantly bombarded with predatory questions like, “And what exactly are you planning to do with that degree?” In response, recent microtrends on TikTok emerged showcasing university student’s success stories in stereotypically “unsuccessful” fields such as  “unsuccessful”  communications, international relations and film over the highlight reel. And even then the same graduates posting such content are exposed to the same “How I moved out right after college” videos as if that experience deems a person unprofessional, unskilled, or easily disregarded in our economy. 

While it is true that STEM degree graduates often make up to three times as much as graduates from private schools in the liberal arts fields, it should not prevent students from pursuing a liberal arts degree and facing the regret that social media so deeply instills. Why did we start labeling them as a waste of time, and money, and as if you are signing yourself up for a horrible life?

When students proactively utilize the resources around them and make the most out of their undergraduate years to equip themselves with strong professional networks and career-ready skills, students from all universities and majors have the equal potential to excel in the professional world—contrary to the stereotype of a jobless and dejected liberal arts graduate who is destined to doom simply because of their undergraduate major or university.  

One of my favorite TikTok and Instagram influencers who works to break down this stereotype is is Avalon Fenster (@internshipgirl). By reposting and publicizing internship and scholarship opportunities for girls worldwide at all levels of education, Fenster inspires liberal arts students to find their success confidently via hands-on professional experiences.. Her story is personally encouraging to me because although she attends Barnard College, Columbia University’s smaller liberal arts counterpart, her resume resembles that of a top Ivy League, nepotism child, and interdisciplinary professional all at once. 

One primary stressor of hers is how the institution you attended does not determine your post-graduate success nearly as much as how much you choose to get involved and utilize opportunities open to you. 

Many of these “motivational” videos promote an unhealthy pursuit of professional perfection–and this pursuit is unrealistic because many people achieve great heights in life that are particular to their ambitions and interests. 

You can still make it with a theater  degree, international relations, political science, history, or whatever! The life ahead offers countless paths to success regardless of the major you pick!! You just need to be willing to give it your all to make it happen. That just goes for everything–even in computer science, the field is so oversaturated and competitive that it is not so easy for them to secure a job either (Entry-level computer scientists’ jobs are just as replaceable by artificial intelligence (AI) as others). Just do your best and give it your all! 

What should be instilled heavily should be the exploration of opportunities instead of only what is the right step to take according to viral content creators.  Regardless of field of study or university of attendance, students who are not afraid of taking on opportunities outside of their comfort zone and advancing their career skills via professional experience are most likely to succeed in the long run. 

Attending career fairs and networking events in college needs to start during your undergraduate studies–especially with the tendency for “entry-level” jobs to require 4-5 years of experience. 

In the comment sections of TikTok and Instagram motivational videos, postgraduates’ mounting complaints of an increasingly competitive job search landscape reveal the humble truth to success that we can all benefit from without an ivy-league degree in rocket science: Building a network, regardless of one’s professional field, is truly the defining factor in one’s success after college. 

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