Last week in Stern dining, a freshman stated “I just don’t think people would respect me as much if I majored in the humanities.” A few weeks into Stanford, he had already picked up on the underlying difference in respect we have for academic disciplines.
Sitting at a table with a friend RAing in Zapata, I felt my sophomore struggle: deciding a major while being at peace with the future repercussions.
After a wide-eyed freshman year, sophomore year is here. An upperclassman once told me that the biggest transition was the jump from freshman to sophomore year: Greeks have self-separated, athletes can room with athletes, and freshman year friends have solidified.
There’s more work, a different social scene, and for the other half of the sophomore class California has lost its newness. Walking around the activities fair, my friends sat behind the booths.
Sarai (a sophomore like me!) got 40 plus likes on her declaring Symbolic Systems status; by the end of the year, we’ll all make a decision. The Class of 2016 is no longer the newest banner in Old Union, and we’ve gone and integrated into the larger Stanford community.
Since coming back to school, I’ve been trying to figure out what academic trajectory I want to be on and what major will also lead to a happy, healthy life. Stanford has a plethora of opportunities, but it sometimes feels like the default career opinion is computer science and engineering and of the remaining majors, there aren’t many humanities people that aren’t trying to be a doctor or lawyer.
As an undecided major, it’s hard trying to figure out what is it that you want to study and what options that leaves you with after graduation.
When I came to Stanford, my name became the source of good-natured jokes referencing McKinsey; to be honest, I didn’t know that consulting existed in high school.
At Stanford, one default option is consulting or finance. I don’t think many of us come to college with the intention of dating PowerPoint and Excel; however, for a chunk of us, these relationships happen.
Rob Reich, a Stanford professor in Political Science, and Ezra Klein, a blogger for the Washington Post, have both written on how Stanford and its peer institutions send its students rushing into finance and consulting.
The pay is high, there’s a set precedent on how to get there, and like Stanford, the acceptance rates are low, and the club is exclusive. Klein’s opinion is the post-grad flee to Wall Street is partly due to universities failing to teach students applicable skills in many undergrad classes.
Elite colleges produce intelligent liberal arts students with terrifyingly disciplined work ethics who have no idea what to do next. According to these writers, the finance industry profits from this confusion, attracting students who didn’t intend to work in finance but aren’t sure what they want, so it becomes the next step.
My resident tutor from last year worked at such an institution over the summer, and his commentary was that this path is a way for people who care a lot about money to make it given they don’t have a more creative way to do so.
A senior in my dorm talked about his investment banking internship hours from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. There was about one girl for every 20 male interns, but fortunately, it didn’t feel uneven, because all the secretaries were women.
To be honest, I feel a little cheated right now. Our generation has been told do what you love, but as I grow up, it’s become apparent that not all academic disciplines are equally valued.
Everyone in our student body is amazing, but the average graduating BA student from Stanford has a starting salary of $33,251 while the BS makes $76,785. For the humanities to gain further respect at Stanford, more incentives need to be there, but for now, I’m not surprised that the freshmen are scared of the humanities. I am too.
Contact McKenzie Andrews at andrews7 ‘at’ stanford.edu