12/13 Special: Major Decisions

Hey there! This is a college major sidebar that never made it to the package due to time constraints, but I like it, so I published it here instead!

It seems as if we’ve managed to harness the gift of prophecy (crystal ball optional), traditional and competitive environment present and at attention. If majoring in either the humanities or STEM, one can determine their eventual happiness and success — without the topsy-turvy rhymes.

To choose the path of the humanitarian, commonly referred to as the starving artist, is to warm oneself in the cheery flame of their own paintbrushes. To choose the second path is to tread the fruitfully road of an economist or engineer, retreating to his high rise apartment with a cup of expensive green juice.

Unsurprisingly, the probability of “success” partially determines the major a student chooses.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration released a report on the rapidly increasing STEM workforce. According to their statistics, STEM occupations are estimated to increase by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018. In contrast, non-STEM occupations are expected to grow by 9.8 percent, roughly half that of STEM careers. STEM workers also command higher wages, about twenty-six percent more than their non-STEM peers.

With the lower employment rate and pay, a career in the humanities — such as art or journalism — may feel daunting, especially when living in Silicon Valley, a major tech hub.

Senior Jennifer Lee was originally nervous about majoring in art, because she was interested in observational drawing, a type of art she believes isn’t as prominent in Cupertino. However, her growing interest in product design soon diminished her fears.

“As I became aware of all the opportunities we have for art [here] like product design, I’m not really afraid,” she said.

Nowadays, she believes there’s an artistic side to Silicon Valley, even if it is a breeding ground for tech startups.

“I soon became aware that our community is full of art and creative stuff, so you get a chance to express how you feel about the community and bring greater changes to it,” Lee said.

A majority of college-educated immigrants from Asia have a bachelor’s degrees in a STEM subject. According to The National Bureau of Economic Research, Immigrants account for more than half of all STEM workers with Ph.D.s,” and this is especially prominent in software programming and computer-related careers. These immigrants must carry the cultural switch — moving from Asia to America — in hopes of establishing a well-rounded and educational life for their children.

It’s quite unexpected, as their child seems to willingly turn off the parents’ STEM beaten path and head toward the humanities, with a paint brush sticking out of their skinny jeans.

“It’s always the children’s happiness, you know. Can you compromise some happiness for what will pay for a roof over your head?” College and Career advisor Le-Xuan Cao said, when asking students who wonder whether they should follow their passions or the will of their concerned parents, who’ve been hit head-on with the realization their child is at last an adult. And uncoincidentally, parents and students gravitate toward the kinds of jobs that can help them achieve a certain standard of living.

“In India, the only ‘real’ paths were doctor and engineer. All their classes, from what I’ve been told, were tailored to STEM subjects,” senior Manya Balachander said. “My mom was completely out of the norm, majoring in journalism.”

Balachander is majoring in international relations and psychology, and her parents wholeheartedly approve of her decision. Her dad may try to persuade her about how riveting calculus can be, but luckily for her, he is also one of her “most supportive people,” she says.

As children mature and grow into their own skin, it may be up to the parents to acknowledge their newfound independence. Balachander believes parents are required to shift from an ultimate ‘role model’ to more of support for what their child truly aspires to be as children grow up.

Contrastingly, if one is being routinely discouraged by their parents, Lee thinks it’s up to the student to prove themselves.

“Show them you’re capable of preserving,” Lee said. “Imagine yourself as successful [in your passion] and I don’t think your parents will discourage you.”

 

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