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Here Are The Pros & Cons Of Making Your Major Your Aesthetic

Across social media, people have been putting the core in core curriculum. It’s becoming increasingly popular to aestheticize the collegiate world, and whether you study psychology or STEM, no major is safe. The rise of dark academia and BookTok seems to correlate with the recent emergence of studying vlogs, reading challenges, and vision boards associated with your field of study. Learning is hot. It’s cool. It’s trendy. But is it necessarily wrong to approach education with this mindset?
Short answer: No, there’s no “wrong” way to go about your studies — unless, of course, you blow off all your classes. Still, aestheticizing your major can reach unhealthy extremes. Romanticizing and attaching an aesthetic to anything runs the risk of becoming disillusioning. While in some ways it can be beneficial to idealize your studies, you should also be aware of the potential dangers it might pose. Aestheticize in moderation, I say.

Romanticization and aestheticism certainly have a lot of overlap, and I tend to use them interchangeably. But to respond to the question I presented, no, they’re technically not the same thing. As I see it, romanticization is an act of glorifying something. Rather than acknowledging the negatives, you focus solely on the positives. Meanwhile, aestheticism aligns more with the style and material aspects of a concept. Since these are both very brief definitions, I urge you to do more research on the differences between the two. 

When I say “aestheticizing your major,” what I generally mean is this: you treat your major as a trend. It isn’t so much a field of study, but more so a way of dressing and presenting yourself as a student of your discipline. Any TikTok that’s about “biology core” or “philosophy core” turns a major into an aesthetic, whereas “study with me” and vlog-style videos tend to teeter more on the romanticization line. As I said before, the two phenomena have a lot of overlay. Most of the same risks and benefits associated with aestheticism apply to romanticization as well.

Pro: Increased Motivation

One of the most obvious benefits of aestheticizing your major would probably be motivation. When I see those “do homework with me” videos on TikTok, I instantly feel the need to be productive. There’s something so incentivizing about watching someone else do work in a cozy setting, whether that be a cafe or a bookstore. Scrolling through these TikToks, I always think to myself, This seems like something I should be doing. Why am I not doing this now? And in some cases, I’ll drag myself out of bed to the nearest coffee shop or “aesthetic” study place, where I’ll then force myself to do work.

Con: Overproductivity

Although “study with me” TikToks might push you to be more proactive about your schoolwork, they might also uphold a girlboss, hustle culture narrative. Hustling, as you all know, can quickly lead to burnout. Don’t measure your days by how productive they are, and by all means, don’t measure your self-worth that way, either. 
When you’re watching “do homework with me” TikToks, don’t get hung up on thinking, Should this be how I do work, too? No TikTok can tell you how you should do work. And frankly, routinely doing your work at a coffee shop is a quick way to drain your bank account. Work at your own pace and wherever you feel most comfortable. Allow yourself breaks, too. TikTokers tend to omit breaks from their study videos, but they’re a necessary step in any work routine.

Pro: Developing Your Passions

BookTok, which I relate to academia, has generated a totally new demographic of readers. Instead of writing books off as “nerdy,” Gen Z has cultivated a community where they can discuss their love of reading and explore titles that other users recommend. While BookTok is not without its faults, it’s refreshing to see that there’s a side of TikTok that gives a platform to readers. Since the birth of BookTok, book sales have dramatically risen by 50%. Let that sink in.

Your college courses can have a very similar effect on you. Ideally, you’re taking the classes you’re enrolled in because you’re enthusiastic about the subject. Or maybe you took a class on a whim, but will soon discover that it’s something you’re interested in and want to learn more about in the future. Aside from getting you a job, college is meant to help you develop your talents and passions. Your classes give you a space to connect with people who share your interests and to challenge your understanding of the subject. Aestheticizing these classes, whether you choose to dress up for them or curate playlists that match their vibe, is just another way to show your pride and eagerness to learn.

Con: Glossing Over The Full Picture

College is hard. It’s a universal experience to sit in the library for five hours, stare at your blank screen, fight back tears, and contemplate dropping your major or changing schools altogether. When you promote an idyllic version of studying and doing schoolwork, you ignore the unglamorous realities of it. Though romanticizing your experiences can help you cope with the negatives, you don’t want to fool yourself into thinking they’re nonexistent. 

There are some days where you’ll show up to the library in yesterday’s clothing, towing Advil instead of an expensive latte for the inevitable stress headaches you’ll get. You just have to learn to get comfortable with messiness. That’s easier said than done, I know, but just remember that it’s impossible for every moment of your life to be “aesthetic.” You’re allowed to be mad about school. You’re allowed to be stressed about it, too. These feelings are bound to come up, and though they’ll eventually pass, there’s no reason to deny that they’re there.

Jill Schuck

Trinity '23

Jill Schuck is currently a senior at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. There, she majors in creative writing and minors in rhetoric and media studies, with hopes of working in publishing. Aside from reading and writing, Jill enjoys traveling, practicing self-care, and spending too much money on matcha.