Anna Schultz-Girl On Computer In Bed

Reflections From a Student of ​Forbes's​ #1 Worst Major

Self-conscious comparisons to fellow students and fears of post-graduate joblessness are a common university experience, but when it comes to that little extra level of major-induced anxiety, I think I’ve got most people beat.

“So... what exactly... ​is​ anthropology?” is the awkward question I get from my grandma, fellow Duke students, Tinder matches, and the airport security guard who watched me reprint my ticket three times. I don’t blame them, but there’s only so many “I’ve got Forbes's #1 Worst Major” and “I’m never going to get a job” jokes-but-not-really-jokes you can make without it getting to you.

My academic philosophy has always been to not worry so much about the future. Do what I enjoy, and the opportunities that are right for me will fall into place. It’s worked pretty well so far: I got into a great university without forcing myself into classes and extracurriculars that felt meaningless. But even though I’m surrounded by like-minded college students and faculty, it seems that more and more people are telling me my philosophy is the wrong way to go.

I get questions like “What do you actually plan to do with that major?” and “Are you okay living without a large salary?”. The “Are you sure you don’t want a computer science minor?” has come up more than once at the dinner table.

I get vivid flashbacks of a high school upperclassman lamenting the loss of his friend’s meaningful college education: “He’s crazy smart, like, the smartest person in our grade. And he decided to go into video production! Can you believe that? What a waste of talent.”

I know many of the more obscure social science, liberal arts, and fine arts majors deal with a very similar experience. In the eyes of many, these “soft” majors are for kids who can’t handle the rigor of engineering, business, biochem, or computer science.

As much as the confusion and questions and jokes can bother me, I know that what I am doing is not a waste. I am intensely proud of what I learn. My major has greatly influenced the way I approach sensitive issues and view the people around me. In terms of monetary value, I am well aware that anthropology will never be the highest earner. But I’m following something I’m passionate about, something I am excited to share with others, something I feel is extremely important in our world today. That should be enough.