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Recently, my dad admitted to me that he had some concerns when I decided to major in English at Dartmouth. Of course, now that I've been admitted to multiple top law schools (forgive my bragging, but I promise it's relevant), we can laugh about that. But I get it. When I decided to major in English, I was all of nineteen years old, unbearably enthusiastic about Dostoevsky and not overly familiar with what we call "the real world." My parents trusted me and never tried to persuade me to change majors. In fact, they never voiced their concerns at all, and for that, I am very thankful. But were they right to do so? Did I just get lucky? Some of you have parents who are investing a lot of money to send you here; others have families who depend on you, financially or otherwise. As a sophomore, you'll be picking from a long list of potential majors, not to mention double majors, minors, and modified majors. So it's worth asking: how much does your major matter for your future? Or, to put it in other words, are there "useless majors" at Dartmouth?

The short answer is no. Almost all Dartmouth undergraduates leave here with a bachelor of arts (we do offer a bachelor of engineering), and while undergraduate courses matter for medical school and some other graduation programs, for the most part, your major is not horribly important if you have the skills a potential employer is looking for. The English department sends students to the best-known consulting firms just as regularly as the economics department. Biology, psychology, music, and theater majors alike go into finance, enter law/medical/graduate school, join non-profits, or write for national newspapers. While students hoping to enter medical school need to take the pre-med track, they can major in anything—and many of them major in the humanities, like Caroline, who is a Classics major on the pre-med track. A Dartmouth degree is immensely flexible, regardless of your major, because employers like what Dartmouth graduates bring to the table. The numbers speak for themselves. Going to Dartmouth allows you to pursue what you want and feel confident about your job prospects after graduation.

My friend lying on the ground because she couldn't decide what to major in
True story: this is my friend lying on the ground because she couldn't decide what to major in.

When it comes to your education, I promise you will have the same quality of instruction no matter what department(s) becomes your home. And every department here—yes, every department—provides you with skills that employers desperately want. The English department has given me an incredible reading comprehension, to the point that I did not have to study at all for the LSAT's reading section. My major has also honed my writing and researching skills, which I'll use every day in law school and after. And I've found that understanding culture and history tends to come in handy when you least expect it. While I developed marketable skills, I also got to study what I love: literature.

This brings me to my final point. Undergraduate may be the last time you get to learn for the sake of it. If you're reading this, you probably want or need a bachelor's degree to achieve your goals. But if you don't need any specific courses, or if you only need a few, then you have room to study something "useless." I promise! College is a lot like training as a football player. Football players lift weights, run long distances, and even learn ballet. But no football player has to bench press, jog five miles, or dance on the field during a game. It's intuitive, however, that the training is not always simply reflective of the game because other exercises can prepare the football player's body in a way that playing football alone will not. Your college experience will not be like your career, but that does not make it useless or unhelpful. So a philosophy/music/studio art/environmental studies/etc. major is not useless, even if it does not reflect what you'll do in the future. It is training for whatever you do next.

My family and I at a football game
Hey, look at that! My family and I at a football game! And I mentioned both of those things in this post... how convenient.

Some Dartmouth graduates regret what they studied, not because it was "useless," but because it wasn't what they wanted. They felt the pressures, self-imposed or familial or societal, to pick a major that sounded reasonable and promising over one that sounded, well, "useless." And after graduating, they then saw that their friends who chose the useless major were at no disadvantage. I do not believe this is the case at every college, but a Dartmouth degree can truly go anywhere you need it to. Do you want to make money? Make a change? Become famous? Travel the world? I cannot promise a Dartmouth degree will get you there, but it will never hinder you, no matter what you study while you're here.

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