“Mommy, I wanna major in dumb sh*t when I grow up!”

Posted by: Paris Renee

“That major that she’s majorin in don’t make no money but she wont drop out her parents’ll look at her funny.”

Dumb Sh*t Major (noun) A specific major chosen to “speed through” college tenure and ensure graduating on time. However, the pursuer of such major pays the same amount of loan back as the pursuer of a “smart major” even though only the latter generates the funds to do so.

The vast majority of Americans have succumbed to the notion that you must do whatever it takes and pay whatever cost necessary in order to get a 4 year degree. Ever since we were kids we’ve been taught that unless you have a degree, then wealth is simply not an option for you, so never be afraid of what you have to pay for college. Why? Because over the long run, you will make  back whatever you spent on college at least 10 times over. You know what I’m talking about – “On average workers with college degrees make a million dollars more than those without a degree”, right? Well after accepting this way of thinking, as a nation, we decided that we better do whatever it took to get into that ivy league school, that private college etc. etc.

But what if you don’t actually know what you want to go to school for? And how will that affect what you decide to do after you’re done with school?

I recently did a Google search for advice on picking majors. I typed in “college + major + importance” and this is an excerpt from the very first link that was provided from the appropriately titled CollegeView.com:

Many students worry that being undecided will hurt their chances of getting into the college or university of their choice. However, many schools assure students that majors have no impact on college admissions. For example, The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (UPJ) tells students that “designation of an academic major is used primarily to assist us in matchingyour expressed academic interests with appropriate academic advisors.” In addition, nearly 20 percent of UPJ’s incoming freshmen enroll as undeclared/undecided students.

And don’t worry about falling behind; many undeclared students take general academic requirements—such as English, history, or a social science—throughout their first and second semesters before choosing their major in college.

English, history or a social science? Hmm…well isn’t that appropriate for a potentially top earning student with loans to pay off. After all, it would be pushing it too far to assume that it’s the institutions goal to enroll as many qualified students in the system as possible because this is how money is generated for the university, right? So basically- don’t know what you want to do after school? No problem! Thinking about getting into business management when you graduate but you’re majoring in history? Then go ahead and major in history..no problem! Hey! How about Pan African studies?! Yeaaah. That will ensure you take the lightest math course load as possible and then graduate on time! Who cares. So what if you don’t even like black people…do it! Because at the end of the day, “it’s that you got that piece of paper that counts, not your focus of study”. Smh.

Now make no mistake, this holds true in plenty cases. There are tons of jobs that will give you a chance in a field requiring a completely different major simply because you hold a fancy paper stating you graduated from a four year, accredited university. So, then whats the big problem? Sounds like good advice right?

The problem: None of these jobs have existed since the year 2005.

The notion, still today, of pipelining our youth through college simply to get a piece of paper stating they graduated is seriously outdated. Not only that but its irresponsible, damaging and has the potential to seriously affect these kids financial lives post graduation. I don’t have to tell you that the number of recent graduates and number of projected future graduates is at stupid record highs. This means for every 1 person competing for a job that requires a degree for hiring, there are 4 others candidates at minimum that will now also have that piece of paper stating they graduated. So if you have a degree in Pan African studies and you’re applying for a corporate finance position at Citibank, what do u think the chances are of you getting the job vs the 4 other members of the competition that actually could have the specific major stated in the hiring ad?

Slim to none…especially in this economy and the way the forseeable future is shaping up. So then what do you do with mounting bills, no job in the industry you planned and now a totally warped view of the world? Well there’s always the players club…

The financial resource website, WalletPop.com recently posted an article about the soaring tuition issues today:

In 2008, according to The Project on Student Debt, 72% of students from private non-profit universities graduated with an average debt of $27,650, an increase of 29% since 2004. That’s $1,000-plus over the average yearly tuition at private institutions and almost four times the average cost of in-state public tuition. In other words: It will mean more than adecade of loan payments, interest charges and income drain for the average collegiate. And that’s assuming the graduate lands a job in his or her chosen field. For those relegated to the ranks of barista gigs and dog-walking work in this Great Recession, the debt sentence will likely stretch even longer.

Ok, lets back up a moment. It’s safe to say that the majority of us know that gearing our kids for college is something we must focus on and do early on in the child’s life.  In my own experience, I remember back in high school  when I was urged by parents, teachers, and peers to go to college because it will ensure you a successful financial future. However, rarely are you urged to learn the financial implications of the repayment plans placed on someone who is forced to get a job in customer service making an amount not set up to support massive student loan debt if things don’t work out.  It seemed like after a certain  point, it became the pursuit of the American dream they wanted you to go after instead of the pursuit of your own dream! Degrees + Money + Material possessions equate success in our society, remember? But no matter how much I love Pan African studies, unless I’m in the Jesse Jackson training program, what is a PAS degree, $100,000 of debt and no job experience going to do to benefit me?

I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in pursuing your career passions in life regardless of how much they pay monthly. However, what we’re discussing here is the large group of kids who know they aren’t pursuing their passions but instead pursuing a job that is promising them a higher pay only to get all the way to the front door and realize their name was never on the list!  We’re pushing kids through a system to make more money and we don’t even provide them with the right game plan. After all of their hard work, it turns out they can’t even work these boring, nightmare jobs they’ve paid all of this money to please you and take on working at!  Instead, they’re working in customer service along with non graduates only with loans larger than a typical non graduate’s monthly salary. All in all, it’s the DEBT LEVEL that gets me. I mean there has to be another path to both career success and pursuing that which you love as well. (Full disclosure: I pursued a 4 year communications degree at Cal State L.A. for the same reason I mentioned earlier- a higher paying job. And THOSE loans are hard to keep up with so I can imagine LMU or USC debt..)

The truth is, I now can’t stand corporate America and I can’t imagine being a wage slave until I’m gray and call that happiness. Granted education is essential for intellectual growth, and knowledge is power which is why I’m definitely not at all opposed to a college education. However, I am opposed to going to college for the sake of going, pursuing degrees for the sake of having them, and accumulating unnecessary student loan debt. To be a professional student comes with an expensive price tag. If you’re looking toward having a successful future, starting out with a massive amount of debt is a heavy foot to lead with. So with that being said, here are some of my recommendations for the future generations:

  • Do we have to go to pursue a 4 year degree right out of highschool? Many friends of mine who have actually gone the other route of waiting, actually gained valuable real world experience that allowed them a perspective of that job or industry that most college kids simply wont have. With the high percentages of students who are guaranteed to change their majors at least once in College, what is so horrible about actually working in the potential field of choice before racking up needless expenses? Assistant jobs, general office jobs or even mail room/receptionist positions so these future workers if nothing else, get a taste of that specific industry. After already getting your foot in the door, the experience shown on your resume will far surpass your would be classmates by the time they actually get out in the working world. Even if it takes you a little while longer to get that degree, the time you spend there working your way up will not only provide you with a head start but it will also tell you the most important thing you need to know: do you want to do this for the rest of your life?
  • If you are insistent on going straight to college after high school, there are tremendous benefits of taking your general education courses at local community colleges. Some benefits include low tuition fees, a growing number of quality traditional university transfer programs, the ability to save money on room and board by staying close to or at home for those first 2 years and the flexibility around classes to maintain a job in the industry you’re considering going into once you graduate.
  • If you’re also insistent on going to a 4 year university right out of high school, then take the initiative to reduce those upcoming costs before you set foot on campus. Apply for as many scholarships and Pell grants as possible. Look into the many programs  a lot of these schools have so that you can bypass out-of-state tuition costs. Re-think the school that you are considering – it may not really be worth 10-20 years of financial misery simply to have a so-called better name on your resume. Think about going into public or government service as there are many programs for loan forgiveness after a certain number of years worked on the job. Start your internship programs and applications in your FRESHMAN year instead of waiting until you’ve already completed most of the coursework for your major. Also, don’t forget that just because you are at a 4 year institution, it doesn’t mean that throughout your college career, you can’t also find employment in your specific field of choice that actually pays both experience and a nice wage. Its all about time management. But once you get it down, it will pay off tremendously.

At the end of the day, no matter what option is chosen, its high time we change the system and show that there are a far greater number of options. When its time, I know for one, that my own daughter will be given the full array of choices so she can make the choice without society’s influence. Not only that, but if she does decide to major in dumb shit, then she’ll be coached upfront on the true consequences of the easy major route without me sugar-coating a cot damn thing.

So what are you planning to do?

Here are some additional posts to check out on the subject:

And whatever you do, don’t fall for one of these scams!–>>

Bonus Video:


3 thoughts on ““Mommy, I wanna major in dumb sh*t when I grow up!”

  1. This is exactly what I have been telling my friends who feel like failures because they didn’t go rushing right off to college after high school. All of my friends look at me and think “Wow you are so cool you have your Bachelors and your Masters”…What they overlook is that I also work in a call center and still have 60k in debt that I could have avoided had I been given accurate information. I too was told to “get that piece of paper”…Well I got two pieces paper and a lot of good it did me. I did get a business degrees, but so did a ton of other people. I get to my glamorous call center and find out that I am working side-by-side with people who don’t have degrees now but are getting them courtesy of our companies degree completion program, where they pay, you pass, and you save. You still get a degree and you don’t have to pay for it…What a novel idea. Meanwhile, I am paying and not getting enough to live the dream my parents and grandparents told me about. I just thank you so much for writing this…it rang so true for me.


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