If you don’t know me, my name is Joe Miner and I am a junior at Houghton College. I just changed my major from Business Administration to Visual Communication at the end of my sophomore year. To simplify that, I now focus on digital media and how we can use it to communicate with the world. After some failed exams and countless nights of pulling out my hair at review sessions, I decided that business was just not the field of study for me. My brain isn’t wired for analysis. I needed a creative outlet to allow my natural gifts and abilities to flourish and grow so that I can one day make a living and be proud of the work that I do. I want to go into videography and graphic design, helping companies create dynamic visuals for their product or service. I also really enjoy writing, and I would love to be able to work for a magazine, record label, or any other organization that requires creative thinking to be brought into a more structured world. As you can tell, I have lots of passions and I am excited about getting to explore even just one of them.
This is the story that many do not consider when they ask me what the point of studying something like communication is. I am currently on break, which means a few things. For starters, I get to catch up with friends and family. This also means that I finally get to sleep-in past nine. But most wonderfully, I get to hear from various people that I am wasting my time studying communication. It’s usually from people who I’m not very close to, but nonetheless, I make a game out of counting how many times someone asks why I feel the need to study communication. I mean, I’m communicating right now, right? Mission accomplished. Time to drop out of school and be a full-time communicator. This sounds ridiculous, but I promise you that I am drawing inspiration from actual advice given to me either during the summer, or just the few days that I have been home.
It doesn’t bother me that anyone wants question my choices. I have my own doubts, but by facing the tough questions, I can find compelling answers that keep me encouraged. What bothers me is that whenever someone is perplexed at my choice of major, the person who asked about it in the first place usually has no idea how much time, energy, thought, and prayer went into my decision to study communication. I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that I like people and pretty pictures. No, I actually researched career paths in the field of communication. I heard actual success stories from professionals who graduated with a Communication degree. I interviewed professors and asked for feedback from my peers. And now that I am trying my hand at film and design, I truly feel like this is where I belong.
These tense conversations don’t just happen with Communication majors. This happens to students studying Art, Music, History, Writing, and various other fields of study. Heck, even when I was studying Business, I had a few people ask me if I really believed that I needed to go to college to be successful in that world. I can’t honestly say that I understand why anyone feels the need to tell a student that they chose incorrectly when choosing a major, especially when most college students work day-in and day-out to hone their craft in hopes of having a successful career. We don’t spend money on an education that we find to be useless. We spend money on what we’re passionate about and what we believe will allow us to shine.
If you have been on the other side of this conversation (the person saying that someone’s major is pointless), please recognize when it’s appropriate to give your input and when to abstain. You may feel like you’re trying to help, but you may be doing more harm than anything else. Think about it- do you like getting advice for something that you genuinely do not need help with? It doesn’t feel like support. It feels more like an undermining of all of the work that goes into being a full-time student. Your intentions may be good, but please understand that this is not a productive method of giving your point of view.
Let’s say my major is useless. Let’s say I can’t actually make a decent living or find a career once I leave school. What I study in college is not the unbreakable blueprint of the rest of my life anyhow. I know lots of people who studied something they loved in school, but once they left, they found something else they really loved and decided to pursue that instead. Besides that, it’s ultimately my choice. Your opinion- especially if it sounds like “you’re doing it wrong”- is not going to persuade me to either drop out of school or change my major when I’m close to being done. If you want to support me, offer me a listening ear when I’m frustrated. Ask me what I am passionate about. But for the love of all things good, please do not tell me that my work is pointless. It’s not.