What Should You Be Studying in College?

Kamran Yunus/Staff Illustrator

Miguel Rodriguez
Staff Writer

My mother once bought me a book called The Crossroads of Should and Must. I didn’t touch it for 2 years, opening it only once I got to college. In it, author Elle Luna discusses the differences between what we “should” do, things we feel like we should be doing, and things we “must” do, things that we feel is our calling and purpose in life. In the end, it all boils down to the age old conundrum of following one’s passion versus following one’s responsibilities.

College is a huge investment, especially in the United States. It’s incredibly expensive and time-consuming, so it makes sense that we all want to maximize our experience. But a question for you: What is it that we maximize? Do we use our youth to explore our hobbies, talents, and passions, or do we invest our time in studying things that yield more profit in the long run?

My personal experience has given me conflicting opinions on what to do. Parents say to pursue whatever makes the most money, teachers have told me to follow my heart, and other social circles are split right down the middle on the matter. In order to think about this dilemma, it’s prudent to look at all of its sides.

Abandoning passion in favor of profit obviously has its merits. Yeah, you might be bored out of your mind slaving away at a job as dull as a new pencil but, if it pays well, you and your potential family will live a comfortable life. Any money-related issues would dissipate: you wouldn’t need to worry about bills or going to the hospital, and you’d even have the ability to treat yourself every now and again. Most importantly, the feeling of poverty – that looming stress of not having enough – wouldn’t be following you around. Depending on how good your money-allocating skills are, you could even retire early and travel the world on the (possible) fortune you’ve made.

The immediate repercussions of choosing to study something that you don’t enjoy don’t seem too bad on paper. Of course, it’d be foolish to try and list exactly what people would feel because there are many different types of people, but it’s entirely possible that without some form of academic stimulation one would find it hard to stay motivated to finish their classes and major. This may result in a lower GPA or higher stress due to working at something that feels pointless. One major risk is that you would spend many days with the feeling that you’re wasting your life.

On the flipside, there are a slew of benefits to following your passion, regardless of the economic payoff later on. For one, you would feel more fulfilled: you’re doing something you’re good at and enjoy. Secondly, you would probably be happier: you’d wake up knowing that you’re going to do what you love to do, which is basically the goal in life. There are many benefits from following your passion, but there are also drawbacks.

If your passion isn’t in a field that shows much growth, you could find yourself behind a McDonald’s counter with a mountain of student debt behind you because nobody wanted to hire someone with your skill set and passion. Your college years would feel great, but once the real world demands to see your credentials you might realize that you’ve got nothing to show. The big risk of following your passion can be summarized as trading definite immediate joy for potential joy later, whereas abandoning passion is akin to sacrificing immediate pleasures for a potentially greater future.

Of course, these aforementioned risks can be subverted through extracurricular activity. Internships, volunteer work, and paid work all contribute to life experience, which future employers take into consideration when deciding whether or not they hire you.

The problem with addressing this life question is just that: it’s a life question. These are things that people need to find out for themselves, for their lives. No article in a newspaper could tell you how to live your life.

There’s a well known quote that goes, “If you study what you love, you will never work a day in your life.” As time progressed, the quote was expanded upon. “If you study what you love, you will never work a day in your life because that field is probably not hiring.”