Major decisions: the ultimate popularity contest

Oak Park, beyond


Aidan Scott/Talon

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ is the existential question asked of every 7 to 10-year-old.

The answers may vary from cowboy to princess, astronaut to doctor or even ophthalmologist to political speechwriter; there may seem to be too many options and not enough specialization.

Later on in adolescent life, some may be intrigued by the intricacies of chemistry yet also fall in love with the power of economic studies. Others may have a passion for creative writing yet they can analyze a film in a matter of what seems like milliseconds.

If so, the ever-developing field of a self-designed major may be for you. Self-designed majors vary from school to school, requiring certain grades and prerequisites, yet they all follow the same philosophy of empowering students to mix and match their dynamic academic interests into a specialized major of study at their institution.

Though not everyone decides to attend four-year universities, those who do are bombarded by often differing major options from university to university, college to college and school to school.

According to The Princeton Review, there are over 345 major choices in the U.S., collectively, meaning that there are some major decisions to be made at the college and university level.

At Oak Park High School, though students have not begun their individualized experiences outside the bubble, a Talon survey receiving 118 randomized responses gives a distanced perspective.

Psychology, business/accounting, biology, communications and political science are among the top intended major choices from current students, freshmen through seniors.

Compared to the rest of the U.S., with regard to students attending college or university in 2019, the most popular graduating majors were nursing, general psychology, criminal justice/corrections, business administration/management and communication/media, according to CEOWORLD magazine.

Since many OPHS students’ have gone to college, studying their own majors, the tables have turned.

Recent SUNY Coordinator of Digital Engagement Maxwell Morgan found that health, communications and computer science professions have increased in popularity in the last 40 years whereas sociological, history and English studies have been decreasing. 

As we take a closer look at these systematic changes, we see gender norm stigmas have been shattered continuing into the 2000s: a new reality to many. 

An analysis, conducted by LinkedIn, “concluded more women moved into STEM fields than any other industry” around 2018; STEM had previously been a more predominantly male-concentrated field.

In addition, Bradley University reported that “the number of men in nursing has more than tripled since the early ’70s,” though still making up a minuscule percentage; women have been and still make up a majority of the nursing majors.

However, times have changed, and current students seemingly don’t feel the same caliber of pressure to conform to societal major norms.

Our study showed that 88% of respondents were motivated by themselves to choose their application majors or major interests.

However, 31% of them were pressured by their parents or family, 19% were pressured by their school and seven% felt influenced by their friends to choose specific majors.

Regardless, 27% of the respondents still say that their main source of motivation in choosing certain majors is society, as a whole.

What this proves: stigmas and career pressures still are prevalent, even though milestones have been met in choosing majors while disregarding outside pressures.

Therefore, in order to come to a major decision that is right for you, pick subjects that are right for you and what you are passionate about; don’t be afraid to try new things.

In the end, if there happens to not be a major that is just right for you, the self-designed major may be the perfect match.

As Confucius once said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”