How to Avoid a Useless Degree

todayFebruary 21, 2022 90 1

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By Lea Mercado

Web Content Assistant Manager


Every student has experienced that heart-dropping doubt that the degree they’ve invested their time and money into won’t lead to the salary a college degree is expected to produce. 


Perhaps the doubt was caused by the confused looks on your parents’ faces when you announced your major, or simply the inability to explain your dream job to someone without feeling like you’re hosting a TedTalk. Regardless, feeling like you chose wrong is discouraging and even scary, especially if you’ve been pursuing it for over half of your college career. 


As the job market continues to fluctuate, the doubt of gaining employment at all seems less viable for certain professions out of current demand. Unfortunately, many of those careers in demand don’t reflect the passions of many students today. 


Just by searching “useless degrees,” a plethora of Google search results will appear listing the top 10 useless degrees. Spoiler alert: Most of the “useless” degrees range from social sciences to media and arts.


As a soon-to-be journalism graduate, “journalism is dead” always seems to be ringing in my ears, whether from social media to even shows on Netflix. So, naturally, I began to question, ‘is my degree useless?’ 


Through reflection and discussions with professors I admired, the solution became clear: At the root of this doubt was really just fear; fear of failure, fear of inability to make the right decisions, and mostly fear of the unknown. 


It’s scary realizing that there is no “right” degree to pursue that will ensure your success. But though it’s scary, dismantling the mindset that one can succeed after college by ticking boxes or passing classes is the first step towards your goal. 


The truth is, all degrees are useless, but the time spent earning them doesn’t have to be. Instead of focusing energy on fear or changing your degree plan to something safer, you can change your system instead. Employers aren’t going to hire someone just because they earned the appropriate certificate. They don’t want the paper. They want what you can do. 


So, how can you fully take advantage of your undergraduate journey? 


The first step is pursuing something that you are or can be passionate about. Though it may seem daunting, pursuing a study in something that you’re not passionate about for its’ lucrative potential will often lead to disappointment and burnout in the long run. 


While a major in your passion may not be possible for everyone due to finance or family dynamics, pursuing it as a minor will allow you to still learn about your interests. It can even be a marketable niche that you can write about or make content for in your free time. For example, are you a finance major with a passion for writing? Finance writers are very in demand right now! 


Next, James Clear popularized the concept of setting systems over goals in his book, “Atomic Habits.” A system essentially consists of attainable, measurable objectives to help you reach your overall goal. 


For example, a musician learning a piece has the goal to know it so well that they can perform it on stage. So his objectives could be conquering a measure at a time, listening to other artists’ interpretations, or even just setting the objective of practicing for 30 minutes every day. 


Objectives can be large or small and will look different for everyone, but they should always push you forward—even just an inch. 


In the context of school, objectives can look like joining a student organization that will benefit your resume, meeting with professors to see how you can improve, or (what has personally helped me the most) going the extra mile when learning class material.


Anyone can learn how to edit a video or create a graphic using Adobe, but earning a certification through LinkedIn Learning will appeal to an employer far more than a candidate who has done the bare minimum. Pay special attention to projects that utilize marketable skills and push yourself to understand beyond the scope of what’s taught in class. 


Lastly, your community is your most fantastic resource! At the heart of the college experience will always be the people that you surrounded yourself with through the journey. 


It is a privilege to meet so many diverse individuals, each with their unique perspectives, experiences, and connections. These relationships can grow into anything from a professional connection to a valuable friendship. Take time to get to know the people around you. Listen to ideas, participate in discussions, and be open to learning from others.


College can be exhausting as it is, but no one else is going to set you up for success besides yourself. It is truly what you make of it, but you don’t have to figure it out alone. Choose something you love, set systems over goals and ask for help when you need it.


Time well spent will never bear anything useless. 


Featured Image by Lea Mercado

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