Picking a Major at BU

Reading today’s story about choosing majors, I hope I can offer a little bit of opinion and in doing so, offer the undergrads a bit of advice from a recent BU grad on the world.

Choosing a major, and then fulfilling the requirements, is probably the most important thing on any conscientious student’s mind. And rightfully so, but to an extent. I graduated in 2000 with a joint degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. I now work for Sun Microsystems, doing a lot work relating specifically to things I learned in CS350, 450, MA242 and MA293-294. Ideally, this is what happens when you graduate: you get a job applying knowledge you learned in college.

However, among my friends, siblings and parents, I’m the only person I know doing things directly related to stuff I learned as an undergraduate. My mother, who received a bachelor’s in biology, is now CIO of a healthcare provider in Boston. My friend, who received a degree in animation from Emerson College, works as a computer security specialist and network administrator. And a friend who received a polysci degree at BC is now working in sales for a corporate information technology company.

Throughout college I was told by thoughtful peers that college should not be “job training” and that one should pursue what one loves to do. What these insightful people didn’t realize is that what they proposed IS job training – namely that people who want to be dancers should enter the dance program, painters should major in painting, writers in writing, journalists in journalism. The question never asked is, what happens if, five years from now, this path isn’t for you?

College should definitely be a time to expand one’s knowledge and thinking about things they are interested in. But students should recognize that tastes and interests don’t stop changing in college, and that ten years from now your major may not be the field of study you’d like to investigate. To that end, choose majors that will allow you the greatest flexibility and opportuntiy to use the knowledge learned in other endeavours. For example, physics and mathematics have core concepts and principles that are viable across almost any technical field. I chose computer science and math because they had applications in operating systems, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and cryptography, things I was engrossed in during my school years.

To this end, I think BU provides ample time (2 years) to investigate and choose a major, and you can always change it later. To say that 2 years is not enough time to discover if you have the interest and desire to pursue a course of study makes me wonder what those students are doing with their (supposed) learning years.

Bryan Maloney CAS 2000

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