Screw choosing a concentration just because it makes you money

Corporate culture is ruining our futures

It’s the number one question I’m asked nowadays. What’s my concentration? It’s a trick. If I don’t answer, I get a look of pity at my place behind the curve.

If I do, there’s the follow up: what are you going to do with that? In a sentence, I have no idea.

Here at Harvard, we have a unique opportunity with regards to our concentration. Nationwide, there is anxiety among college students and recent graduates when it comes to getting a job. Youth unemployment is almost three times higher than regular unemployment, so we feel a pressure to go into the lucrative concentrations, most notably, government, economics, and computer science. Had I ended up going to a different college, I would have been in one of those departments. However, because I am here, I don’t have to.

Harvard has connections all over the world. It can send you anywhere you want to go to study, to volunteer, to get an internship. The faculty here is devoted to the improvement of its students in a way I thought too good to be true before I arrived. Throughout orientation, when resident deans, professors, Dean Khurana, and even President Faust herself told us to not worry about what society expects us to take and choose what we love, I thought them a little quixotic, if not naïve. Now I know I was wrong.

Don't limit yourself to a concentration you don't care about

Don’t limit yourself to a concentration you don’t care about (Photo credit: Frank Zhou)

There are 49 different concentrations here. Most of them aren’t even STEM, supposedly the road to success. Here, it doesn’t matter what concentration you choose. It matters what you do with it. If you are not passionate about your concentration, you won’t be successful. I could easily concentrate in government. There are plenty of opportunities here, from the IOP to the Harvard Political Union. But I would not be happy investing the amount of time a concentration in needs. Governmental subjects don’t make my heart beat faster. I can’t talk for hours about the effect the Chinese economy has on our day to day governmental policies. And that is absolutely fine.

I love history, especially medieval history. I never thought I could have a career with that. However, Harvard’s connections show me that’s not true. The professors here are so enthusiastic that they are happy to put you in touch with colleagues of theirs who need help with their research or give you advice on what to do next. Just this past semester, my professor agreed to mentor me while I try to publish an academic article. They want to see us succeed.

The smaller departments are, in several ways, better than the huge economics department. You connect with the professors on a more personal level. You gain contacts. They know you and what you’re interested in and will remember you if they hear about an opportunity.

Screw choosing a concentration just because it makes you money. Choose something that you love to talk about, that inspires you, that you wouldn’t mind being up all hours of the night researching. The more passionate you are, the more work you’ll put into it, and the more success you will get out of it.

There are thousands of open doors here. Don’t limit yourself.

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