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Pre-med… Sounds Familiar?

The disproportionate amount of students choosing a narrow select of academic majors suggests that Irvington can improve on introducing students to a greater variety of career paths.

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Pre-med… Sounds Familiar?

There are hundreds of college majors to choose from, yet most graduating seniors fixate on few.

There are hundreds of college majors to choose from, yet most graduating seniors fixate on few.

Student Loan Hero

There are hundreds of college majors to choose from, yet most graduating seniors fixate on few.

Student Loan Hero

Student Loan Hero

There are hundreds of college majors to choose from, yet most graduating seniors fixate on few.

Annika Yong, Web and Photos Editor

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Ask ten Irvington students what they plan to major in college, six will tell you they are on a pre-med track, three will tell you “computer science”, and one will tell you “business”. While this is obviously an exaggeration, it’s not that far off from reality. Irvington students, or  Bay Area high school students in general, tend to set their sights on a very narrow set of future careers, and therefore a disproportionate amount of students flock to popular majors without exploring other options. This is due to course structure, common stereotypes and cultural influence, as well as inadequate introduction to different career options. With these setbacks, students are unable to explore many other potential majors during high school, and miss out on time and opportunities to figure out their intended areas of study.

One example of overlooked areas of study is the humanities. Despite being an arts magnet school, Irvington places an ultrafocus on STEM, which comes with heavy promotion of STEM activities and courses, with little emphasis or courses related to humanities. With few chances for students to dip into humanities classes and Irvington’s high achieving culture, this gears students towards the few popular and competitive STEM majors. This is furthered by Irvington proximity to the Silicon Valley, with STEM jobs being the norm. While applying to colleges, high school seniors are suddenly faced with hundreds of majors without any introduction to a majority of them. Even within STEM majors, there are a multitude of lesser known options that students will only see for the first time when they are scrolling through the selection of majors to apply. Due to the lack of introduction to the plethora of majors provided because of the narrow selection of classes—especially humanities and liberal arts—students are hindered by inadequate exploration of many other options career and miss out on entire academic or career fields.

It is reasonable to assume students should research on their future careers and potential majors, and carry a responsibility in exploring their interests. However, without proper introduction to different pathways, student’s perceptions ofn careers and majors are often based on widespread stereotypes, which might not be entirely accurate. This includes humanities being stigmatized as low-paying or low-employment, or medical professions being a badge of prestige. Many students, and I myself included, find themselves choosing majors only either based on parental advice (alternatively, coercion), or simply because they are known to promise a stable job. It does not help that the only resource high schoolers are provided with is Naviance, a program that allows students to fill in a survey and get recommended careers based on their interests and personality. It is often not taken seriously when instead of updated yet fitting careers, students are recommended careers like “dishwasher” or “fisherman”—this is not meant to undermine these jobs, but as an example to why Naviance might not be helpful to Irvington students. In addition, ROP classes, which are meant to give students hands-on experience in their interested professions, are often messy to fit into schedules. With these classes taking up two periods and situating off campus, many are discouraged from choosing those classes.

Is there a problem with everyone choosing pre-med and computer science? What if there is simply more people interested in these career paths and majors? It is not my place to dictate which career people should take, but if there is an overwhelming majority of people choosing a narrow selection of majors, there is probably a good chance that these majors are not fitting to all of Irvington. It is normal that most of us cannot find the perfect path or career at the ripe old age of 17 or 18, but it does not hurt to give us a headstart on exploring potential areas of study. Ideally by providing us with introduction to careers other than STEM and medicine, as well as encouraging students to utilize resources such as the college career center, Irvington can enable students to have a better picture when selecting their future career paths.

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Pre-med… Sounds Familiar?