Over at Forbes.com

Majoring in an obscure language or esoteric subject doesn’t condemn a student to itinerant professorship or garrett living. See my latest post at Forbes.com:



About Will Dix

I am currently writing a book about college admission. I'm interested in the intersection of the college process and American culture. I attended Amherst College in the 1970s, taught high school English and theater at The Hill School in the '80s, returned to Amherst in the '90s as an admission dean, and began the '00s as a college counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. I then joined Chicago Scholars as Program Director. Currently, I blog about college admission for Forbes.com. I also help community organizations serving low income students understand the college admission process so more students can consider gaining access to higher education. I have a few private college counseling clients that I take by referral only. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone.
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3 Responses to Over at Forbes.com

  1. Matt Collins says:

    Thanks for the heaping helping of common sense, Will. As usual, your stuff is as refreshing as it is informative. As both a liberal arts grad and a father to two kids who are nearing college age, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to assess the value of a major. Broadly speaking, I see two approaches. In one, the major offers a platform for learning direct skills a specific job or family of jobs requires. Engineering, business, pre-law, pre-med, and any liberal arts degree designed to lead to a teaching career in that discipline fit this category. Then there are indirect skills that are essential in just about any job but that aren’t necessarily going to appear in a job description (though they should), e.g. writing, critical thinking, speaking, organization, quantitative rigor. I can get behind any major that empowers its students with enough either direct or indirect skills, the latter of which are more commonly associated with the liberal arts.


    • Will Dix says:

      Matt- Thanks for your comment. Interestingly enough, Amherst magazine arrived yesterday and listed the top majors for this year’s seniors. They were economics, English, math, political science, and psychology. I see all of these (and of course other majors the College offers) as home base, from which students can move in almost any direction. One thing I didn’t mention, but that you’ve touched on in some of your columns, is how fast things change in business and technology these days. That means it’s more problematic to learn a specific thing in college, since by the time you graduate the whole landscape may have evolved.


      • Matt Collins says:

        You’re correct that the rate of change is such that we all have to be nimble in ways our parents didn’t. A degree only marks the end of formal education. The informal stuff never ends, or never should end.


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