In Defense of Your Humanities Degree: 5 Reasons Why Studying the Humanities Isn’t a Waste of Time

By Danika McClure

In the wake of a graduate shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), degrees in the humanities and soft sciences have increasingly been deemed as frivolous and less valuable to the American job market. Shortages in technical industries across the country have forced lawmakers to take action, often by decreasing funding to the arts and soft sciences in favor of colleges which produce more STEM graduates.

Rosemary G. Feal, who directs the Modern Language Association of America, attributes the decline in funding for the arts and humanities in the United States particularly to “legislators who themselves have not experienced first-hand the value of studying the humanities.”

The most recent attacks on the arts and soft sciences come from Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who told members of the associated press last month that he planned on reallocating the state’s higher education budget, giving more funding to colleges which produced the most STEM graduates.  Ironically enough, Bevin received his undergraduate degree in Japanese studies from Washington and Lee University, a private liberal arts institution.

By reallocating the state’s budget, Bevin hopes to curb the state’s STEM graduate shortage. But Bevin is just the latest in a series of lawmakers that don’t see the value in a humanities education, buying into the all too common myth of the unemployable liberal arts major.

As has been noted numerous times by educators everywhere, completing a degree in the social sciences, humanities, and the arts does not automatically condemn you to a life of retail or unemployment. The opposite, in fact may be true, as studying the liberal arts teaches students a variety of skills most sought after by employers. Rather than looking for technical skills, 95 percent of employers, prefer candidates who display “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems,” skillsets which humanities majors are more likely to have upon graduation.

While there are strong voices present in politics and even the education sector, there is proven value in studying the humanities, and as a person who has spent a large majority of her life in the arts and humanities, I’ve found many of the skills I learned in these “frivolous” courses more valuable to my work than any technical education I received while attending college.  Here are 5 reasons why pursuing a humanities degree isn’t a waste of time.

  1. Thinking Only About Shortages in the STEM Fields Will Oversupply the Workforce

While it cannot be understated that America is in the midst of a STEM crisis, reducing funding for programs outside of the hard sciences will ultimately oversupply the workforce in the scientific and technological sphere. After all, this isn’t the first time that the U.S. has experienced a workforce shortage; according to The Washington Post, this is a mistake the U.S. has perpetuated previously. A generation ago, lawyers made more money than investment bankers; but in the present day, the workforce is oversaturated with law graduates, while the investment banking industry is constantly searching for qualified candidates to fill positions.

While America does need to produce a certain number of STEM graduates in order to keep up with the global economy, there are other complex issues which graduates will have to confront in future years–issues which will require adaptability, in a variety of different environments.

  1. Humanities Education Gives Employees a Global Perspective

As business evolves to be ever globally-minded, business owners, civic leaders, and politicians are increasingly looking to understand the cultural and social climate of countries around the globe, and are counting on humanities graduates to better understand the cultural, historical, and political differences present in these countries.

Many large and revered corporations have failed to expand into overseas markets by ignoring cultural differences present in those markets.

“Some of the most successful American companies, including Walmart in Germany and TJK in Holland have failed overseas,” explains Professor Harry Lane, who teaches in Northeastern University’s School of Business, “because they did not understand how cultural differences would affect their business models.”

Lane, who has spent the past 30 years teaching individuals how to adjust to overseas markets, adds, “Thanks to globalization, an executive deals with more organizations, governments, and people, many of which are vastly different from the entities the executive is accustomed to and from each other.”

Those who have spent time studying the humanities and social sciences are able and ready to help their employer adapt to a variety of situations, partially because of their ability to adapt to any given situation and their proficient social skills, but also because humanities graduates have likely dipped their toes in a variety of social subjects including politics, sociology, anthropology, and language. These skillsets and areas of study allow graduates to adapt more quickly to the history and culture of a region, adding value to employers who seek to quickly develop relationships and transition into lucrative interactions in unfamiliar territories.

  1. Having an In-Demand Degree Doesn’t Necessarily Guarantee Job Placement

Given the fact that college has become increasingly expensive over the past decade, it makes sense that people are choosing majors based on their “employability factor.” Recent studies indicate that nearly 82 percent of 2015 graduates researched their field of study before choosing a degree path at their college.

If obtaining a certain degree guaranteed you a job, this kind of long term thinking would make perfect sense. But many professors, such as Jay Halfond of Boston University, have been speaking out against this line of thinking. In an interview with EvoLLLution, the professor notes, “In my view, it is dangerous and even corrupting to proceed down a path that shows that higher education ensures lucrative jobs soon after graduation. But we need to do a far better job demonstrating the relevance of a broad, general education, while linking what we teach to what is critical in the professional world.”

While there are jobs that require certain skillsets affiliated with specific degrees, generally speaking, your degree may have little to do with your career success. Recent research indicates that 62 percent of college graduates are working in jobs which require a degree, but only 27 percent of graduates are working in careers related to their major.

So what are employers looking for?

Many companies have begun seeking out candidates who have skillsets that are particularly developed among humanities majors: those who are adaptable, possess high levels of emotional intelligence, and are able to fit into the company’s pre established company culture.  That is to say, employers are less worried about your degree program and GPA, and are paying more attention to your personality, adaptability, and your predisposition to upholding company values.

  1. Humanities Courses Teach You How to Grapple with Uncertainty

In many STEM courses, students are presented with factual information and straightforward answers. Humanities classrooms, by contrast, are more likely to present students with material that is subjective, in which analyzing and considering a question is more important that giving a correct answer.

John Horgan, a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology explains his own defense of the humanities, writing “The humanities are subversive. They undermine the claims of all authorities, whether political, religious or scientific. This skepticism is especially important when it comes to claims about humanity, about what we are, where we came from, and even what we can be and should be.”

He adds later that by the end of his courses, his students will learn to question all authorities including himself. “You’ll question what you’ve been told about the nature of reality, about the purpose of life, about what it means to be a good person. Because that, for me, is the point of the humanities: they keep us from being trapped by our own desire for certainty.”

  1. The Job Prospects and Income for Humanities Majors Aren’t as Dire as Has Been Reported

UNEMPLOYMENT RATES danika mcclure

Image Source: cew.georgetown.edu

As grim as the job prospects seem to be for humanities majors right out of school, studies show that obtaining a job isn’t quite as difficult as is typically reported. In fact, the average unemployment rate for new graduates in the humanities is right on par with those with computer science and math degrees (9% v 9.1%).

Other studies indicate that humanities majors end up making more money on average than their peers who study the hard sciences. In a column written for The Wall Street Journal, Scott Samuelson cites a study performed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities which found that “at peak earning ages (56-60 years) workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually on average about $2000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional, or pre-professional fields.” Once again, employers were looking to hire graduates with the ability “to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems.”

Author Bio: Danika is a musician from the Northwest who sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl


 Whether you’re studying the humanities or STEM, The Secrets of Top Students can help you get better grades!
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The Habits of Today’s College Students: Infographic

Are you a “typical” college student? What do you think of these stats?

The Habits of Today’s College Students Infographic
Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

Whether you’re typical or not, The Secrets of Top Students can help you excel academically!

Quick Tips Part 2: How to Use Citations in Your Papers

By Stefanie Weisman

Writing a paper and need help with citations?  Can’t choose between APA, MLA, and Chicago Style?  Here’s a quick overview to help you decide:

The three most common citation styles are APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and CMS (Chicago Manual of Style).  Your teacher may tell you which one to use, but MLA is used most often in humanities courses; APA is generally used in social sciences, engineering, and business courses; and CMS tends to be used in history courses.

All of these citation styles consist of two parts:

  1. A section at the end of your paper, in which you list all the sources you used for your paper, in alphabetical order.  In MLA style, this is called the “Works Cited” page.  In APA style, this is called  the “References” page.  And in CMS style, this is called the “Bibliography.”  In this list, you will usually have to include the author of the work, the title, the journal or anthology it comes from (if applicable), the editor or translator (if applicable), the publisher, the publisher’s location, and the date of publication.  If your source is a website, you will probably have to list the web address and the date you accessed it.
  2. Attribution for each quote, paraphrase, and summary in your paper.  Whenever you use someone else’s words or ideas, you must state the source and the page number(s) where they come from.  This may occur in the form of in-text citation, which appears within the body of the paper (as in the case of APA and MLA); or in the form of footnotes or endnotes (as in the case of CMS).
You do NOT need attribution when:

  • You state your own, original ideas.
  • You state something that is common knowledge.

If you’re in doubt about whether something needs attribution, however, you’re better off citing it just to be on the safe side.

 

Here are some great online resources to help you with citations.

Online Guidelines:

  1. Bedford/ St. Martin’s Website guide to researching and documenting sources
  2. The OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab

Online Citation Generators:

  • Griffith University provides a free online referencing tool in which you select what citation style you are using and the type of source you are citing.  It then shows you an example of how to format that citation.
  • Son of a Citation Machine is another free online source in which you choose your citation style and enter information about your source in order to view the correctly formatted citation.
  • EasyBib provides a free citation generator for MLA format.
  • You can also use Zotero to organize your research and generate citations automatically.  This requires you to download some free software.

What are some tools you like to use?


For more tips on writing papers, check out The Secrets of Top Students.

 

Moving Off-Campus: What You Need to Know

By Stacy Eden

Moving into your first real apartment or house off-campus is tricky, especially if you spent a year or two in the dorms. For most college students, dorm life is the first time to live without the watchful eye of the parental units. And because you have this experience under your belt, you may be thinking that an apartment is pretty much the same thing, right? Wrong!

Your first apartment or house is a big adjustment, maybe even bigger than adjusting to the dorms. You have roommates, the commute to campus, renters insurance and cooking your own meals to keep you busy when you’re not studying. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are the essential hacks every new off-campus student needs to make the transition go smoothly:

Prepare for Moving Day

It’s a lot different than moving into the dorms. For one thing, your parents may not be there to help this time. And while your friends are willing to help if you promise to feed them, don’t rely on anyone to show up out of the goodness of their heart. And don’t expect a rented moving truck to be easy to drive either. If you have big or heavy stuff to move, it may be worth it to budget enough cash to hire movers. It may save you a lot of time and frustration in the end.

Take Inventory of Damages

Take pictures on your phone of every dent and ding in the walls, every little blemish and any other damage in your apartment first thing on your move-in date. Email the pictures to yourself with the subject: security deposit. Landlords are notorious for blaming renters at the end of the lease for small flaws that were already there to keep the deposit. If you have photographic proof that the damage was already there (most camera phones have a photo time stamp), you have a better chance of getting your deposit back.

Get Renters Insurance

Odds are you have some pretty valuable stuff in your new place, like your computer, speakers, TV, musical instruments and gaming systems. Don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose. Get renters insurance — You’ll sleep better at night.

But don’t stop there. Make a list in Excel of all your valuables; include the make and the model, and hang on to the receipt if you can. Also take a picture of where each high-ticket item usually is in your house or apartment. This makes it easier to file a report with police and put in a claim with the insurance company if you need to.

Pay Rent on Time

Late fees kill your summer savings. It can be tough to get that check to the front office or in the mail every month when you have classes, tests and a social life to think about. But this is one place where being late doesn’t fly. Talk to your roomies about setting up direct deposit so you’re not waiting on anyone’s share of the rent to make you late.

Also take a look at your lease before you sign to make sure that late fees are in writing and aren’t totally unreasonable. Nolo has a great legal guide to dealing with difficult landlords and excessive late fees in case you do get yourself in hot water.

Plan Your Commute to Campus

Rolling out of bed and trekking across the quad was probably your longest commute to class last year, but now that you’re off campus, be prepared to face the insane traffic that comes with just about every college campus across the country. Plan extra time to get to morning classes, and you might want to reconsider that 8 a.m. class, as it will probably coincide with rush hour traffic. A bicycle is always an option, but make sure it’s the right mode of transportation for you with this list from Fearless and Loathing.

Stacy Eden is a Phoenix, Arizona native with a passion for art, power tools, and historical significance. She draws inspiration from classic cars, ancient mythological sculptures and jewelry designers such as Delfina Delettrez, Shaun Leane, and Dior Jewellery creative director Victoire de Castellane.

Heading off to college?  Start the school year off right with The Secrets of Top Students.

7 Things to Consider Before Going Back to School to Further Your Career

By Liz Greene

Despite what you may have heard, a college diploma isn’t the only way to get a decent job. There are multiple professions where you can make serious money without a degree — including working as a web developer, paralegal, or insurance agent. However, many careers that start without the need for formal education can be furthered by adding a degree to your portfolio. When weighing the idea of whether or not you should go back to school, there are a few things you should consider before you make your decision.

going back to school

Evaluate whether a degree will help you achieve your career goals.

The first step is to be absolutely sure that you’re on the career path you want to be on and research whether additional schooling is a necessary to further that path. You don’t want to find yourself several years down the road massively in debt, without the position you wanted.

Know what degree you will need.

If you start without a degree of any kind, a clear place to start would be to obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to find out whether a certificate or a degree program is the next step — and which degree is going to offer the best prospects for career betterment.

Decide if the financial investment is worth it.

There’s no doubt about it, going to school is an expensive venture. It’s important to evaluate whether your future salary will allow you to pay off the accumulated educational debt in a reasonable amount of time. Thoroughly research your options before committing to a program. Attending classes at a private university will likely cost substantially more than those offered by a state school or community college. However, depending on the major, the value of getting a degree from a first-rate university might make the additional cost a worthy investment.

Explore financial aid and scholarship opportunities.

Carefully explore your financing options — you might be eligible for special scholarships, grants, or beneficial financing arrangements. Contact your school’s financial aid department for more information, and be sure to check with your employer to see if they offer a tuition reimbursement program.

Look into transfer credits and work experience

Sometime the experience you have can be one of the greatest benefits. If you earned college credits in the past, check the transfer credit policies at the college you’re considering to see if your credits will apply. Some colleges will accept work experience as well. You can easily shorten the amount of time it takes to earn your degree by getting credit for for the knowledge and experience you have already acquired.

Consider an online/nontraditional program.

Deciding where to attend college is an important step in the process. If you work full time and have a family, you’ll want to find out which colleges in your area provide resources to help nontraditional students earn their degrees — full-time versus part-time curriculums, night classes, etc. A great way to get started is to visit a school’s website and search with the keyword “nontraditional student.”

If the program you’re after isn’t available at a nearby university, an online degree program is something you can consider. Most colleges offer full online programs or blended programs that allow you to do a great deal of the coursework online as well as scheduled in-class time to meet with your professor. However, it’s important not to mistake online classes for being easier or less time consuming. Online classes require just as much a discipline and time management skills as traditional classes.

Evaluate whether you’ll be able to balance school, work, and family.

For each hour you spend in class, you are likely to spend an additional two hours studying and completing assignments. If you have a family, a full time job, and a social life, how will you find time for classes and assignments? Are you and your family willing to sacrifice time together? School commitments will mean additional stress on both you and your loved ones. It’s imperative to consider the impact on your life and whether or not you’re willing to shoulder the burden.

Going back to school can be a massive benefit to your career. Gather your data, gauge your finances, talk to your family, and take the time to make the best decision for your particular set of circumstances — it’s the best way to set yourself up for success.

Liz Greene hails from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene or delve deeper into her internal musings at InstantLo


Heading back to school?  Don’t forget to order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students.

A College Student’s Guide to Creatively Keeping in Touch

By Natalie Posdaljian

Keeping in touch as a college student is vital for maintaining relationships with family and friends, keeping them in the loop and weaving your home life with your college life. Reliable ways of keeping in touch, such as texts, emails and chatting on the phone, can get redundant and don’t always provide the best insight into your life as a college student. Instead, spice up how you keep in touch with your family back home.

student video chat

Video Chat

Video chatting with a laptop isn’t new to the scene nor is it the most creative way to keep in touch. Expand your virtual horizons with the iPad Air 2, which is thin and light enough to take anywhere. Video chat with your family at a public park in your new town or while you enjoy a much needed caffeine fix at your favorite coffee shop. Or, your family can video chat you when they all get together for a birthday party or Sunday afternoon BBQ. Although you won’t get a bite of the cake, you can still chat with all your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Snail Mail

With the speed, efficiency and reliability of technology, it’s understandable why snail mail is a thing of the past. Yes, you have to handwrite your letter, buy a stamp, stop at the post office and wait a couple days for your mail to reach its destination, but that’s what makes snail mail fun. The feeling of checking the mailbox and finding something addressed to you that’s not a bill or advertisement is priceless. Sending snail mail to your family leaves them obliged to write you back, giving you something to look forward to in the mail. You also can throw in a copy of the A+ paper you wrote. Snail mail is especially great for grandparents, who typically appreciate handwritten letters the most.

Vlog

A vlog (video blog) is a unique way to show others what a day in the life of a college student looks like. Whether you keep it private for your family to enjoy or you make it a public YouTube channel, vlogging is in. Model one of your vlogs off a cooking show, with a twist on ramen or PB&J sandwiches. Vlog a tour of your favorite spots on campus, such as where you get your morning coffee, restaurants you frequent, the gym and the library. Or keep it simple and just talk straight to the camera about school, your roommates, professors and anything else that’s on your mind.

Shared Photos

There are so many ways you and your family can share your photos. If you’re looking to keeping it virtual, create a private album on Facebook and make all your family members contributors so everyone can swap photos. Or, use a photo sharing site like Flickr or Photobucket. Take it a step further by sharing developed photos (yes, people still develop photos). Throw just a few photos into that letter you’re sending, or use an app like Groovebook to upload all of your photos for just $2.99 (college budget approved) to send your family a keepsake photobook.

Family Facebook Group

A private family Facebook group is great for quick life updates, such as acing that Calculus exam, or for sharing links to YouTube videos with each other. Having your family in one Facebook group creates a forum full of sharing, likes and comments between the people that matter the most to you. For those statuses or photos you can’t share with your entire following, a private group lets you share your silly selfies or embarrassing stories with those that will love you no matter what.

Author Bio: Destined to be an Armenian housewife perfecting her hummus recipe, Natalie Posdaljian instead chose a life of marine field biology and sriracha. Born and raised in southern California, her veins rush with salty seawater and sunshine no matter where she goes.  When she’s not saving jellyfish from extinction, Natalie is dancing in the shower, knitting on a plane or swinging in her hammock.


Going to college?  Give yourself the gift of good grades with The Secrets of Top Students!

Is There a Right Way to Drink? A Healthy Perspective on College Drinking

By Adrienne Erin

Congratulations! You’ve finished high school. Now it’s time to head off to college. Isn’t it great to feel free? No parents and no boring home life. You’ll get to make new friends and have new experiences. And best of all, you’ll get to go to parties. What’s not to love?

It’s a given that you’re probably going to drink at least once in college. Chances are you’ve heard the pep talk about alcohol multiple times already, so you know what’s coming. But the point is: Sure, you can have fun, but it’s important to remember you’re in college to learn. Part of that learning is to gain a healthy perspective on drinking.

There’s a wrong and right way to drink. Which one will you choose?

The Wrong Way to Drink

This shouldn’t really need explanation, but people still abuse alcohol every day. Those who don’t drink responsibly can exhibit reckless behavior such as:

  • pressuring others to drink
  • binge drinking
  • drinking at a very fast pace
  • messing with other people’s drinks
  • driving drunk

If you think you see someone drinking irresponsibly, do your best to stay away from them. Find some new people to hang out with, or leave the party.

The Right Way to Drink

If you’re underage, it’s obviously wrong to drink in the first place. But if you do choose to drink at a party, keep these tips in mind:

Make a plan for how you will get home.

This should be the first thing you think about when preparing for a night out. Know how you’re getting home well before the party.

There are a few ways to go about this. You can have a designated driver within your friend group. If there’s public transportation in your area, like buses or trains, use them. NEVER get into a car with anyone who has had too much to drink, and NEVER drive drunk – even if you’re just tipsy. You’ll pay for the consequences of those poor decisions for the rest of your life.

Pace yourself.

It takes a little while for the effect of alcohol to kick in. You might feel completely fine right after taking a shot, but remember that you’ll start to feel the effect a few minutes after.

Make sure to space out your drinking. Having a non-alcoholic drink in between, such as soda or water, helps keep you from going too fast. Aim to keep a one-to-one ratio with one glass of water for each glass of alcohol. For each alcohol beverage you have, drink a non-alcoholic beverage.

Keep in mind that safe, responsible drinking means no more than one drink in an hour.

For reference, one drink equals one 1.5 oz. shot of 40% alcohol, one 5 oz. glass of wine or one 12 oz. beer per hour.

Drink with people you know.

It’s a wise choice to stick with your friends while drinking. If you go alone, you could get into trouble and have no one to look out for you. Avoid drinking with people you don’t know that well or don’t trust. These people could potentially be dangerous, or they might run off somewhere else without telling you.

It’s also important to stay with friends who drink in moderation. Stay away from people who oppose not drinking as much, or encourage binge drinking.

Keep an eye on your drink too, especially if you’re with people you don’t know well. They might seem friendly, but they could sneak date rape drugs or something else dangerous into your drink.

Eat something before or during drinking.

If you drink on an empty stomach, you’ll feel the effects of alcohol quicker. You might also feel sicker. Eating before you go out will help you stay under your drinking limit.

Be sure to eat a meal rich in proteins and carbs. These help to absorb the alcohol.

Know your limits, and measures.

You are the most important person at the party! Your friends may keep a close watch over you, but you also have to take care of yourself. Part of this is knowing your limits. Listen to your body – it won’t take much to figure out how much is enough.

If it’s your first time out, drink at a steady pace to determine your alcohol tolerance. It also helps to drink with friends or people you know well so that you won’t get socially anxious and drink more than you can handle.

You can quantify your tolerance, as well. For example, it could be “three beers per night,” or “two glasses of wine in four hours.”

If you want a fun, harmless way to help you determine what an effect certain amounts of drinking could have on your body type, try this choose your own adventure game.

Know how to turn down a drink.

Drinking is supposed to be a social activity, not a place to show off how much you can stomach. There’s no need to keep up or even accept a drink in the first place.

When you don’t want to drink, decline with a polite excuse. A simple “No, thank you,” should do the trick, but if needed, you can add more. Try things like “I don’t drink,” “I have to drive home,” “I’m the designated driver,” or “I’m pacing myself.”

Choosing Not to Drink is Totally Okay

If you don’t like drinking to begin with, it doesn’t make you uncool in the slightest. You should applaud yourself for steering clear of a night that could negatively impact your health or your life. In fact, there are tons of other alternatives to a night of partying.

You can always stay in and have a fun-filled night with your friends. Watch movies, play video or board games or see what’s going on around campus. Or, check out this list.

College campuses usually have great alternatives to parties on weekends. These can include things like dances, paint parties, movies, social gatherings, speed dating or athletic intramural events.

Whichever you choose, know that there’s a right and wrong way to drink. When you go out, plan ahead of time and be alert. You’ll thank yourself after a long night of partying – and if you do things right, maybe you won’t feel so groggy the morning after, either.