Author Topic: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?  (Read 14504 times)

Zalo

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Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« on: July 30, 2013, 02:06:28 PM »
Hi,

I'm 19, I found the early retirement principles about a year ago, and starting this fall I will be attending Amherst College, one of the top if not the top liberal arts college in the nation, for what is essentially a free ride; my tuition, room & board, health insurance, and other expenses are paid off by the college, all I'd have to pay for are books, clothes, transportation, entertainment, and some miscellaneous fees. Of course, using ERE & Mustachian principles this amounts to a paltry sum.

What does have me worried is the fact that I'm getting a liberal arts education; I actually wanted to study something practical, but my other options weren't as financially rosy as I'd expected, I'd have to be going into loans for ~3-7k a year for four years, which wouldn't be too bad except my parents have been in debt for as long as I can remember, and I have about 1k to my name at the moment. I wanted to depend on myself as much as possible, as well.

Anyway, I definitely feel like starting to amass money NOW as opposed to four years from now; I plan to get a work study job, which might amount to a few thousand a year considering they're part time. That's if the college doesn't decide to take that money and give me less financial aid though, hopefully that doesn't happen. I'm wondering if there are any other skills I could be developing right now, the 50 Jobs Without a Degree Post is making me think.

As for the abstract courses and majors I likely won't be able to fall back on, I suppose there is the fact that the prestige and 1% connections inherent in my institution might provide me with stellar job opportunities when I graduate, but who knows if that's as true as advertised.

My majors as of now include economics, environmental studies, and music. I like money management, nature, sounds, seeing how things work, and asking questions. That said, as long as I don't hate my major or job, I'm okay, I'm merely using them as a way to propel myself to freedom, where I may do whatever I want afterwards.

These are my choices:

https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments

What are your thoughts on this: how can I make my particular situation benefit me the most as far are early retirement is concerned? What can I be doing to improve my chances for a high income that I can save/invest in 5-10 years? I have read plenty on how to live on the cheap, so thankfully I can hold my own on that end.

Thanks for the help
« Last Edit: July 30, 2013, 02:21:23 PM by Zalo »

rebel100

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2013, 02:18:35 PM »
You have an essentially "free" ride at a great school.  I certainly wouldn't start looking back.  I think the right thing is to go do it.  If your concerned about more practical things look for opportunities to gain certification or even work experience in those areas.  There is a great thread on here about earning computer networking or programming certificates.  my daughter (a liberal arts major at another premier school) interned in the marketing department while in school...led to a practical job offer.  Find great volunteer or work that fits with where you see yourself after graduation.

Can you pick up a minor in business or some other practical pursuit?  Looks like some great opportunities here: https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/cce

Good Luck with your studies....and I would start working that alumni network now! :)

CptPoo

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2013, 02:25:12 PM »
I attended a liberal arts college my freshman year, and there were many things that I both liked and didn't like. My biggest dislike was the out of state tuition, which you obviously don't have to worry about. After my first year, I transferred to a public university in my home state for the lower cost and because they had a degree that I was much more interested in.

Perhaps the biggest thing that I learned from that experience is that the quality of the institution matters little when it comes to an education. The liberal arts school I went to always bragged about being one of the best conservatories in the country (I was studying music) but I had so little motivation in my classes that I didn't learn much. The quality of your education primarily comes down to how much you are interested in the subject matter, and the work that you, yourself, produce while you are in school.

As long as your tuition and room/board are covered I would study the crap out of everything possible, and I would most definitely consider double majoring. Economics and environmental studies would work really well together, and a minor in music could always be possible. Even if it takes you more than 4 years and you have to pay for a year yourself, I think it would definitely be worth it.

NumberCruncher

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2013, 02:27:07 PM »
Welcome, Zalo!

Side question: Can you graduate in four years with three majors (and if you can't, do they still pay)? Or is that list of considerations or some "make your own" type of degree?

For something that's easy-ish to get a job in, make good money, and not require graduate school, I'd say computer science ranks up there. You could even look for jobs that combine an interest in environmental studies with CS.

I'd suggest looking at job descriptions online for different disciplines and companies - see what sounds interesting and what they expect (and how common that kind of job might be), then tailor your education accordingly.

Zalo

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2013, 02:42:54 PM »
Welcome, Zalo!

Side question: Can you graduate in four years with three majors (and if you can't, do they still pay)? Or is that list of considerations or some "make your own" type of degree?

For something that's easy-ish to get a job in, make good money, and not require graduate school, I'd say computer science ranks up there. You could even look for jobs that combine an interest in environmental studies with CS.

I'd suggest looking at job descriptions online for different disciplines and companies - see what sounds interesting and what they expect (and how common that kind of job might be), then tailor your education accordingly.

It's a list of considerations, however environmental studies is a 'program' not a major, so it's shorter to complete, essentially giving me two majors in economics and music, and one specialization in environmental studies. I have considered computer science, though in the previous classes I've been in...I've fallen asleep. Perhaps that might've been because I jumped into the course mid semester during a visit to the college.  Interdisciplinary majors are also viable, in four years time too. As an aside, I do like sociology quite a bit, but I'd rather not go down that route (Starbucks), I'd prefer just rambling on about how shitty most of society is on these boards. ^_^

I forgot to mention graduate/master/lawyer/doctor school; I DON'T want to go to any other form of higher education after my bachelors, at least as of now.

I don't really know what professions I can get with the three majors I favor, I'll try what you suggested.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2013, 03:00:13 PM by Zalo »

Eric

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2013, 02:44:51 PM »
There's about a billion jobs you can get with a business (i.e. economics) degree.  That's not fluff.  It's not like you're majoring in 13th Century European History with a minor in Latin.

rebel100

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2013, 02:44:59 PM »
Damn Zalo....its like you earned $250,00.00!!!!  very Mustachian indeed.  https://www.amherst.edu/admission/financial_aid/tuition

Zalo

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2013, 02:51:56 PM »
Damn Zalo....its like you earned $250,00.00!!!!  very Mustachian indeed.  https://www.amherst.edu/admission/financial_aid/tuition

Ain't that the truth, the tuition of private, top tier formal education hovers at around a quarter of a million dollars. Amherst has exceptional financial aid, that's for sure.

CptPoo

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2013, 02:58:12 PM »
I have considered computer science, though in the previous classes I've been in...I've fallen asleep. Perhaps that might've been because I jumped into the course mid semester during a visit to the college.

I took some CS courses during my undergrad and had a similar experience. One I only passed because someone else showed me how to do everything, the other I dropped mid-semester because I was so bored. On the other hand, I have had a ton of success learning a few different languages through Lynda.com.

DoubleDown

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2013, 03:12:29 PM »
Wow what a great "problem" to have! Congratulations to you on this fantastic opportunity, and I really hope you will take advantage of it and not look back, as has already been suggested.

Holy ****, Batman! I see tons of majors in that list that could turn into lucrative careers. Some are really straightforward/obvious that almost instantly turn into high-paying jobs (computer science, mathematics, chemistry...), some are a little more general but lead to solid career opportunities (economics, political science, Russian, Spanish...), and some will be much more difficult to lead into a traditional lucrative career with an undergraduate degree only, but can still work out for a motivated and successful individual (Music, Art History, Women's Studies...).

Do you have to declare a major right away? When I was at college I met with a counselor from a few of the departments, and it was gold. Just go there and work on your general education studies, meet with some counselors your freshman year, and eventually they will help you choose a major that aligns with your interests and your career goals. Even if you have to declare something right away, I'm sure Amherst will allow you to change as long as you don't wait too long. I didn't declare my major until the end of my sophomore year, and followed a degree that led to amazing career opportunities.

Don't get too swayed by all the "trades" talk and the like. A college education from a place like Amherst is still a huge leg up in just about every conceivable way.

maryofdoom

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2013, 03:30:45 PM »
Good for you! I'm glad to hear about your excellent collegiate option.

From reading this forum, you might think that everyone is some kind of science nerd with a STEM degree. Not the case, my friend. I am the proud holder of two English degrees (one BA, one MA) and a real job with actual benefits and such.

The hyper-focus on STEM subjects makes me a little sad, actually, because there is always going to be a need for people who can think critically and communicate well in every type of situation, and those things are the hallmarks of a liberal arts education. I mean, my two English degrees prepared me extremely well for a job at a federally-funded research and development center that focuses on software engineering research. The people who do the research write reports, which need to be edited and published; they have to update the website to tell people about what they're working on; and they need people who can plan events, coordinate webinars, prepare presentations, and analyze data to make decisions about what areas of work to focus on next. I offer myself as proof that a liberal arts education is not and never will only be a giant waste of time.

Economics is an excellent degree option if that is something that interests you. The skills you learn from economics (data analysis) are directly applicable to fields like public policy.


badassprof

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2013, 03:38:27 PM »
Congratulations on your achievements!

Admittedly, I'm not an impartial respondent as I teach at a liberal arts college. But I do believe that a liberal arts education provides you with critical thinking skills that are translatable to a lot of different professions. The tricky part is that they are easier to translate in some places than others. If you live in silicon valley or the SF bay area, you can (as a friend of mine did) end up running a software company with a PHD in medieval studies or, as my partner has done, turn a BA in music into a 130,000 dollar salary. That may not be possible everywhere, I grant you that.

Whatever you decide to major in, try to think not only about the content of what you're studying (say, Latin or 13th century European history) but rather what skills you've achieved having studied those subjects.

Also, remember the old saw: those who work for corporations majored in business; those who run them, majored in liberal arts.

matchewed

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2013, 03:43:04 PM »
Perspective is everything. Review your question in 10 years after you completed your degree(s) and spent some time in the workforce. I'm sure your college years will be formative ones regardless of liberal arts or not.

aj_yooper

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #13 on: July 30, 2013, 04:03:04 PM »
Congratulations on your good fortune!  A liberal arts degree from a major college is the real deal.   Take advantage of opportunities to study abroad, internships, and mentoring.  You will be amazed!  You can make money in the summer to get a nut going; focus on the college now.  Best wishes.

pbkmaine

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #14 on: July 30, 2013, 04:17:31 PM »
Majoring in Economics or Math at Amherst should get you an entry-level Wall Street job, particularly if you use its awesome alumni network for summer jobs. Many Wall Street firms will then subsidize your MBA.  The trick is to NETWORK. Start contacting alums in fields that interest you as soon as you can. Nothing will make an alum happier than passing experience on to the next generation. This is not a dumb decision. This is a gold mine if you use it correctly. I went to a "name" school myself and it is still paying dividends many years later.

tomsang

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2013, 04:58:01 PM »
From looking at the list I am not sure what you are asking. 

You can major in:
Biochemistry & Biophysics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Geology, Mathematics, Neoroscience, and Physics that would pay well out of the gate. The rest, may be highly rewarding as well.

So I would go with what interests you for your electives in your first few years. When I was at the University of Washington, I looked through the class description book and took classes that sounded cool.  History of Science and Technology 333, even though there were three classes prior to this which made it very challenging.  Some of my most memorable and amusing classes were based on the description in the book vs. what I needed to graduate. I am still glad I took those. I ended up graduating on time with a business degree with accounting and finance concentrations.  So it works. 

I may be a bit more Dead Poet Society, but I think that you should drift a bit at the University level and expand your knowledge, not just maximize your trade skills.  You get one shot at the experience.  I am probably broaching heresy, but I would recommend not trying to maximize your stache during college. I would recommend maximizing your knowledge, philosophy, and experience a very special time of your life.  That being said I wouldn't rack up a bunch of debt, which it sounds like you are in a great situation.

Have fun, learn, become a great person, and find your passion.

Tom     

waltertyree

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2013, 05:42:11 PM »
I agree with badassprof and pbkmaine above. I majored in philosophy at a liberal arts school but took courses from most of the departments. I now write computer software after a long stint in management. I have had a lot of opportunities over the years because of connections I made in college.

What did I get from my liberal arts education?
- I can write complete sentences.
- I have read a lot of different things so I get the literary reference jokes in cartoons.
- I've dabbled in many subjects, so I can have a basic conversation about them with someone who is much more experienced.
- I can think through a problem carefully and devise a solution.
- I can articulate my thoughts and make sure that those around me understand what I'm trying to say.

The above skills are vital in any career.

You are going to be fine.

NinetyFour

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2013, 05:57:51 PM »
I agree that you will be fine--and with this terrific opportunity, you may well be much more than fine.

I went to an Ivy League "liberal arts" school, and I regret to say that I really didn't know, at the time, how lucky I was to be there, and I did not take advantage of the great opportunities I had while there.  For example, I only went to the library if I was forced to go read something that had been placed on reserve by a professor.  What a waste!!

My advice:  as far as courses, I assume that you will have to do some kind of liberal arts "core" during your first two years.  Use that time to really experiment in different subject areas to see what you like.  In other areas:  join clubs, meet as many people as you can, get campus jobs (even if the pay is lousy, the connections you make can be priceless), look into summer internships, and most of all, have fun!

Oh, and since you are Mustachian--you could probably put your name out there as a tutor or babysitter in the local community to help with your laundry/beer expenses!  ;)

Rural

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2013, 06:01:10 PM »
Relax. Go to Amherst. For free. What was your question again? :-)

Plenty of people make a ton of money with a liberal arts degree, and some folks with engineering degrees are unemployed. Learn how to communicate well while you're there and you'll be able to sell yourself in job interviews no matter what your degree.

mlipps

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2013, 06:02:59 PM »
Congrats on your hard work to earn your free ride. You should proud. I have a BA in Econ from a liberal arts school, albeit one much less prestigious than Amherst. My long term plan is to pursue a career in predictive analytics. Big Data is a booming field and most entry level jobs want an undergrad degree in Econ or Math with SAS & database skills. You could teach yourself SAS and SQL as others have suggested & be imminently employable via the Econ degree upon graduation. I see nothing wrong w/double majoring in something you love less practical.

Do you read Bogleheads? This post might be of interest:

http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=120337

secondcor521

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #20 on: July 30, 2013, 06:59:18 PM »
Something to be aware of since someone earlier mentioned the idea of going to Amherst for more than four years:

I very much wanted to change my major halfway through my junior year at an Ivy League school.  Doing so would clearly mean that I would not graduate in the traditional four year time frame.  I was OK with that; however, the university made it clear that they highly discouraged anyone taking more than four years to finish.

I suspect their motivation is to maintain a very high percentage of students who graduate in 4 years, since that is a measure that is collected and compared across the various schools by various web sites and other sources.

It would not surprise me in the least if Amherst is similarly discouraging towards any thoughts you might have of spending more than 4 years there.

Good luck!

savingtofreedom

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #21 on: July 30, 2013, 07:08:50 PM »
Majoring in Economics or Math at Amherst should get you an entry-level Wall Street job, particularly if you use its awesome alumni network for summer jobs. Many Wall Street firms will then subsidize your MBA.  The trick is to NETWORK. Start contacting alums in fields that interest you as soon as you can. Nothing will make an alum happier than passing experience on to the next generation. This is not a dumb decision. This is a gold mine if you use it correctly. I went to a "name" school myself and it is still paying dividends many years later.

If you want to make alot of money and don't mind working crazy hours the beginning of your career this is a good path to go. 

Guys in my husband's fraternity went into Investment Banking and made some big bucks - they were graduates of an engineering school but I am sure you could get a similar education with a major of Math or Econ per pbkmaine's post.  While the jobs may not be as plentiful as before having the right connections is huge!!

thepokercab

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #22 on: July 30, 2013, 10:52:27 PM »
I also received a BA in Political Science, concentrating in International Relations.  Its been 7 years since I graduated, and I haven't' done anything remotely close to international relations, but the skills that I got from a liberal arts degree (critical thinking, writing, etc..) I think we're very useful. 

I would have two recommendations.  1- agree with mlipps that Big Data is definitely the hot thing right now.  Especially in the corporate world, and now, in politics.  If I could go back in time and focus more on data and statistics, as opposed to political theory I would definitely do that. 

2- internships, internships, internships.  My whole career trajectory can be traced back to the internships I was able to get in college.  I don't keep in touch with a single professor I had in college, but i've made life-long connections with the people I worked with in internships while in college.  Maybe that's just the way it worked out for me, but getting real world experience and working for people who could give me a professional reference was huge for me when I graduated. 

TrulyStashin

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #23 on: July 31, 2013, 07:40:06 AM »
Lots of great comments here so +1 to them.

FWIW my two siblings and I all majored in liberal arts.  Among us -- philosophy, political science, international relations & German.   All three of us have done very well in our careers.  I'm now a lawyer and mostly happy (rare, I know).   Philosophy-sibling is now the CEO of a wealth-management firm and is truly in the 1% while well on his way to being rich.   IR/German-sibling is in senior management for DirectTV.

Along the way, all three of us also learned the so-called "soft skills" that help you thrive in business by meeting people and learning what they need then doing that.   My philosophy-sibling's first job after college was assistant branch manager for a regional bank.  Then he sold stock for a while.  Then he shifted into the marketing department at a financial services firm.  Then he became Chief Marketing Officer and it went from there.    All with a philosophy degree.

You'll be fine.  Enjoy the next few years!

NumberCruncher

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #24 on: July 31, 2013, 08:29:08 AM »
I think the biggest difference between STEM fields and liberal arts fields is on average you have to network a bit more and market yourself well to succeed with liberal arts* -- probably not hard for your case. :) 

*Where succeed is defined by being readily employable and in a well paid position. In the end, as long as you are happy and can cover your expenses and retirement - that's all that really matters.

onehappypanda

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #25 on: July 31, 2013, 08:39:46 AM »
College will be what you make of it. You're in a great position to make a lot out of a liberal arts degree. Study, learn a lot, and talk to interesting people while you're there. A broad base of skills, connections, and knowledge like you can get at that kind of institution will come in handy regardless of what you ultimately do.

Within any subject area and skillset, there's a way to use what you know (and what you can do) to make money. Figure out what you like and what you're good at, start by paying attention to what interests you most in your classes. Then start asking questions about what kinds of careers that can lead to, and I guarantee you'll find one that can offer financial stability.

I  just skimmed the other comments so forgive me if it's already been said, but also look for experiences outside of your classes/requirements. Internships and/or jobs can help you learn what you want in a working environment, as well as what you're good at, and what skills you need to develop. If you learn that in your earlier years of college, you'll be well prepared to start figuring out your career path. In that way, they prepare you to hit the workforce running, in addition to looking good on your resume and setting you apart from other liberal arts grads who may not have the practical working experience.

mgreczyn

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #26 on: July 31, 2013, 11:49:42 AM »
Roll with it, esp with a free ride.  You might have to tack on some additional education later, such as a JD or MBA, but a liberal arts degree is only a roadblock if you let it be.  I got an English degree, had a relatively low paying job to start (military officer, paid about $28k at the time, which was 1999).  Followed up with an MBA and now I make extremely solid money.  About the only people killing it out of the gates these days are the computer science peeps and anyone who can run a horizontal drilling rig.

backyardfeast

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #27 on: July 31, 2013, 12:23:02 PM »
Another university professor here--you're getting lots of excellent advice.  I just wanted to add that the people who are most successful in their fields are the people who are good at them and are either passionate about them or at least well-suited enough to them to go beyond the daily grind.  Although it's tempting to go to college with the idea that x program will lead to y job, so that's the best route, it won't work unless you actually enjoy and are suited to the program you choose.  I've taught LOTS of business majors who became disillusioned and miserable until they switched to supposedly non-viable majors like art, music, English, etc.  But aligning with their hearts led them on to all kinds of interesting and unpredictable careers. This doesn't mean studying medieval French history assuming that you'll go to grad school and something will work out. :)  Don't specialize too much at this stage.  There's always a career path that looks like gold, but the economy changes quickly, and 5 years from now what looks like a guaranteed career today may not pan out the way you'd hoped.  You're better off gaining transferable skills and good contacts, and not getting too set on a specific career goal yet.  Especially if you're not planning on a long working career. :)

So..I concur that the basic things to keep in mind to make the most of your good fortune and hard work are to: *be aware of how valuable and important these years can be and take advantage of every opportunity; * be practical and don't go into debt; *stick with broad majors (English, history, economics, environmental studies, etc) that teach skills that are valued by all employers (unless you realize that you are indeed passionate and very good at comp sci or statistics); *take advantage of your first year or two to take a bit of everything to find out what you are good at and enjoy; *find out who the best and best connected profs are and make connections with them where that's sensible.  ***Don't be afraid of your professors!!  Go and visit them in office hours!! Get to know them, even a little.  Take your classes seriously and participate.  Doing so positions you well for all kinds of opportunities in the future: reference letters, extra scholarships, study abroad programs, co-ops/internships.

Lastly, DO finish in 4 years.  Don't get caught up in declaring a major in Econ in 2 years and then halfway through your 4th decide you're really a closet historian.  It won't matter.  Just finish.  Even if you wanted to back to grad school in History, at most you'd need to take a couple of extra qualifying courses.  No one cares what you majored in; they just want to see that you've completed a degree. (This holds true even going between humanities and sciences--a friend has a BA in English and an MSc in Health Info Science.  Took her an extra 6 mos of grad school to upgrade.  Just finish.)

Enjoy yourself!!

zinnie

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #28 on: July 31, 2013, 04:14:18 PM »
Good for you! I'm glad to hear about your excellent collegiate option.

From reading this forum, you might think that everyone is some kind of science nerd with a STEM degree. Not the case, my friend. I am the proud holder of two English degrees (one BA, one MA) and a real job with actual benefits and such.

The hyper-focus on STEM subjects makes me a little sad, actually, because there is always going to be a need for people who can think critically and communicate well in every type of situation, and those things are the hallmarks of a liberal arts education. I mean, my two English degrees prepared me extremely well for a job at a federally-funded research and development center that focuses on software engineering research. The people who do the research write reports, which need to be edited and published; they have to update the website to tell people about what they're working on; and they need people who can plan events, coordinate webinars, prepare presentations, and analyze data to make decisions about what areas of work to focus on next. I offer myself as proof that a liberal arts education is not and never will only be a giant waste of time.

Economics is an excellent degree option if that is something that interests you. The skills you learn from economics (data analysis) are directly applicable to fields like public policy.

What she said. And don't get me wrong--I love science (and we especially need more women in STEM careers) but skills like effective communication, the ability to write well, and good analytical skills will take you far in life. And especially at a school like Amherst, part of what you're paying for (or not, in your case!) is the alumni network that comes along with it.

OP, I'm a liberal arts major as well (English/French and psychology)--and it has served me extremely well in all of the types of jobs I've had. As a 29-year-old, I am making very good money and it was precisely the analytical and writing skills I got from my liberal arts degree that got me here.

Zalo

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #29 on: July 31, 2013, 10:15:37 PM »
Well, I'm so used to doom and gloom, it's very refreshing to get real life optimism/realism; I need to start hanging out with people like all of you more often.

I suppose part of my disillusion stems from my already attained community college Associates Degree (I took about 60 credits throughout high school). Unfortunately, these credits were ignored by the majority of the schools I got into, and aside from the mere credidation, I failed to learn much in them, A's or not. Fortunately, It seems there's a big quality difference between schools. That's good to hear.

Amherst has an open curriculum, so I may take whichever classes I choose, eventually taking enough in one category to major once or more. To be honest, I might have an inkling for architecture; at one point in my life I built a model of Angkor Wat, one of the world's wonders, out of balsa wood; I spent about two months working on that day and night, sometimes forgetting to sleep. Never catered that enthusiasm again though. Maybe college will be a time to revisit. I don't need to declare until the end of my second year, which is good; It'll allow me a moment to explore. According to many of your comments I should be fine with most of the majors, so I'll try to find the one where I'll actually enjoy excelling; no point in being miserable and unproductive in a prosperous major.

Also, please don't think that I don't read your posts, even if I don't write often, I definitely keep in mind what you say.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2013, 11:07:51 PM by Zalo »

savingtofreedom

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #30 on: July 31, 2013, 10:26:04 PM »
Have fun and make sure to study abroad!! At my college the cost was equivalent to  regular semester and it was the kind of experience I could not have duplicated later in life.  I wish I had gone on multiple trips.

mikefixac

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #31 on: July 31, 2013, 11:19:57 PM »
Maybe related, maybe not:http://www.vagabondjourney.com/how-do-you-know-if-travel-is-what-you-want-to-do-with-your-life/

I visited there around 35 years ago on a Saturday night. Man, is that one partying campus.

Zalo

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #32 on: July 31, 2013, 11:54:50 PM »
Maybe related, maybe not:http://www.vagabondjourney.com/how-do-you-know-if-travel-is-what-you-want-to-do-with-your-life/

I visited there around 35 years ago on a Saturday night. Man, is that one partying campus.

Haha that's probably UMass down the street, Amherst College is more subtle.

I liked the article, it provides a framework of flexibility; the old life is a journey not a destination. Sometimes I forget that.

AlmostIndependent

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #33 on: August 01, 2013, 06:17:23 PM »
The trick is to NETWORK.

Yes. This.

MrsPete

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #34 on: August 01, 2013, 07:47:36 PM »
Yes, get the degree.  You're not looking at a huge financial investment on your part, and having a degree is always better than not having a degree.  You mentioned small loans -- as anti-loan as I am, small ones are completely different from the 400K student loan (admittedly shared between two underemployed people) being discussed in another thread.  Work in the summers and put every penny towards the loans. 

Double majoring sounds like a great option, though without knowing your interests and abilities, I don't know what specific "double" to suggest to you.  Lay out a four-year plan for yourself now.  Even if you end up changing things, you'll be better focused on the goal than the person who just chooses classes wily-nilly.  My daughter, a college sophomore, is amazed at how many of her classmates don't really have a grasp on what classes are required to graduate, what classes count for gen-ed, etc.  She's convinced that this is the main reason so many people don't graduate in four years!  Furthermore, she says that some advisors encourage their students to "take things that sound fun" their first year and worry about degree requirements later. 


spider1204

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #35 on: August 02, 2013, 08:20:53 AM »
Don't forget about the whole taking classes at some of the other 5 colleges thing, UMass will have tons more classes if there's anything you think is missing check them out.  Also, when I was doing engineering at UMass there was some kind of program that allowed students from Mt. Holyoke to get a double major in engineering from UMass and a chosen one from Mt. Holyoke in 5 years.  It might be a long shot but maybe you could push for Amherst to get something like that going in time for you?  Either way, you could definitely learn enough about computer science between Amherst, UMass, and self studying to get a job after graduation if that's something you're interested in.

Overall though, if it's not a large financial investment and only a time commitment for college then definitely go for it.  Just make the most of it, meet lots of people, try new things, go do stuff with the UMass Outing Club, take an outdoor recreation class at Hampshire College and meet Earl, maybe play Humans vs Zombies at UMass.  Sorry I'm just getting carried away with nostalgia right now as I work my 9-5... yes college do it!

anastrophe

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #36 on: August 02, 2013, 09:52:06 AM »
I have an expensive liberal arts degree in English from an elite private school. I graduated in 2006 so bear in mind some of my friends got hit by the recession and some didn't, depending on what their luck was with entry-level jobs. And I'm not what you'd call "very successful." But totally anecdotally, here are my observations of the people in my class who are happy and successful and those who aren't:

It seems that those who are most successful (discounting legacy students whose family privilege just does the trick--although these students were the bulk of those at my school) are those that took it very seriously. Choose your major with goals in mind. By this I mean "I want to save the world" is too vague, but "I want to work on _____ type of social/environmental problems" is a fine goal, IF you pay attention to your extracurriculars, go to conferences, present work, compete for prizes, join an interdisciplinary research team, plan to do pre-vet, volunteer on the Five College Sustainability Task Force, whatever. Just going to class and getting decent grades will not do it. And especially not if you spend the rest of your free time partying.

So yes, I think you should do it, if they really are going to give you that much financial aid. But keep your eyes on the prize.

caligulala

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #37 on: August 02, 2013, 06:25:34 PM »
I graduated from an elite liberal arts college on a full ride. Everything everyone said above is great advice. You'll do fine in whatever career you end up choosing. Amherst wants you to go for free because you're driven and they expect you'll be a good representative of the school after graduation.

I did a triple major in Urban Studies, Economics and Geography. I had several internships along the way which would have given me entry into any of the associated fields. Informational interviews are a great way to meet people who can eventually give you a job. People generally like to do them because it's interesting to meet an ambitious young kid. Be intelligent and charming and you'll get a foot in the door.

Expect to feel a certain amount of alienation from your peers at Amherst. I was shocked when I arrived at orientation and I was the only person on my floor who had come on my own. I spent my first evening alone in the dining hall because everyone else was out to dinner with their parents that night.

Most of the other kids didn't take their work study jobs seriously. I worked in the dining hall freshman year and I couldn't believe that people going to this prestigious school didn't bother to show up for work! It happened every shift. I was the only person I knew that also had an off campus job because work study didn't pay enough to cover all my expenses (I had almost zero help from family and had to travel cross country, so my travel costs added up). I sometimes felt disgust for the other students because they seemed so entitled. They didn't hesitate to call their parents for money or to cry in professor's offices to get extensions on their work. That said, my professors all knew that I was working outside school and while I don't think they cut me extra slack, I do think they appreciated that I was really busting my ass and taking school seriously.

Even with that bit of alienation, one of the girls from my freshman year dorm and I will celebrate our 15 year friendiversary on Labor Day. She's the godmother of my children! I also have a half dozen other friends from school that I'm extremely close to, even though we don't all live in the same city.

Oh, and, far and away, my econ major friends have done the best financially. A couple of years of investment banking while living frugally will set you up. The econ alumni network from my school is very active and the first place people post jobs is to the group.

Best of luck to you! Even if you don't end up loving it, it's a fantastic opportunity and you'll receive an amazing education.

BirlyFive

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #38 on: August 02, 2013, 08:25:35 PM »
Hey Zolo,

I graduated from Smith several years ago with a double major in Math and Biology, plus a bunch of other classes--especially geology ones because the labs and field trips are FUN.

My advice about how to get the best value for your money in college is (assuming Amherst is like Smith):

Eat and enjoy all the "free" food that you can, and then do all your walking around campus and notice how you don't get fat. This will change later when you get your first job sitting at a desk all day. (I'm assuming that you pay a flat room&board fee each semester, and then just get fed. It was awesome, and we didn't realize how good we had it. Room&board is wasted on the young?)

Take more than the average class load! This was 16 credits or 4 courses at Smith, but I would take 18-24 credits every semester depending on the intensity of the science class&lab I had signed up for. I didn't pay any more money to take more classes! This is not true at a state university where you pay by the credit hour. This might mean that you won't graduate Summa Cum Laude, because it's a bit harder to keep up your GPA, but you'll have more fun, and you'll learn more! This can also make it easier to spend a semester abroad/elsewhere, if you don't have to worry about scheduling enough credits for your majors.

When you sign up for these extra classes, focus on taking the ones from the professors that everyone raves about--the topic doesn't really matter--it will be awesome no matter what!

Alternatively, find out which classes teach you cool skills that you might be able to translate into a summer job - I had an excellent class in developmental biology, where I learned how to use Photoshop! And geology classes where I got really good at ArcGIS! And other biology classes where I learned how to write!

Don't forget the 1 or 2-credit exercise/sports classes. These are "free" too! Learn how to do fun outdoors things and/or sports safely and get to try out all different types of gear! I did rock climbing and kayaking. (Again, field trips!) Another friend grew passionate about squash.

Are you in the work study program? This is another way to broaden your horizons and network. I never took any type of art [history] classes, but I worked in the art museum one year, and learned a ton!

Basically, liberal arts college is luxurious and awesome. You'll have a blast! Also, enjoy your 4 years in close proximity to Antonio's pizza. Lucky!

capital

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #39 on: August 04, 2013, 02:26:07 PM »
Even a computer science minor will do wonders for your employment prospects: my girlfriend has a philosophy degree with a computer engineering minor, and a coworker of mine got her English degree with a CS minor, and both are employed at well-paying jobs with excellent benefits straight out of college. The tech industry is a bit bubbly these days, so things aren't guaranteed to be in the same shape in four years, but even at the depths of the 2008 recession entry-level employment conditions for anyone with even a bit of computer skill stood in stark contrast from those in any other industry.

Definitely try out a course or two if you're even remotely interested, and finish at least a minor if you find programming enjoyable.

Apparently the elite liberal arts-to-investment banking pipeline is not nearly as easy to hop into as it was pre-2008, so if you're interested in that industry, be very intentional about finding your way in. To quote a ridiculous periodical for those at the most elite of liberal arts colleges, The Daily Princetonian:
Quote
Taking an especially big hit is the financial sector, a.k.a. Wall Street, the sure pathway to a lifetime in the 1 percent.  In 2007, 180 Princeton grads had landed in investment banking by July of that year, barely time to find an apartment in Manhattan before starting work processing those mysterious “financial instruments” that landed us in such a mess. By 2009, that number had dropped by more than half.
from http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/02/28/30116/
« Last Edit: August 04, 2013, 02:27:40 PM by ehgee »

daymare

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #40 on: August 04, 2013, 05:00:58 PM »
Zalo, congrats, I'm so excited for how amazing the next 4 years can be for you!  I'm a 2011 grad (Carnegie Mellon for undergrad -- econ&math plus a couple minors, now at a Top 10 school for my PhD).  So I hope I'm close enough to school/getting my first job/all that confusion to have something useful to share.

As a recent undergrad, my advice:
1)  Definitely do a double major or add a bunch of minors.  One of the majors or minors should be very technical (math, physics, computer science, electrical engineering).  You should make sure to get all As in those classes -- they will be your signal that you are technical and can do quantitative work.  Sending this signal will mean that a lot of companies in other fields will be interested in you, because you can be taught to do what they need.
2) With the double major, it helps to do something that is a bit easier and practical as one of them.  I'd suggest econ or business. (Hopefully I don't offend anyone with that statement -- as someone who did econ, I personally think it's 'easy' as compared to math, physics, CS, electrical engineering, etc).  Business especially will be much easier than technical classes if you are able to write well and work in a group setting, thereby giving you the opportunity to kick ass at all of the technical classes.
3) Your school will have a wealth of resources -- use them!  Go to lots of lectures (to figure out what you're interested in), talk to your professors a ton (go to office hours -- great way to get the professor to know who you are, to later be able to write you letters of rec, suggest you for research or awards, etc).  Try to get to know people from all areas of study -- intramural sports teams, clubs, dorm/housing connections, are great for that.
4) The most important thing for getting employment is having work/internship experience.  Spend your summers doing something!  If you can't find an internship, use it for something product like teaching yourself a programming language or taking the GREs (just in case).  But definitely try to get an internship if you can.  I find that academia can be very insular and unfortunately there's not enough focus on work experience (which is the #1 beneficial thing for getting a job).

From the perspective of being involved in hiring new folks during my brief stint of working:
Be a whole person, with interests.  A 4.0 looks great, but a 4.0 without any work experience, club leadership, etc, can be a little concerning.  You might still get an initial interview, since companies often use GPA thresholds for hiring, and think someone with a stellar GPA is worth looking at.  But when you're interviewed, people are looking at whether they want to work with you, especially at a high-stakes, high-salary, time-intensive job.  (Like consulting -- an old colleague used to always joke about the airport test, that you shouldn't hire someone who you would find unbearable if you were stuck at an airport with when your flight was delayed or cancelled.)  Leadership positions are impressive, while activities, research, or grants give us an opportunity to discover what you totally geek out on.

And just in general, I hope you're able to enjoy life, as it is today.  Planning for the future is awesome, necessary, and you've got a great head start due to think things through so early.  But there's no point in putting off life or fun until you get to that point in the future when you're FI.  Also: take advantage of being a student, of grants or programs through which you can travel cheaply or for free.  Those experiences will probably be worth more long-term than saving a couple thousand while in college.  (Especially if you plan to take a super-high-salary job and work for as few years as possible before achieving FI, 3K will be nothing.)  Just remember you'll be a different person in 4 years: reaching FI ASAP may not be your most important goal, maybe you'll have passions that aren't extremely lucrative, maybe there will be a partner who's plan you want to consider when making your own.  And that's totally fine, and don't worry about things ending up completely differently than you might have thought, I have no doubt it will be a great path regardless of where you go from college.

omegashop333

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #41 on: August 06, 2013, 03:18:46 AM »
IMO

Look into getting a real estate license. It's a low buy-in for classes, fingerprints and test fee's. Also you will be learning real world practical skills (sales, marketing, law, finance, management,  communications, appraisal, market analysis ect. ect.) on your own terms. Each state requires a 12-24 month term that you must work under a broker. Learn their system, maul the library for every book on sales/marketing to add to your toolbelt.  This is win/win/win. You can pretty much make your own hour's and put in as much effort as you want but you will fulfill your personal income expectations and whatever "experience" and/or "reference" requirements that will be made of you, should you change vocations or add a part time funemployment gig.

Do that and you will be light years ahead of your peer's in terms of income and experience come graduation time.

Relax, year 1-2 of college is lightweight "general education classes". Year's 3-4 is whatever elective's you choose to pursue based on your Major. Mix it up and have fun!

College is college. Unless you're looking to work in a hard science vocation that requires a specific degree to work in that field, do what pleases you...especially if the experience is FREE! Just focus on getting SUMMA CUM LAUDE status. I would hire a 4.0  Humanities major over any 3.0 business major any day! That's just me, for the most part..keep "the college experience" in that venue. Think of it as employer insurance and compliance.

YOU should be able to sell YOURSELF in a business proposal, cover letter or interview , regardless of MAJOR/MINOR/CREDENTIALS... no matter the venue....THAT is what people are expecting from college grads and rarely get.  Real Estate or pretty much any other trade/commissions based sales that requires human interaction OFF OF A COLLEGE CAMPUS cover's all of those basis.




/IMO



 
« Last Edit: August 06, 2013, 03:28:59 AM by omegashop333 »

Fuzz

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Re: Soon to Be in a Liberal Arts College: Am I screwed?
« Reply #42 on: August 11, 2013, 10:42:36 AM »
Amherst is outstanding. You're in outstanding shape. Get good grades--if you have a choice between studying 10 hours for an 'A' or getting a 'B' and $1000 for working on your side project, get the A. Your GPA matters to future employers a lot. An Amherst grad with a 3.7 or better can get a consulting, IB, or corporate training job, without too much trouble. If that sounds ridiculous to you (and it might), don't rule it out until your junior or senior year. I'd suggest taking a few stats/econ classes, if for nothing other than to broaden your horizons and understand the language of business.

It sounds like you're excited about ER--but don't let your focus on that blind you to all the neat opportunities out there to study abroad, intern and spend time with awesome people. Also, you will be surrounded by a lot of 20 year olds coming from some of the wealthiest families on the planet. They will be dumb about money, and understandably so. You will be tempted to judge them for being idiots. That is unhealthy--try to enjoy their company, learn what you can, and don't worry to much for them or about them.

Enjoy the next 4 years!