Artists bemoan STEM pressure

The first four months of my senior year were dedicated to stressing about the Common Application, visiting schools I wouldn’t end up applying to, applying to schools I wouldn’t visit, and frantically writing essays over winter break.

I applied to a healthy mixture of safety schools, match schools, and reach schools all in the liberal arts as a music major; as an artist, it helps to be able to study a wide variety of subjects, as it makes one well-rounded and thoughtful.  

However, during my application process, I noticed an interesting attitude that was shared by many of my peers.

All around me, students were talking about how much they wanted to go into engineering, or computer science, or mathematics (which is a national trend, according to a study done by the ACT.)

While I do find science and mathematics to be interesting, I have virtually no interest in pursuing an undergraduate study or a professional life in a STEM career.

I am firmly focused on music; I always have been, and I assume that I always will be.

Arts majors are often disparaged by STEM majors as being unemployable, jobless, and unintelligent, which is to be expected, but when I met with guidance to discuss college plans, I was shocked when similar rhetoric was used in the office.

While I wasn’t told that I should not pursue music, I was told that I should have shown more of an interest in a STEM field, and that my letter of recommendation from my counselor would have to express the (not true) fact that I enthusiastically pursue mathematical and scientific endeavors.

In contrast, my brother (who is an applied math student) was not asked to show that he was also good at and invested in the arts.

I am not the only non-STEM student to experience this pressure from above to pursue a career or use STEM as a self-promotional tool.

Many of my friends interested in social sciences and arts have also observed hints and suggestions that they need to tote their scientific qualifications in order to be taken at all seriously, by anyone.

This promotes an interesting double standard. Why do students who are committed to or invested in arts have to also come bearing a STEM seal of approval, while students who are already part of STEM are not pressured to be more “well-rounded” in the liberal arts?

Amherst Regional High School needs to address this set of pressures.

Students should not think that the only way to operate is to go into STEM.

According to the Census, only 26 percent of those with a STEM degree will actually end up in a coveted job related to the field.

ARHS should do a better job of promoting the arts on an equal level as engineering, math, and science.

Students should be allowed to actively explore and pursue their interests without the burden of going into STEM placed on their shoulders.

If Dmitri Shostakovich was able to single handedly affect World War II by writing a symphony, students shouldn’t be stopped from going into the arts.