Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Majors Totem Pole through Fresh Eyes

By Prihatha Narasimmaraj '14

Though I spent most of Frosh Week attending as many useless open houses as possible, I was able to amuse myself by constructing a Hierarchy of Concentrations. I soon began to understand where all these valedictorians/student body presidents /musicians /artists /wunderkinds fit in this new hypercompetitive microenvironment. And so, I present:

The Intellectual Pecking Order at Princeton (in order of perceived godliness) see the Jump.

1. Mathematics. I met my first math major at the open house “Women in Science and Engineering,” which, by the way, had two boys in attendance. I introduced myself and described my math-less schedule (in retrospect, the lack of an appreciative nod when I mentioned Woody Woo should have warned me), adding that I wasn’t really a “math person.” Frizzy-hair-girl looked at me with a mixture of condescension and confusion and proceeded to give me the hackneyed “There’s only one right answer in math” spiel. My cue to leave and meet some premeds.

Bottom line: Math majors see nothing hipster in taking a seminar about poetry. They’d much prefer Fourier series, all day, every day, and someone else equally sainted to check their p-sets with.

2. Physics/Engineering. These ones are a bit more people-friendly than their direct superiors and always go on about how physics/engineering is so much cooler than math because you (not you, but they) can apply it. However, because a lot of them are B.S.E candidates, they’re always a little bit irritated about walking all the way across campus to take a goshdarn computer class, and the fact that they have to take more classes than the rest of us anyways.

Bottom line: They can help you with your homework, but when engineers start complaining about how they don’t get as much attention as, say, Woody Woo majors, you feel like asking them why they didn’t go to MIT instead.

3. Chemistry. They generally don’t have that whole god-complex, but chemistry majors can get a little snotty about having taken orgo as freshmen while the rest of us slog through it sophomore year. On the plus side, having one as a roommate comes in handy when you can’t figure out the last isomer for C3H4O.

Bottom line: They’re generally a good sort, and while sometimes inclined to go premed, they usually forgo that path for the joys of materials synthesis and Ph.D’s.

4. Biology. Here is where it gets kind of iffy. You have the students who like molecular biology, like ecology, and all the premeds who realized that being a classics major is not going to get them into med school. The latter are either gentle souls or students with an unparalleled skill for resume-padding and insincere philanthropy (i.e. volunteering at the University Health Center and any other internships they can get their hands on since we don’t even have a medical school).

Bottom line: They’re aware of the fact that they’re not exceptionally talented at any of the above sciences, but that sure won’t stop them from raking in cash ten? fifteen? (how long does it take to get out of med school nowadays?) years down the road.

5. Everyone else. This includes the social sciences, humanities, and other obscure majors now made cool by the fact that they aren’t pigeonholed above (instead, they’re all lumped together at the bottom of the hierarchy).

About la gamine: la gamine is a writer for the Prox. She enjoys long walks on the beach, collecting absurd names, and doing crosswords. In her free time, she dabbles in fashion, listens to good music (Queen, Alanism Morisette) and reads incessantly.


Anonymous said...

Good observations and funny!

A Math major :-) said...

This is definitely true!!!

Anonymous said...

True at almost any school, and hence a little cliche? Blame the job market.

Still, I suppose that these are the stock pieces that must be written.