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The 5 Stages of Terps Leaving STEM for Humanities


Few Terps actually stick with the major they naively picked out freshman year. In particular, the transition from a STEM major to the Arts and Humanities is long, painful, and often requires a minimum of three existential breakdowns per week. This difficult process is so well documented that The Black Sheep has broken it down to its 5 key stages.



This is the first stage, particularly strong in fall semester freshmen. Bright-eyed and ambitious, you enter UMD as a premed/prepharm/engineer/whatever. You got all 4s and 5s on your APs in chemistry, calculus, and biology, so you figure you could handle a STEM major. You actually know an insane amount about art history and read dusty old classics constantly, but you don’t let that stop you. Who cares about majoring in something you can actually tolerate? Struggling through 5 chapters of calculus and constantly failing chemistry tests is worth it. Totally.



Everyone said that college was fun, eye-opening, etc. You’re calling their bullshit. You hate every waking moment. The biology and math that seemed so fascinating and managable are actually eating your soul. Your friends who say college “isn’t that hard,” don’t realize that every time they get an “A” on a test it’s a dagger to your heart. It’s slowly beginning to dawn on you that you won’t actually make it in this major. Goodbye, career that makes money.



Okay, if you get a B on the final you can still pass the class. And then you can stay in this major. You can totally trade sleep, self respect, GPA, and happiness for this major. It’s totally worth it. Okay, maybe not . . . maybe you should take more theater classes next semester, those always make you happy. Wait, brilliant idea–you’ll double major in theater and computer science! It’s totally doable! Your parents won’t kill you, you’ll just have to kill yourself with all this extra work.


It’s that last, desperate hour. You know you need to drop your damn STEM major, but it’s so difficult. You calculate every possible scenario, searching for the one that lets you cling to engineering or physics or whatever.



You fail at life. Every exam grade for the past semester proves that you’re stupid. You’ll have to tell everyone in your family that, no, you won’t be a doctor, you won’t be able to make them proud. You’re not really sure what the meaning of life is anymore. You wasted all this time taking classes you hate. You wonder what the future holds.



Yes, the STEM majors are going to insinuate that they’re smarter than you. Yes, they’ll make more money than you upon graduating. But you know what? That’s okay. You love your humanities classes, you’re doing well in them, and you no longer hate every waking moment. It’s been a long and rough road, but you’ve made it to the end of the tunnel.

Let’s face it, the world wants everyone to be a STEM major. Loh infamously once said “That flower has a long and very sturdy ‘STEM.’ But at the top of that STEM, there’s a flower, a blossom. And that flower is the humanities.” While we appreciate his valiant attempt at compliment, humanities majors don’t need such flattery to validate themselves. They’ve already endured the 5 Stages–they can do anything.

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