Humanities Degrees: Are They Worth It? Tips for the Aspiring Humanities Major


Humanities major with book and graduation cap

The emphasis on STEM in today’s society can leave students who prefer humanities subjects feeling as if pursuing their passion will leave them with no career opportunities in the future. In this article, learn the truth about the humanities and see a list of worthwhile extracurriculars for the high school humanities student.


What are the humanities?


Humanities is a broad term that encompasses the study of languages, the arts, literature, philosophy, religion, and history. In the past, universities often exclusively focused on the humanities subjects, emphasizing the study of classical languages, like Latin or Greek, as well as the study of law, history, and literature. However, in recent years, with the rise of computers and the technological age, humanities disciplines are often overlooked in favor of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects.


Is a major in a humanities field worth it?


In short, yes! If you are passionate about a humanities subject, then pursuing that passion in college is worth it. The stigma against majoring in humanities comes from the misconception that, unlike in science and engineering fields, there are no jobs available for those with humanities degrees. However, recent studies have shown that there is no real basis for this assumption. In fact, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences published a study in 2018 that revealed most of those with a humanities degree are employed, fulfilled by their employment, and happy with their salary. So if you are considering studying the humanities in college, don’t be deterred. Read on to find out worthwhile extracurriculars for your humanities-focused college application.


Extracurriculars for Aspiring Humanities Majors


If you are a high school student who knows they want to pursue the humanities, or is strongly considering it, you may be wondering what extracurriculars to participate in order to strengthen your college application. View a list below, and explore whichever ones best fit your interests.


For Writers:


Join the school newspaper: As a writer for the school newspaper, you will pitch your ideas, conduct interviews, and put your writing skills to a real-world application. Writing for the school newspaper is a great way to hone your writing skills, create original content, and potentially gain leadership experience. No school paper? Consider submitting an Op-Ed to your local newspaper or starting a local newspaper. Local papers are often happy to publish pieces by high school students, especially when the topic of the piece relates to the community.



Attend a prestigious writing course over the summer: Summer programs are an excellent way to explore your passions further outside of school. However, not all programs are made equal and some will look more impressive on your college application than others. Consider the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference or the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio's Summer Residential Program, both of which provide prestigious opportunities to expand your writing skills. Learn more about summer programs and their pros and cons here and see a list of the best writing competitions here

For those interested in law or politics:


Mock Trial: Mock trial is a team extracurricular offered in high schools and colleges around the country where students simulate a real trial. Each year, the American Mock Trial Association releases a fictional case that students must prepare a trial for. Students can participate in the trial as lawyers, witnesses, or in supporting roles, such as bailiff or clerk. Mock trial provides the opportunity for students to learn about the law, win awards, and participate in prestigious competitions. To learn more about mock trial, click here.


Speech and Debate: Joining your high school’s speech and debate team gives you the opportunity to develop valuable skills such as critical thinking, public speaking, and communication. Typically, speech and debate competitions fall into two separate competitions, one for speech and one for debate, so you can focus on whichever one fits your abilities and interests best. Speech competitions focus more on individual performances while debates focus on a single topic, with two opposing sides battling each other to convince the audience of their position.


For the arts:


Art Competitions: Art competitions are a valuable way to gain recognition for your artistic talent and work, while also allowing you to develop a portfolio of award-winning work that could potentially be included in your college application. Consider the National YoungArts Foundation, where winners are mentored by top artists, given scholarship opportunities, and nominated to serve as a U.S. Presidential Scholar of the Arts, or the Congressional Arts Competition, where art is submitted to your congressional representative and winning pieces are displayed in the United States capitol building.


Summer Programs for the Arts: There are many summer programs for aspiring artists, musicians, and performers; however, some will impress college admissions more than others. The Juilliard School in New York offers programs for talented high school students interested in music, as well as an intensive summer program for dancers. Similarly, Interlochen Arts Academy also offers respected summer programs in art, dance, theater, music, and creative writing.


This list is not exhaustive, and it’s important to remember that creating your own independent extracurricular project is one of the best ways to build an impressive profile. Need help with planning extracurriculars? Reach out.