Undeclared Students Should Consider A History Major

As the Student Ambassador for the History Department at Wake Forest, my pitch to students is unconventional. My case is not that a history degree will land you the best job, make you the most money, or help you get into law school. I would like to consider that you major in history for the simple reason that it is fun.

Lots of courses at Wake Forest are fun. Double majoring, or taking on a minor, is very feasible here. I happen to be double majoring in history and communication. You may have found history at your high school to be a drag. I promise that history classes at Wake Forest are never about recalling names, dates and events that you’ve crammed before a test and forgotten the next day.

You may have been told that there’s no job market in the humanities. Data from the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 found that individuals with history degrees between the ages of 25 and 64 had employment in “management, business, science, and the arts” (15 percent), legal occupations (11 percent), sales (10 percent), education (18 percent), and office work (10 percent).

Any major at Wake Forest, because of the university’s reputation for providing a solid liberal arts education, will give you the skills necessary to find gainful employment after you graduate. But history is especially fun.

Human beings love to tell stories. Storytelling, which recounts the past and situates it in the here-and-now, is arguably one of the most essential elements of human nature.

Whenever you describe to someone who you are, what others have said, when you did something, where you have been, and why you went there:, you have done history.

Notice the role of the “five W’s”: who, what, when, where, and why. History, similar to journalism, engages with this template. Because I have taken history courses at Wake Forest, I genuinely appreciate the five W’s.

History makes you think as a detective. We know for a fact that something happened, but why “then” and not later? We know that people thought a certain way, yet who or what was responsible for certain beliefs and attitudes?

Who are the people that our culture celebrates, and should they be celebrated? When did people decide that the world needed to change, and who was interested in keeping things the same? Who, really, were the people we remember? And who are we?

Many of us loved movies like “Hidden Figures” and “Selma,” and some of us will bravely admit we watched “Liberty’s Kids” (Paul Revere!) on television growing up. The musical “Hamilton” was a tour de force, not only for its amazing music, but also for how it remixed our nation’s origin story to be more diverse. In a previous Wake Forest application, the admissions office asked prospective students to consider which person next deserved “the Hamilton treatment.” Students of history grapple with similar questions, though unfortunately without the soundtrack.

As Student Ambassador, my job is to reach out to students who may want to learn more about the History Department and the vibrant opportunities that the major can offer. I look forward to learning about your ideas for how history could become ever more exciting for its participants.