What Your Major Actually Means

Hopefully by now you’re at least aware that, at some point, you’ll have to declare a major. If you’re not, please put your iPad down right now, go outside, and ask the nearest person to direct you to your dean’s office.

That being in mind, you’ve likely at least skimmed the list of possible majors on Yale’s website. Even if you’re the type of person who came to college with a solid life plan and haven’t wavered since (hi, I’m Karin, tell me how to be you), curiosity and/or procrastination must’ve dragged your mouse to open the webpage of majors at least once.

The problem with Yale’s official descriptions of all the majors is that they don’t really give you a solid idea of what you’ll be expected to study and learn. They idealize the work, tossing around phrases like “have a thorough understanding of,” “gain valuable perspective on,” and “be grounded in the foundations of.” But what are you actually understanding, perceiving, and grinding? What will it be like on a day-to-day basis?

Once again, dear reader, The Boola is here to break it down for you. What follows is a list of Yale’s description of a few majors and our interpretation of what they actually mean. Definitely use this to plan out your college career (frosh: don’t tell your FroCos we sent you).

Results guaranteed.


Yale’s definition: “The undergraduate program in English teaches students foundational research and writing skills and cultivates their powers of argument and analysis. Courses offered by the department are designed to develop students’ understanding of important works of English, American, and world literatures in English; to provide historical perspectives from which to read and analyze these works; and to deepen students’ insight into their own experience.”

Our definition: read a bunch of novels and poetry by old dead white guys. Occasionally mix it up with a person of color and/or a woman, but mostly stick to Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare, and the like.

ugh white people

 Just this. Lots and lots of this.


Yale’s definition: “Courses in the department are organized so that they are best taken in several parallel sequences. Courses numbered from 120 to 190 and ending in a zero are core survey courses that introduce students to major areas of psychology and provide additional background for more advanced courses and a whole lot of other stuff describing the different levels of courses

Our definition: You took Psychology 110 your freshman year, likely with professor Marvin Chun. You fell in love equally with the quirky subject material and the even quirkier mind tricks he occasionally slipped into his powerpoints. Plus, he dressed up as something hilarious for Halloween. You got generally positive vibes from this class and have no better ideas, so why not?

flamingo in a circle

 Me when deciding on a major. “Umm umm SHIT, I DON’T KNOW, PSYCHOLOGY?!”


Yale’s definition: The wide range of courses offered by the Department of Chemistry reflects the position of chemistry as the foundation of all the molecular sciences. In addition to graduate work in chemistry, biochemistry, or health-related disciplines, the department’s graduates find their broad scientific training useful in fields such as technology policy, business management, and law. Chemistry is an especially appropriate major for students interested in energy research or policy and the environment.

Our definition: We’re not really sure, but we assume you’ll be constantly doing either p-sets or lab reports. Or running off to the lab yelling “TO THE LAB” like Jimmy Neutron. Or chasing your kid sister Dee-Dee out of the lab.

Also, you know those old-school Tinker Toys? I’m pretty sure I saw my friend making chemical compounds with a set of those our freshmen year. So, hey, if you’re nostalgic for childhood, this could be the major for you.

Also if you have no desire for a social life.



Yale’s definition: The interdisciplinary program in Humanities is designed to contribute to an integrated understanding of the Western cultural tradition. Selected works of European literature, music, philosophy, and visual arts are studied in relation to each other and to the history of ideas and political institutions. The varied program of study offers many options for students in all years interested in interdisciplinary and broad-based work in the humanities, from special seminars for freshmen to the Franke and Shulman Seminars for senior majors. Most courses are open to nonmajors.

Our definition: This is the “jack of all trades, master of none” of majors. Here you will learn a little about a lot of things, but not a lot about anything. Work likely includes mastering the art of skimming articles to get the gist, arguing concretely enough to sound convincing but vaguely enough to not require much background information, and knowing precisely when to stop before you accidentally learn too much.

I’m pretty sure learning too much about one thing is grounds for being kicked out of the major.



Yale’s definition: You know, we could probably just copy and paste either one of them here and no one would notice the difference. Not even people in those majors. Or their professors. A few snippets: “comparative discipline concerned with human cultural, social, and biological diversity,” “how societies function and change over time,” “the causes and consequences of group differences and social inequality,” and “language use as cultural behavior.”

Ten points if you can correctly match the snippet to the major on the first try.

Our definition: We could probably just insert our definition for psychology here, only substitute professor Marvin Chun for professors Erik Harms and/or William Honeychurch. Yeah, let’s pretend we did that.


RDJ sex eyes

Pretty much Prof. Honeychurch

Political Science

Yale’s definition: There’s no official description. Probably the faculty failed to put one together because every time they did it just got so polarizingly political.

Our definition: Your parents have probably pushed you to major in science since you were a wee tyke. Close enough!

nailed it

It has science in the name. Still counts!

MCDB / MB&B / EP&E / E&EB / other acronyms

Yale’s definition: Something only the faculty really understands.

Our definition: You just wanted to be able to rattle off your major in .02 seconds for impressiveness’ sake. An acronym was necessary. Decision made!

dancing lobsters




Yale’s definition: History is the study of ways in which human activities in the past have shaped the contours of the present. Historians ask not only how the world came to be the way it is, but also why and how societies have changed and developed over time.

Our definition: History is the study of the best study spots on campus. History majors ask not only where to study (libraries, against a tree, in a coffee shop, during other classes), but also why and how one’s butt goes numb from sitting in the same spot over time.

I can't

The joke being that you’ll have a lot of reading. A lot.


I don’t even know. You like numbers? You really like numbers. But numbers that do different things, like construct bridges or describe business transactions or do other abstract things I don’t understand. Point is, you’ll probably be the most employable people out of our class, so just brace yourself to deal with all the envy you’ll inevitably receive.

i hate you

And can I live on your couch please? Homelessness doesn’t suit me.

Anything Else

Guys, I don’t even know. What else is there? Probably a lot, but ain’t nobody got time to go through that entire list of potential majors. Which is also likely why I ended up a defacto psych major.

thumbs up

Eh. It’s been working well for three years.