Sybil Low by Sybil Low

Ever notice how students often ask, “What’s your major?” as an icebreaker? While many find it a friendly way to start a chat, there’s a buzzing online debate about it. Some love this simple question; others roll their eyes. So, why the split opinions? Let’s dive into this conversation starter and see what the fuss is all about.

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Key Takeaways

  • “What’s your major?” is a divisive icebreaker. Many students aren’t passionate about their majors, leading to negative feelings towards the question.
  • Mastering small talk transforms mundane interactions into valuable connections. Effective techniques include open-ended questions, genuine interest, and practicing with service professionals.
  • Active listening and letting others lead can enrich conversations. Every chat can offer new opportunities or insights.

First day of college or not, you are most likely to hear the question about your course. And it may not be that big of a deal for some. Other, though, find it irritating and trivial – why does it even matter? We took it to Reddit to find out what students really think about this conversation starter and found the right discussion.

The OP believes it’s a great conversation starter and that such small talk causes no harm. Does Reddit agree?

The Problem Is – Not Many Enjoy Their Majors

Most commentors agreed that there’s nothing wrong with the question itself. Nonetheless, they voiced a few assumptions as to why some students tend to perceive it with such revulsion.

“I like it. I think part of the problem is a lot of people don’t go to school to study things they enjoy anymore. That makes their major and potentially their job something they don’t like and a source or angst rather than an opening into their interests.”

“This, + people who actually study things they enjoy but are constantly told it’s a dead-end major with no use on the job market.”

“Or if that thing they enjoy is a major that has a lot of stigma, even if it’s deserved. Source: CS major who never told anyone my major because I didn’t want to be associated with most of the arrogant greasy antisocial people in my major lol.”

It seems that the main reason behind such a harsh reaction lies frustration with the own choice. Can this be the sole reason though?

It’s Just a Small Talk

Why Do Students Dislike the Classic 'What's Your Major?' Question?

Many people in the comments agreed, that the question is just a simple conversation starter. However, when repeated over and over again it just becomes annoying.

“It gets a bit boring after you’ve done it 500+ times, but I don’t hate it.”

“I’m just sick of having to answer this question tbh, nobody likes answering the exact same monotonous question with the exact same response. Ask me something more interesting and I’d love to have a conversation about it. “So what’s your major” just always leads to a boring and pointless conversation, at least on my end. It’s like when you get together with family that you haven’t seen in a while and they ask you “how’s school/work” type questions and not much else. You can only talk about it so many times before it gets very boring. That said, I don’t mind small talk in general, and I think it’s fine; I don’t really get the burning hatred for small talk that these antisocial weirdos on Reddit have, for whatever reason.”

byu/Abigail-Ivy from discussion

“…If someone asks me about my major, I’ll be casual about it, answer with a smile on my face, and make polite conversation, no problem. But at the end of the day, it’s not the kind of conversation that’s gonna make me feel any closer to the person beyond being work/school acquaintances. It’s not a bad way to connect, it’s just very lukewarm (for me)…”

So, How Do You Go About Small Talk Anyways?

We’ve all been there: a surprise encounter with a former classmate, the unexpected shared Uber ride, or the dreaded silence with a stranger in an elevator. The same goes for communicating with other students on campus. For some, these are cringe-worthy moments marked by stilted conversation or awkward silences. However, mastering the art of small talk can turn these chance meetings into opportunities for connection, networking, or even friendship.

  1. Move beyond one-word answers. Instead of the standard “how are you”, try asking about someone’s plans for the day or their current activities. This encourages a more extensive response and conveys genuine interest.
  2. Practice makes perfect. Engage in small talk with service industry professionals like waiters or baristas. They’re used to chatting, and it’s a win-win for both parties.
  3. Dive deeper. In situations where surface-level chats start to wane, delve into more personal topics like passions, hobbies, or memorable family tales. Sharing personal stories can be the bridge to meaningful conversations.
  4. Pick up on cues and be genuine. If you see someone carrying a tennis racket, for instance, ask about their game. But be genuine—feigned interest is easy to spot.
  5. Listen and let them steer. Active listening can be more engaging than speaking. Letting the other person lead the conversation can make it flow more naturally.

Remember, every interaction has the potential to open doors or offer insights. Even if you’re naturally reserved, practicing the art of small talk can expand your social skills and enrich your network. After all, you never know where a simple conversation might lead.


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