Power ranking: backup majors

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“You can’t always get what you want.”

These wise words sung by The Rolling Stones accurately depict the struggle at UC Berkeley (well, maybe in the entire world but maybe even more so at Berkeley?). These are the words we UC Berkeley students live by, from not getting the desired score on a paper to not getting into a class to not finding a table at Caffe Strada. It’s all part of the appeal of going to a public college with 40,000 other people!

There are even known “backup majors” for students who don’t get the major they want. We here at the Clog have power ranked the four most common backup majors based on three metrics: embarrassment, prestige and difficulty.

Cognitive Science

Embarrassment: 4/5. This one isn’t too embarrassing. UC Berkeley is one of the top schools in the nation for computer science, so be confident knowing it’s a difficult major (filled with lots of fun, extremely competitive students). Don’t feel too bad about yourself! Your life is not over, even though you weren’t able to make it through Berkeley’s CS hell. Everything will be OK, you will make lots of money, and you will probably spend the rest of your days living on a yacht in lovely, turquoise waters somewhere.

Prestige: 5/5. Out of all backup majors, this one sounds the coolest. Basically anyone who hears you will think you’re destined to become a brain surgeon, so don’t worry about it. You still get tons of prestige (which is really all that matters in life).

Difficulty: 4/5. From what we’ve heard, this one’s difficult, but it’s no CS! You can manage it. And if you can’t, well, you’ll have to resort to a backup of a backup major. Rough.

Total: 13/15 (No backup major is perfect, because, well, it’s a backup major)


Embarrassment: 3/5. Not too bad. In this case, you’re part of the 50 percent of the population who just didn’t cut it for ~the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business~. Haas is difficult to get into, and February (aka decision-release time) is a hard time for everyone: the people who don’t get in, their families, their friends and all the people who have to hear them crying every place they go. It’s fine — you didn’t want to be a snake anyway.

Prestige: 4/5. Pretty solid prestige, although it’s a slightly more boring major to have than cognitive science. Anyone you tell will initially be impressed and then feel slightly bad for you.

Difficulty: 3/5. Difficult, but not impossible. Not as impossible as you getting into ~the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business~.

Total: 10/15

Political Economics

Embarrassment: 2/5. Embarrassment level is pretty bad. It’s a little rough that you didn’t get into Econ, but it’s probably because of those previously pre-Haas snakes.

Prestige: 2/5. Fine prestige, since it’s a major that sounds decently cool. And, you get to add an extra word to your major, which makes you clearly better than economics majors. You’re better than all those slugs in the other international area studies majors, anyway. Minus points for being a backup of a backup major.

Difficulty: 3/5. Regular difficulty — you’ve got a couple hard Econ classes, but you probably take peace and conflict studies classes for your major. 

Total: 7/15

Media Studies

Embarrassment: 2/5. Probably, a lot of you folks took “Physics for Future Presidents,” then realized that it wasn’t your science breadths you should be worried about — it was Political Science 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Oof. But, for those of you actually interested in media, film and television, it’s all good! You should have a lot of self-confidence in your passions while simultaneously laughing at/crying for poli-sci drop-outs.

Prestige: 2/5. Not the best prestige, because it’s known as one of the easiest majors here at UC Berkeley, and because UC Berkeley is filled with hyper-competitive students, that’s usually seen as a bad thing.

Difficulty: 5/5. See explanation above. Get ready to coast through college, media studies majors!

Total: 9/15

If you’re one of these majors, try to be proud of yourself. You are at Berkeley and you are going to graduate (Probably. Hopefully). Everything is A-OK. Good luck, Bears!

Contact Esmé Brachmann at [email protected].