What is my economics degree really preparing me for?

PHOTO COURTESY OF LSE.AC.UK  Ahana Raina ‘20 questions whether Smith College provides enough mathematical instruction for economics majors.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LSE.AC.UK

Ahana Raina ‘20 questions whether Smith College provides enough mathematical instruction for economics majors.

Ahana Raina ’20 | Contributing Writer

“Are you prepared for the real world?” It’s a question I get asked more often than I want.

Studying abroad for a year at the London School of Economics brought that question to life. With butterflies in my stomach, I headed to my first economics class at the LSE — an institution that has economics in its name. The expectations were high for both: mine from the institution and the institution’s from me. And the question that came to mind was, “Am I prepared?”

I would like to think so. Smith starts its journey of preparing us from day one (which means pre-orientation, if you are international like me!) It organizes session after session on how to be organized, how to excel in college, how to write essays and the list goes on. They prepare us to be confident in our own skin and to own our personality. The world is waiting for us to come and just change it — for the better, obviously. And all of that may as well be true. As you know, I haven’t actually ventured out into the real world and am still in college!

However, I am straying from the point of this article. Coming out of my economics class, I began to wonder how prepared I actually am as an economics major in comparison to other students from other universities in the world, who we will be competing against to get a job. The short answer: not prepared. After two years of economics and completing all of my core requirements, I still don’t qualify for most of the classes at LSE (excluding the beginner level classes, which I shouldn’t be taking, anyway). This came as quite a surprise to me. And it’s not because Smith is not teaching the same economics, but because, unlike LSE, Smith doesn’t require us to have many mathematical requirements.

I do understand that, being a liberal arts college, Smith is catering the degree to anyone who wants to learn and is allowing students the flexibility to enter the discipline and take whatever they want from it. But this puts us at a disadvantage when we want to leave Smith and work in institutions where students, with the same economics degrees, come with a better quantitative understanding of economics. Offering some more economics courses that have a quantitative bent and letting the students decide what kind of degree they would like to have might be beneficial, seeing that economics is the third most popular major at Smith.

On a side note, London is beautiful, and enjoy this picture of Dover — I am obviously looking into the distance contemplating as a true Smith student does!