Perhaps you have noticed it, or even more likely, you have participated in the tremendous amount of showing off that occurs about how much work you have.

"I have so much work, I'm SO stressed out," with the implicit I-have-way-more-work-than-you-do-you-wouldn't-understand-you-lazy-any-other-major-but-mine, is a phrase often heard around Bowdoin. As an English major, I hear this a lot from my pre-med and chemistry friends; I feel the need to constantly talk about my work load, just so they know that I'm probably working harder than them.

This showing off has gotten to the point where even the faculty has picked up on it. Education professor Charles Dorn recently commented, "As I understand it, it's cool to be stressed," and government professor Henry Laurence has noted the amount of measuring up and comparisons between the relative difficulty of certain majors among students.

Well, I'm here to finally settle this question once and for all. Which major is in fact the hardest one?

Just as with all legitimate research, to answer this question I have to first tackle the issue of metrics. How do I measure "hard?"

Is it the number of hours put in a week? Where you fall on that continuum could be indicative of the relative difficulty of your major, more hours indicating a higher level of difficulty. However, long hours could be indicative of inefficiency rather than challenging material.

Maybe part of the "hardness" metric could be the number of required courses. But that sum does not say much about the content of the courses. Taking many easy courses could be as difficult as taking fewer more difficult ones.

Average departmental GPA could be another indicator of difficulty, though I'm not sure how. A low average department GPA could indicate that the major is arduous and requires a lot of work, or it could just mean that all of the students in that department are less than stellar.

One model I'm a fan of uses statistical evidence to determine the hardest major. I was introduced to this idea by Professor Conly of the philosophy department, who, while questioning the usefulness of such a question, offers the thought that "what's difficult depends on the abilities of the person." She asks, "It's difficult for whom?"

People choose to go into fields in which they are talented because they enjoy doing a specific type of work. So, of course writing a philosophy paper is going to be difficult for a chemistry major, and completing a lab might be difficult for an English major. In this light, this question becomes a statistics problem.

When I presented this question, to my roommate, she too offered a statistical response. She studies science and music, and is currently pursuing an honors project in biology. Given how much she complains about her honors project, I thought her immediate answer would be biology. Yet, to my surprise, she answered music. According to her, music composition, a core part of the major, is incredibly difficult, and not something for which too many people possess a knack. So, the most difficult major might then be the field of study in which the least number of people are talented.

However, I think my favorite method is the one offered by a professor who wished to remain anonymous. He suggested that there may be an inverse relationship between the difficulty of a major and how well the faculty of that major dress. The harder their subject, the less they need to dress to impress. I did a quick evaluation and determined his subject might be on the harder side.

Yet this question, and the very phenomenon of cool stress, troubles me a little. Why is this even happening? Shouldn't college students be bragging about how much they can drink, not how hard their classes are? Professor Dorn tentatively links this aspect of Bowdoin to the professionalization of higher education.

"If you buy the whole [idea], this college provides...a place for a kind of personal development, to come to a greater understanding of what's important to you and your place in the world," said Dorn, "it seems odd that students arrive with almost a professional attitude."

Dorn added that it is peculiar that we treat our college experience so professionally when we have the rest of our lives to spend that way. I can't help but agree: the point of a college like Bowdoin is not utilitarian, but rather to achieve something more enriching.

Are you at Bowdoin to land internships each summer and eventually get a job, or are you here to learn more about yourself and the others around you? The narrative you tell when you graduate should not be a list of reasons why you are perfect for some position, but instead be a personal story.

Granted, this can be difficult. As a senior so far fruitlessly job hunting, I can tell you that part of me wishes I had done more to professionalize my college career.

Yet at the end of the day, you have to wonder how useful it is to ask which major is the hardest. It seems to me that if you are bragging and complaining about how much work you have, or if you disdain others for working less than you, you're missing the point.

This is a lesson I only learned at the end of my four years and I am egregiously guilty of all the sins enumerated above. I wish I had known it from the beginning.

Oh, and by the way, English is totally the hardest major.

Chris Sanville is a member of the Class of 2012.