Zhong Fangrong, who sat for this year's annual national college entrance examination, or gaokao, scored 676 out of 750 and ranked fourth in Hunan province, making her eligible for admission into any university of her choice.
However, when she applied for majoring in archeology from Peking University, many people on social networking sites reacted saying the subject has little economic prospects and that Zhong better apply for a "money-related" major such as finance or economics so that she can make more money for her family.
"Arts and humanities are too luxurious for someone from an average-income household," one commenter said on social media platform Weibo.
The arts have traditionally been overlooked as a career choice because the job market in China has long favoured talents in finance, science and advanced technology to feed the country’s rapid economic growth.
The comments were a reflection of the societal pressure lower-income families face to climb the social ladder instead of following their dreams.
“I' ve loved history and artefacts since I was young. I have also been influenced by Ms Fan Jinshi, that's why I signed up for this major," she wrote on Weibo on Sunday. "Thank you for all your encouragement."
The incident had aroused so fierce discussions on social networks that archeological institutions nationwide sent gifts and best wishes to Zhong, while Peking University also expressed their wishes to her.
Since then, Fan has sent Zhong a handwritten letter, as well as an autobiography about her years in Dunhuang, according to media reports.
"Don't forget your dreams, persevere and focus on your studies," Fan wrote.
Maybe archeologists do not make a lot of money, but choosing the subject as a major is no guarantee one will find a well-paying job upon graduation, or a low-income one for that matter. One's future, including what one is likely to earn, is decided more by how excellent one is at one's work than by what subject one majors in. For example, majoring in finance is no guarantee one will end up becoming a millionaire, just as studying computer science is no guarantee one will become the next Bill Gates.
There are no "hot" or "happening" subjects to begin with. Everybody has to ultimately work hard for a promising future. Here's wishing Zhong a fruitful time at the university and a dream job to her and her batchmates upon graduation.