Having a game plan when you talk to your parents about your major can help ease tension.
Oprah told you to follow your passion, but apparently your parents didn’t get the memo. While your college major seems like it should be your business, it’s not unusual for Mom and Dad, and other members of the family tree, to weigh in on your choice. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re wrong. And often, the ensuing conversations can become a little heated. This might be your first lesson in why borrowing money from family and friends can be frustrating. When someone is footing the bill, or a portion of it, they can find it hard not to voice a well-intended opinion about how you are spending their cash.
Your college education is one of the biggest-ticket items you’ll ever purchase. It pays to listen to some of the conflicting voices, examine every angle and find evidence that your choice of major is the right one. Here are four steps that will help you build your case and communicate with those who aren’t too hot about your academic focus.
Step 1: Think like them. Of course you don’t think like your parents, but chances are you can predict their responses and understand some of their motivations. Put yourself in their shoes and highlight the reasons you believe they aren’t embracing your major. Jot these down and then…
Step 2: Do your research. Speak with professors, former majors and internship/career mentors about your choice and your career goals. Ask them for guidance regarding your parents’ concerns and their reluctance to embrace your selection. These advisers will likely provide you with statistics, success stories and anecdotes that can help you build your case. Digging a little deeper might also result in re-examining your major or adding a minor area of study to build an even stronger portfolio.
Step 3: Outline your strategy. Create your case on paper before you begin a dialogue. This will help you stick to the points that support your decision instead of moving into those emotionally charged waters that usually end in a stand-off.
Step 4: Pitch your case. Decide which format works for your family. Sometimes face-to-face is best. Other times, reviewing a written document can prepare everyone for a more productive discussion. Either way, open or close your case with the fact that majors change and that unusual majors can illustrate wonderful niches that can be attractive to employers and graduate school admission committees. Offer examples of successful CEOs, scientists and entrepreneurs and their college majors. Provide facts and anecdotes, but be open to the stories and strategies your parents might share. Most parents want the best for their children, so their responses to your academic choices are often well intended. This is your opportunity to consider all of the evidence, practice the power of negotiation and identify your best academic options.
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