Life lessons in choosing a field of study

Photo for Student Major Article (1)By Will Lesoravage

Elm Staff Writer

In many ways, college is synonymous with growth. It is a period of time in which we learn to be adults, largely on our own, and begin to shape our futures in the way we envision them.

But, as with many other aspects of life, there are often, if not always, obstacles that we must overcome in order to get where we want to be. While this can manifest in many forms, one of the most common ones is through conflict between parents and ourselves; to be even more specific, the conflict which erupts in response to life decisions.

None is more defining in this area than the choice of our academic path, or major. Our parents often have ideas or misconceptions of what we, as students, might be best suited for, or which path will bring us the most success.

And while this may be flawed thinking in and of itself, we cannot be hostile towards this philosophy — when our parents try to push us in a certain direction, they are often displaying that they have a vested interest in our lives, which can be interpreted as a fundamentally good thing.

But as the old adage goes, the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and in this case, one could not put it more accurately. While parents want what is best for us, their perception of our identity will likely grow increasingly out of date as we spend more time away from home in new environments that catalyze change.

When the discussion finally happens, and you tell your parents about the major you wish to pursue, your parents might seem not thrilled. They might tell you that there is no money to be made in such a field. If they are paying for your school, they might even go off on you for “wasting their money.” How did it get to this point? And more importantly, do you comply with their vision of what they want for you, or do you stick to your guns?

The answer, while straightforward, is sometimes difficult to embrace.

Fundamentally, if you believe that your major is what will provide you with the greatest level of happiness, and it is something you genuinely enjoy working with, then of course you should stand your ground. There is no one who knows you better than yourself.

A very difficult part of growing up is learning how to go against the opinions of our parents. They might have decades of life experience on their side, but at the same time, your life is your own. Now that you are an adult, you are no longer entirely under the control of your parents. Learning when to split off is difficult for sure, but it has to start somewhere.

I would argue that college is a great place to commence that. If your parents care about your happiness, or at least respect your ability to make decisions, they will ultimately come around and respect your choice. Even if they don’t, understand that you do not need their approval in every case to pursue what you want for yourself.

And, if you are looking for preventative measures to keep this from happening, stay in communication with your parents, and let them know how you feel about certain academic fields and majors. Your parents will appreciate not being blindsided by a change of major from environmental science to history, or philosophy to engineering.

Most importantly, by staying in communication with your parents, you will appreciate the fact that you will not have to talk circles around your parents as to why your decision makes sense.

Above all else, trust yourself and evaluate what makes you happy. If you keep this in mind, then all future decisions will come much easier to you.

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