Should Parents Have an Active Role in Choosing Their Student’s College Major?

Two parents hold hands while watching their daughter graduate and walk down a road.

Without question, all parents want the best in life for their children. Once you become a parent, you no longer live life for yourself, but for your child as well. Every small pleasure you might have had before pales when compared to the needs and wants of your child. Every hardship becomes easier to bear the thought of your beloved son or daughter in mind.

The Childhood Habit

It is therefore easy for a parent to slip into the impression that, no matter the subject, he or she knows best for their child. And it’s not entirely wrong—up until maturity, the parent does know better. However, the situation will not remain the same once the child grows up.

Conversely, coming into the world kicking and screaming, every kid quickly learns to rely on his or her parent for the most basic needs. From food and clothing to important decisions, our parents provided everything for us when we were small and helpless. The fear of disappointing them is deeply inseminated into our persona and pleasing them feels almost like a need.

Cutting the Cord

As such, it may be difficult for both the parents and the child to cut the cord when faced with the crucial decision regarding education—choosing a college major. Some parents prefer to start the conversation about college early on, teaching their kids the value of independence. However, the same parents may come to face the need to harshly impose the major on their by-now mature offspring.

This happens because the practical preferences of the parent may not—as often is the case—coincide with the wants and passions of the student. Poetry may be your heart and soul, says the parent, but it won’t pay the rent. It’s my decision whether or not to study something for years and years, and then practice it my whole life, replies the student. This kind of back and forth may rage on for a long period of time without producing any benefits.

And so, parents may find themselves trapped between trying to offer their children independence in choice and guiding them to better job prospects. Findings suggest that the income of the family is an essential factor that weighs on choosing a major. Humanities are at the top of the chart, showing that high-income families can provide more liberty to the students to pursue their passions.

On the other side, students that don’t have the luxury to pick and choose a major are more of often than not forced to go for a high-paying job perspective.

Education and the Job Market

Despite the rising cost of education, its availability has greatly increased in the last decades. That has prompted an elevated level of competition in the job market. Some careers, such as those in medicine-related domains, require strict educational milestones and developed skills. Studying for such a job must start early on. The student needs a lot of financial backing from their family for materials, books, and tutoring. For example, if a student wishes to pursue a career in graphic design, they would require an in-depth understanding of artistry, marketing, and graphic technology obtained through quality education in order to have a competitive edge in the job market.

The same jobs promise a more than satisfactory pay once obtained, making them the aim of parents. At the same time, their increased difficulty turn them into the bane of students.

Other jobs, such as those in the developing IT industry, offer greater flexibility and a diverse domain of activity. However, even low-grade IT jobs require an extensive comprehension of coding and advanced mathematics and are not for everyone.

Passion or Paycheck

It is difficult to reconcile your drive to study and hopefully work in the field of your passion and the acknowledgment that you need to attain financial security and self-sufficiency. Financially depending on your parents can be a burden on them and make you feel restricted. A compromise must, therefore, be reached.

Do Students Know Best?

As mentioned before, in the early stages of life, parents do know what’s best for you, despite the convincing crying you often dish out. However, that may no longer be true. The job market has undergone essential changes in terms of job requirements and workforce structure.

Almost regardless of the domain of activity, specialization is now key. The difference from decades ago is that it is not manual specialization, such as that which we could find on a production line. Automation has made that a distant memory. Today, theoretical specialization in terms of know-how has taken center stage.

Complex and hard to understand job descriptions now baffle and confuse parents. The job market is not what they used to know, and “safe” jobs such as those in engineering or accounting have also suffered structural changes.

As such, can one trust the parents, rooted in their conceptions of defunct economic realities, to make the right choice in terms of college major? The truth is that spending 5-6 years to obtain a good degree and then another 5 years to specialize in a field is a risk in itself. And it is so because 10 years is a long time for the job market—trends never last for long, but your education is with you for a lifetime.

The Give-and-Take

The parents can’t be passive spectators to the child’s life, or in any case, they shouldn’t be. The ideal scenario is that choosing a college major will be the result of an open and honest discussion. Parents and kids have different world views, ideas, passions, and values simply due to their age difference. This needs to be acknowledged on both ends, without one forcing his on the other.

College is perhaps the most beautiful and important period in a person’s life in terms of future prospects. While high up on your cloud of idealism and youthful energy, don’t forget to listen to your nagging yet practical parents. Take their every piece of advice into careful consideration because in the end, you’re their most costly and beloved investment.

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