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In the years before college, my end goal was to simply receive my university acceptance letter and then worry about my career path later down the line. However, my parents thought otherwise. As I entertained different major options, my parents were not the most supportive. Instead, they pushed for me to pursue typical white-collar career paths such as medicine, law and engineering. When I eventually abandoned the idea of going pre-med and settled on a career in science writing, they were not very pleased, to say the least. 

Despite my predicament, I used several different strategies to get them to support my decision. Through some trial and error, I eventually got their approval. If you’re in the same situation, here are some tips to help make life a little easier: 

Make Them Aware of How Common Major Changes Are

Nearly 80% of college students change their major at least once throughout their undergraduate career. Going straight to college after graduating high school is a big change, and it is unreasonable to expect teenagers to determine a definite career path over summer break. Get your parents to understand that you need time to experience life and experiment with different courses to make an informed decision on which major to pursue.

Remind Them That You’re Still Young and Have Time to Switch Careers

Assuming that you enter college as a freshman immediately out of high school, you will likely graduate at 22 or 23. This leaves plenty of time to live life and make a career change if your original plan doesn’t work out.

Convince Them of the Diverse Job Prospects That Your Major Offers

Losing parental support can be a very frustrating situation. Using arguments based on emotional appeal is very tempting during this time, especially since you may be feeling overwhelmed by negative emotions. However, using reasonable arguments to support your major change may be more effective in appeasing your parents. As new jobs are being created, each major has a variety of job prospects and opportunities that you can pursue. Try to create an organized career path under the degree you wish to pursue and present it to your parents to ensure them that you are taking this major switch seriously. 

Establish Common Ground and Propose a Compromise

If your parents still refuse to budge, you can first try to find common ground. Acknowledge any concerns or reservations that they may have regarding the major change such as low salary, not following family tradition, etc. Then, you can offer a compromise. For instance, you can propose to pay a larger portion of your tuition. Perhaps you can even offer to pursue a minor in your parents’ preferred field. Any compromise between you and your parents should be within reason and should not place a great financial or emotional burden on you.

Get Another Adult on Your Side

In my experience, I have found that parents are more likely to listen to another adult when it comes to navigating higher education. Creating a four-year plan with an endorsement from an advisor or counselor can potentially get your parents to change their minds. A professional opinion could nudge your parents in the right direction and get you the support you need for a major switch.

If you are certain that the major you are currently pursuing is not right for you, it is important to meet with an academic advisor as soon as possible. Getting parental approval for your major switch is encouraging, but you should major in whichever field you are most passionate about.

Oge Okpala

UC Berkeley '24

Hello! I am currently a UC Berkeley sophomore majoring in Integrative Biology and Media Studies. In my free time, I love watching youtube, listening to music, spending time with friends, and crocheting.
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