When I mention I’m a creative writing major, adults ask, “What on earth are you going to do with that degree? Teach?” or “So you’re prepared to make very little money, right?” If your passions carry you to the world of teaching, I say teach.
As a writer, I refuse to accept the idea that the only secure path in life leads to a classroom and I know many others who’ve heard these words of discouragement feel the same. Though artistic fields are hard to break into, veering from the traditional paths of business and science and onto the path of humanities stimulates successful careers in the long run—even as successful as studying pre-law.
At the mere age of 18, deciding what you’ll study and who you’ll be for the rest of your life is an insane amount of pressure on its own, let alone juggling input from your parents about your future career. For many students it’s not a question of “What do you want to do?” but instead one of “Will you do what everyone else wants you to do?”
Parents may pressure students to choose a major based on practicality. With the cost of college higher than ever before, studying a major that’s practical for the working world makes sense. However, most parents’ definition of “practical” consists of one factor: Salary.
“Before going on to major in music my parents wanted to make sure I knew what jobs were out there, and whether or not I truly wanted that to be my future,” Florida State University percussion performance major junior Andrew Bockman said. Like Bockman’s, some parents pressure their kids to pursue traditionally successful career paths because they want the best for their kids’ futures.
Although many college students select their majors off the same logic of practicality, many experience the internal conflict of pursuing something they love versus something worthy of their parents’ approval.
“It took about a year for my parents to get on board with me majoring in percussion performance, but one they saw how dedicated and serious I was about it, they accepted it and supported me,” FSU percussion performance major junior Sabrina Peterson said. Not all students are as lucky as Peterson. Many adults deem all English, arts, film, history, music or any other humanities and arts majors “useless degrees” assuming these degrees ultimately lead to failure.
Florida State University College of Music Program Director Ted Stanley said he sees students struggle with this dilemma all the time. “They ultimately need to make the decision, and if that decision involves their parents’ wishes, so be it,” Stanley said.
He also says students who do pursue what they want often get a different kind of satisfaction than simply getting a good paycheck. “It takes courage, but one has to decide just how much his or her happiness is tied to money,” Stanley said. “Most musicians won’t get rich, but doing what you love might be just as important to you.”
So don’t define practicality as something that will make you the most money. It’s about doing something you enjoy, something you’re good at and something that fits you as a person.
Although it’s hard to break it to your parents, or even admit it to yourself, deciding to go after your passion will be the best decision you make in your college career.