I Let My Mom Choose My Major

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“An English degree won’t get you anywhere in life,” my mom informed me as a senior in high school. Instead of arguing, I just agreed. Two years into my college degree later, we’re still not on the same page about my major.

I have always loved to read, and in high school I loved English class more than any other. I loved reading novels and writing papers. If I could choose to either write a paper or take a test, I would literally never take another test. My bedroom overflows with books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Catcher in the Rye, and I can easily name my favorite bookstores.

Strangely enough, idea of an English major never crossed my mind, probably because my first grade dream of becoming a musician hadn’t faded. It took a creative writing class during my senior year of high school to change my mind. I’d written a few short stories and novellas before, but I never considered myself passionate about writing. I loved how creative writing let me write whatever I wanted and work on my own schedule.

So I told my mom about my major decision, expecting her to tell me how proud I made her. Instead, I got the opposite reaction. She agreed that knowing how to write was an important skill for any career, but said trying to become a writer would leave me broke and unemployed. As she always said, “Writing is a hobby until you get paid for it.” She wanted me to pick a field with more career options and opportunities like something in science or business.

Psychology was the next best choice. After having read so many “coming of age” novels, I had a strong interest in mental health and how our brains work and make decisions, so I took general psych my first semester. I absolutely loved it, and decided right away that I should major in psychology. I didn’t take any English classes that year mostly because I didn’t have room in my schedule, but also because I wanted to show my mom I could do something she would approve. However, I started to miss the creative outlet English offered me.

When sophomore year rolled around, I decided to take an English class as an elective. A basic intro class seemed a little redundant for someone who analyzed literature for fun, but I loved that my homework revolved around reading novels and short stories. During that semester, my interest in psychology coincidentally decreased. I think the shiny, newness of psychology started to wear off and I became less enthused with the theories. I fell asleep in psych, received low grades on tests and constantly skipped textbook readings because I just couldn’t focus on it.

That’s when I finally started to consider changing my major. If I didn’t enjoy psychology and I wasn’t doing well in class, then maybe I’d made the wrong choice. I brought the idea up to my mom—but she just repeated what she told me in high school. As a successful career woman and college professor, my mom probably knew what she was talking about, but I didn’t believe her.

I wanted to try. Like any 19 year-old, I thought I knew everything, and I considered ignoring her advice. But on the other hand, I still needed to at least entertain my parents’ ideas since they help me pay for college.

When I chose classes for the spring I decided to take both psychology (to please my mom) and English classes to make me happy. Once again, I loved my English classes and found myself bored out of my mind in psych. I still enjoyed the topics we discussed in psych, but it wasn’t enough anymore. I started researching potential English major careers and found that English majors don’t necessarily end up unemployed after graduation. Who knew you could go into advertising, law or even medicine with an English degree? After finding enough research I showed it all to my mom, hoping she’d let me give up psych. She still wouldn’t budge.

After a lot of convincing and effort on my part, we found a compromise. I would just do both. So I will start my junior year as a double major, but not by choice. I refused to give up my dreams of becoming a writer and she highly recommended I stick with psych.

Doubling in English and psychology doesn’t entirely suck, though. I’ve found many crossovers with the two majors. I always get good grades on my psychology papers and I can better analyze literature in my English classes. It’s a lot of work though. With so many classes to take and pass, graduating on time sounds like a miracle.

Maybe someday in the future I’ll be glad I put in the effort to double major, or maybe not. But I know I’ll be thankful that I didn’t destroy my relationship with my mom over a college major. She has eventually come around enough to say that once I graduate I can choose to do whatever I want, even if that means getting an MFA in creative writing.

Is it perfect? No. Is it worth it? Probably.

Corinn loves music, dogs, rugby and peanut butter. She dreams of writing novels in a loft in New York City, but for the time being, she's a junior English and Psychology major at Luther College in Iowa.

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