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Show Your Parents Why Choosing An English Major Is OK

(This is a common issue every college application season! Here are some tips for students who’re opting for an English major to help their parents feel good about their choice.)

Of all the dreaded teen student revelations – belly piercings, failed classes, regrettable Instagram posts – hearing that your child wants to be an English major in college is pretty high up there in terms of parental dread. After all, between an anemic hiring market (outside of tech) and record-high levels of student loan debt, liberal arts degrees have come under fire. So if your parents are freaking out about your planned choice of major, what should you do?

We have some pointers to help your parents understand the positive potential of an English major in college. Here’s what you do:

Read the Post.

Understand the points.

Do your prep (research).

Share the post with your parents.



Four steps to take the worry out and bring confidence in your choice of the major.

First Take a Deep Breath

Even if your parents are dead set against a liberal arts degree, and are worried you want to be an English major, help them understand that an immediate knee-jerk reaction won’t help anyone. Their reasons for wanting a more technical major may be based in logic, so they should be prepared to discuss your chosen field of study calmly and rationally. Be prepared to back up your choice with numbers and sources.

English Majors Have Value

Sure, STEM and pre-professional fields (education, healthcare, business) have better-than-average employment rates, but according to a 2014 Georgetown study, English majors have comparable employment rates with more “practical” majors like hospitality management, economics and political science. A senior thesis on James Joyce doesn’t necessarily send you straight to the unemployment line.

Moreover, studying the humanities doesn’t just hone your ability to compare Romantic literature and modern film. You are learning to quickly synthesize large amounts of information, think critically, recognize patterns, research and communicate effectively. And studying English is hard work – don’t assume that an English major is slacking off just because he isn’t pursuing a STEM degree.

The Path To Employability

 If there is still concern about employability with a humanities degree, you and your parents can discuss how to make yourself as hirable as possible. No matter what you study, some quantitative experience can help – Code.org provides free introductory programming classes, for example, and you can brush up on his math skills with a summer course. Computer skills are in high demand, and they don’t necessarily preclude a humanities degree. And if you wants to get into a good liberal arts program, you still needs to successfully complete high school math requirements!

Focus On Happiness, Present And Future

 In the long run, your parent’s goal is the same as yours – your happiness. And truth be told, financial security plays a big part in that, so their concern is justified. Work with your parents of translate the typical salary levels for your college and major to quality of life: if you’re making the median amount, will you be able to make a decent living in your dream city? Pay for an apartment while still saving for retirement? Get a master’s without drowning in debt? Money can be a pretty abstract concept for teenage students, so getting your parents’ assistance in laying it out in concrete terms will help you have a more realistic picture of what the future will be like.

Make an effort to talk to English majors who graduated recently (and maybe your parents can too). The college counselor may be able to connect you to some so you can learn about their career paths and get their advice on their choice of major and its rewards as well as challenges. A true story will resonate more deeply than any statistic.

Do your own research on opportunities for English majors – just for your own peace of mind. Many colleges have pages on career options for different majors, including English, and here’s an article that shows even tech companies need English majors!

Last but not least, remember that nothing is set in stone: your choice of major may change ten times before graduation, or it may not; you may find a job offer straight out of college, or struggle for a bit; you may even switch careers ten years later. Many English majors have achieved financial success as well as fulfillment in their careers. Your parents should be reassured that with your hard work and preparation (as you have shown in your efforts to convince them) and their unqualified support, you’re going to be better than OK!

Have something to share about English majors? Leave us a reply!


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