Ask a College Advisor: What Do I Do If My Family is Not Supportive of My Chosen Major?

Hear from a college advisor on how to handle a situation where your family doesn't support your chosen major.

portrait of Lauren Albano, M.Ed.
by Lauren Albano, M.Ed.

Updated February 28, 2022

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Ask a College Advisor: What Do I Do If My Family is Not Supportive of My Chosen Major?

Question: What Do I Do if My Family Is Not Supportive of My Chosen Major?

Answer: Many people consider college a time when we enter adulthood and start setting our own goals for our future. But what if one of these first big decisions — your college major — is met with disappointment or criticism from family members?

If you've spent a lot of time and effort choosing a major, it can feel disheartening to find out that your family doesn't support your major of choice. It's normal to want your family's sincere approval, so what should you do if you're seeking greater support than you're receiving?

Communicate Openly

All families have different dynamics, and no answer will work perfectly with each family situation. However, for most families, communicating with each other honestly will go a long way toward helping you feel validated in your decision while leaving your family members feeling heard and respected.

First, start a conversation with your family about your choice of major with the intent to truly listen to their concerns. Do they have an underlying fear about your ability to find a job or support yourself financially based on their past experiences? Are they unfamiliar with your major and having difficulty visualizing your future career path?

Work to understand the root of their concerns and let them know you are listening. Showing them that you value their feedback can help them feel heard and encourage them to show you the same respect in return.

Your family likely knows you well, and they probably have good intentions. Consider whether there is any truth to their concerns. Could adding a minor or double major enhance your degree or balance your passion with a higher earning potential? Truly consider their feedback and use it as an opportunity to reflect on your decision more deeply.

After listening to your family's concerns, you can take time to address these concerns with clear information. Share with them the reasons you are passionate about your major and the opportunities that may become available to you upon your graduation.

If you can, provide statistics on employment rates after graduation, alumni stories, or any other data to illustrate your potential for success.

Share Your Passion

Invite your family into your educational experience. This could be through a campus tour, meeting with an academic advisor, or showing them your course materials. If you're studying online, ask them to join one of your virtual lectures and learn alongside you.

Providing your family with a fuller picture of your learning experience can help them better understand your decision, and it might help them become more supportive over time.

Adjust Your Expectations

Most likely, a single conversation won't completely resolve all your family's concerns. Adjust your short-term expectations if they aren't immediately 100% on board.

If they don't approve of your major, ask them to support you emotionally through the academic challenges you face. Can they celebrate your accomplishments and opportunities, such as internship offers or completing a big class project? Be specific about how your family can help support you.

Allow them time and space to process their feelings so you can spend your energy finding additional sources of support and mentorship.

Seek Additional Support

To increase the strength of your support system, take time to connect with faculty and staff in your program, find an alumni mentor, and connect with peers through a study group or academic organization. It is important to feel supported in your learning experience, even if that support is not coming directly from your family members.

Take care of your mental health and emotional energy. Some family members may take a very long time to become supportive of your decision. For your peace of mind, work to accept your family for who they are and make space for yourself if needed. Seek help from a therapist or trusted mentor for additional guidance and support.

Your family may see your dedication to your studies and start to come around, or they may not. While it's painful and discouraging to hear your family express doubt in your decisions, try not to let it distract you from your goals.

Additional Benefits of College

Remember that college is more than just your major! You're gaining incredible life and professional skills through networking, campus involvement, and leadership experiences. It's important for you and your family to know that, regardless of what subject you study, your holistic educational experience is helping to shape you.

College is also just the beginning of your academic and professional journey. You'll have many more opportunities to continue learning and growing throughout your lifetime.

Summary

Communication is key. Create a conversation in a safe space where you can genuinely listen to your family's reasons for concern and show them that you are eager for their support. Provide them with clear information on why you have chosen this academic pathway and the opportunities available to you through this degree program.

Find additional sources of support and mentorship and take care of yourself. Even if your family doesn't become supportive of your decision, be proud of yourself for taking ownership of your academic journey. Know that this is just the beginning, and many more opportunities will await you in the future.

Have a Question About College?

In our Ask a College Advisor series, experienced advisors provide an insider look at the college experience by answering your questions about college admissions, finances, and student life.


DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.


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