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By Roy Grabow on January 16, 2018

One big issue that college students face is a fear that their parents will be unhappy with their choice of a major and career path.

If you are changing your major, or want to, and are concerned about parental reaction, a counselor at Student Health and Counseling Services is here to help you think through your decision and the conversation you will have with your mom and dad.

After all, you feel great when your parents are proud of your accomplishments. On the other hand, you feel extremely conflicted if you sense they are disappointed in your decisions.

Parents may tell you very clearly that you are making a big mistake, or they might show disappointment in more subtle ways, such as seeming disinterested in what you are doing in college.

A counselor will not tell you how to deal with your family and its reaction, but he or she will help you:

  • Reach a deeper understanding of your situation
  • Weigh the pros and cons of various plans
  • See new options that you may not have considered
  • Make a plan on how to communicate with your parents

When meeting with a counselor, consider discussing these issues:

1. Your plans for changing direction

How much confidence do you have in your choice of a major? If you have doubts about your career path, reviewing and resolving them may put you in a better position to persuade your parents that your plan is sound.

2. Communicating your plans

Have you talked with your parents about your choice of major and career plans?

Sometimes the idea of disagreeing with parents is so daunting that students conceal their plan and never discuss it with their parents. A counselor can help you decide if you want to talk with your parents and, if so, plan how to communicate in the most constructive way.

3. Your parents’ reservations

Think about the basis of your parents’ reservations, and if any of their ideas make sense to you.

Do your parents have reservations because they do not understand new or less common career paths and want you to follow a well-established path they are familiar with, for example, to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer? If so, a counselor can help you plan how to best present your plan and address your parents’ concerns.

4. Family culture

How does your family’s cultural context relate to career choice? Is there an expectation that children should defer to parents, and if so, to what extent do you share that belief?

5. The challenges of a top university

Do your parents know how difficult it can be at UC Davis to earn the top grades that are needed for some career paths?  If not, how can you get them to understand how hard you are working and how difficult your current path is?

You can find more about grade-point-average expectations in health and legal graduate work by reading “3 Big Myths Busted for Pre-Health Students” and “6 Things I Wish I Knew When I Applied to Law School.”

In addition to individual counseling, Counseling Services also offers testing and a Career Exploration group to help students choose a major. Get more details in our “4 Ways to Get Career and Personal Help From Counseling Services” blog post.

Roy Grabow earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Michigan State University and his doctorate in clinical psychology at Auburn University. He has over 35 years of professional experience, and for the last 10 years has worked as a psychologist with UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services.


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