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How to tell your parents you want to study something different

Deciding to change the degree you’re going to study is a big decision, but hard to make if your parents have other ideas. So how do you have this conversation?

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When you look at the world population, the percentage of those who have graduated university is very low. From cultural priorities to financial means, there are many reasons why many decide not to go to university. 

One factor that seems to play a huge role in whether or not someone goes to university is the generation in which they were born. In almost every country worldwide, those born after 1994 are far more likely to get a degree than those born before that year. 


Prepare for the conversation 


If you’re a prospective student looking at going to university and studying abroad, you may be witnessing this generational difference in your very household. Your parents might not have had the opportunities to pursue a degree like you have. 


It’s this difference that can make many parents eager for their children to go to university while at the same time not wanting them to “waste” the opportunity, in their opinion, on a subject that they feel is less beneficial to you. 


This dynamic is more common in certain cultures but is prevalent in many families globally, and if you’re the one applying to university, it’s easy to feel a bit trapped. 


In most cases, parents likely want their children to study something academic that can lead to what they see as a good career, while you are looking to study something more creative or niche. 


This conversation can be a difficult one to have, especially if they’ve just got their heads around you leaving home to study abroad. It’s important to have the right mindset when approaching the topic as well as trying to understand where they are coming from. 


You can do some extra research by finding a potential degree with our course matcher tool.  


Focus on the future 


Before you go into this conversation, the most important thing for you to know is that your future is their focus, so you need to make it the central point of the discussion. 


If going to university was just about your time there and had no impact on your career, more parents would probably be happy with their children studying what they like. However, they are looking at the bigger picture and are concerned about you missing job opportunities certain degrees can provide. 



Research your subject  


Let’s say you’re a prospective student who wants to study French, but your parents are hoping you do something like law or business studies. Depending on where you’re from and where your parents have lived, French may not be very useful in their eyes. 


Perhaps you’re Australian, where French speakers are less than 0.5 per cent of the country, it’s understandable that they may be confused as to why you would want to study the language and how it will apply to everyday life or work. 


However, just going into detail as to why you want to study for your degree and what it can lead you to do will make them feel a lot better about your change of plans.  


For example, studying French could open up job opportunities in 29 French -speaking countries worldwide. In addition, there are the transferable skills studying a language provides. There are so many reasons to study French at university level just like there is with any other degree you may be passionate about. 


By giving them more information on why you want to study the course, you’re interested in rather than just telling them you don’t want to do the one they had in mind, you can help shape their ideas around your new path and may find that they are a lot more supportive. 


If you’re feeling like you may want some additional advice, why not speak to an education counsellor


Discuss your career ambitions 


What you will do in the working world is likely their biggest concern. Go into detail about your potential career options after graduation and give them an idea of what you can do with your chosen degree. Provide insight into why you don’t want to do what they had planned for you.   


For example, if you’re pursuing an art history degree with an ambition to teach. This indicates where your interests lie and how your parents’ original idea of something like a lawyer or doctor might not suit you.  


It can be easy to feel frustrated when your parents don’t feel the same passion for a particular subject that you do, but you must remember that their interest is in your future and not just what you’re going to be studying over the next few years.  


By giving them the information, they may need to help understand the change and try as best as you can to see their point of view. Using this approach, you can go into this conversation with a much clearer head and may come out of it with the outcome you’re hoping for.  


Are you preparing for university? Find out everything you may need to do before you leave

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