Sunday, April 12, 2009

Adventures in parenting AND college majors

If you’re reading this on Monday morning, I’m still in Washington, DC, after an Easter dinner with my children at No. 1 son’s apartment (though we had to bring our own plates so we didn't have to eat off paper) and interrogating No. 2 son about his newest life plan.

Who knew parenting could be such an adventure – and for so long?When the phone rang last week and I heard the words “aaahhh, Mom?” I knew it was going to be bad. The last time No. 2 son uttered those words, he was on a train to Philadelphia within hours of returning to his DC campus from winter break.

This time, the words were followed by, “I think I need to talk to my advisor.” Uh oh. “I’m thinking about changing my major,” he said.

That didn’t sound so horrible. The words “lawyer” and “doctor” flashed through my mind. Maybe he’d finally accepted my suggestion to study law and use his verbal talents for good instead of evil. I waited for the good news.

Then he said the word “anthropology.” My jaw dropped. “But honey, don’t you think you should take at least one class in anthropology first?” I sputtered.

This anthropology news is a shock after just two semesters at a college we'd sent him to because DC offers so many opportunities for someone majoring in international studies. I’m not even sure what an anthropologist does, never mind how you become one – and then get paid for it.

I know children are supposed to find their way at college, but this sudden anthropology thing has me wondering if my child is lost. It's the same panic I felt after each of No. 1 son’s whiplash decisions about his college major.

I'll never forget the engineering parents session at freshman orientation for my oldest son. We parents were told engineering students often have the lowest grades on campus because of the tough curriculum, but the highest salaries coming out. I was thrilled. Less than an hour later, No. 1 announced engineering had too much math so he was switching majors. “But honey, you haven’t even taken an engineering class yet,” I wailed.

“I think I’ll try philosophy,” he said. My jaw dropped then, too. They say 60 percent of students change their major before graduating. But I never thought I'd see my son drop engineering before school even began, and then go from philosophy to sociology and finally, justice studies. He graduated with a major and two minors in those courses. I doubt philosophy is helping much at the police academy.

So you can understand why I'm concerned. Anthropology is unnerving enough. But I'm even more concerned about how many other majors he’s going to try. Hopefully, he'll at least take a class in them first. Nonetheless, something tells me this journey is going to have more than a few detours.


Glimmer said...

It's different now, isn't it? I knew I HAD to declare a major right away and HAD to stick to it, no changes. Which was not really such a wise thing, as it turned out.

I'm a believer in internships, really getting a feel for the targeted business. Even just working as a messenger or copy machine person during the summer or PT during the school year. My physician niece, 30, is doing her residency, but it took a while to get there. She graduated and went to work as a registered dietician at a hospital. Then said, that's it, going to med school. I just think they need more real world look-sees.

ALittleGuitar said...

I stuck with my major from start to finish but mostly due to lack of imagination.