Santa Clara University


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A Major Decision

Monday, Jul. 18, 2011

$50 Amazon gift certificate to the best student response on this case received by midnight, 7/24/2011

Megha was excited to start college. During her summer orientation she started learning about all the possible majors at her university. She decided on history because it was something she was truly passionate about. In high school, she had been so inspired by her American history class that she was now reading books on the founding fathers just for pleasure. When she announces her decision to her parents, she is stunned at their reaction.They insist that she major in engineering.

Megha has been a good all-around student, so she can certainly handle the engineering curriculum, but the subject just isn't something she can see herself pursuing for four years--let alone for an entire career. In her parents' minds, however, engineering is practical and will guarantee her a job when she graduates, while history will not.Should Megha go against her parents' wishes and declare a history major?


Here are some resources that might be useful

College Board Majors and Career Central

Highest Paid Degrees

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making


 Photo by Ben Oh available under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.

Comments Comments

Everardo said on Jul 18, 2011
College is all about discovering yourself and your interests. No one else should decide what you should study; they're not the ones who will have to spend countless hours studying a particular subject they're not fully invested in, followed by a lifetime of doing something they don't love. I say, go with what you are truly passionate about! Although certain majors may be perceived as offering greater job security, that is not necessarily the case. Although the world does need, say, engineers, it also needs all other kinds of people who choose to study other things. Besides that, your choice in major does not necessarily correlate to your career, so why would you major in something you don't even love? I have a friend who was a philosophy major in college and is now an intern at a certain search engine, and is earning a salary that is comparable to an engineer. While these results are not necessarily typical, it is just an example of how employers don't necessarily care about what you studied; they care about how well you did and how passionate you were, because as a worker, that is what you will really be bringing to the table in their company or organization. If you choose to major in history over engineering, your options are just as boundless. Best of luck! - Like - 4 people like this.
Deepti Shenoy said on Jul 19, 2011
While I believe the ultimate decision rests with Megha, I also feel her parents should have some say in the decision-making process. Particularly if they are paying for her education (but even if they are not), Megha has some duty to hear them out. I'm not saying that parents should get to dictate every aspect of their kids' lives just because they brought them up. I do think, though, that in recognition of the love, time, effort, and money her parents put into raising her, Megha owes it to them at least to try to accommodate some of their wishes. Megha is only going into her freshman year of college. It doesn't seem to me that she's explored her options too thoroughly. While she clearly has an interest in history, it's possible that she hasn't considered the other subjects she might be passionate about. I would suggest she wait a while, try out a variety of different classes, and take her time about choosing her major. Once she has more experience in college, maybe she can strike a compromise with her parents. She might find she has a real zeal for business, for instance, which her parents might support. If she's still set on history, she could consider double majoring (or minoring) in history, along with some subject her parents are more open to. She should communicate her point of view to her parents and also try to understand their feelings. I'm sure that by including them in the decision-making process, and taking their wishes into account, Megha can come to an agreement with her parents. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Cameron said on Jul 20, 2011
Megha cannot major in engineering just to please her parents. Studying something that does not interest you is just not worth it. Your grades will probably suffer, and even if they don't, you will be miserable. If Megha doesn't think she can handle studying engineering for four years, how will she enjoy not only her college experience, but also her life and career afterwards? Even though a history major may present more of a challenge in terms of finding a directly applicable job after college, often peoples' majors are completely unrelated to their future career.John F. Kennedy was a history major. My dad, who was an English major, now runs a successful business. I don't think he ever thought he was going to be an author, and I'm sure Megha is not banking on becoming a historian.This is all assuming Megha decides to stick with her major for all four years. Most college students change their major at least once.There is no reason that Megha should feel pushed into a specific career or major that does not suit her. College is meant to be a time when you figure out what you want to do by exploring the options that interest you. - Like
Briana Dumstorff said on Jul 20, 2011
Megha should definitely declare history as her major. Although her parents have good intentions it is not their place to choose Meghas major. At the end of the day Megha will have to work in the chosen career not her parents, which makes Megha the one and only person whose opinion matters. I am studying Chemical Engineering but will be pursuing my masters in Higher Education. Many people believe that I should just stick with Chemical Engineering after college because it will make me more money. They want me to forget about higher education. I personally could not live with myself if I let someone else make a decision for me that will affect my entire life. - Like - 2 people like this.
Miriam said on Jul 21, 2011
As a mother, I can sympathize with Megha's parents' desire to see their daughter launched on a path that will ensure her security, which an engineering degree would probably do.But honestly, I think this is not their decision to make.Her parents certainly have the right to withhold financial support for an education in history if they do not believe it's valuable. But, if they have the resources to send Megha to school, I think the more farsighted approach is to let her study what she loves. What we really want for our children is that they lead happy, productive lives. Megha is more likely to achieve this goal if she is free to chart her own path based on her aptitudes and interests. She may make less as a history major, but study after study shows that, once certain basic needs are met, happiness has nothing to do with income. Of course, Megha has a better chance of convincing her parents to allow her to study what she wants if she reassures them that she will not be sitting on their couch, eating their food, and watching reruns all day if her history major does not result in employment after college. - Like
David DeCosse said on Jul 22, 2011
Happiness is an activity. Or, in other words, we're not really happy on account of what we own or buy - as a great deal of advertising suggests. Rather, we're happy on account of what we do. This means that we should pay close attention to which activities give us the greatest sense of happiness. Of course, that's a huge range of things - all the way from listening to an iPod to talking with a best friend and beyond. But, in terms of something like a college major, the notion that happiness is an activity requires us to pay close attention to which fields of study we most deeply enjoy. Which course books do we get lost in happily? And which ones are tedious and can't end soon enough? Which subjects challenge us in the best way, appealing to our drive and desire to excel? To be sure, not every class that we take in college is going to be a bundle of joy. General education requirements require us to study fields that we otherwise wouldn't consider. Still, it's crucially important in college to begin paying that much more attention to the kinds of studies that most deeply interest us. These are the studies that will draw out the best in us. These are also the studies that will point the way toward a future professional life in which we will work with a sense of joy. Megha needs to take responsibility for her own happiness and choose history. - Like
Robyn L. said on Jul 23, 2011
Since Megha is conflicted about majors, it might be best to be an undeclared major. Although she loved history in high school, she may not like it in college. Thats how it is for a lot of studentsthey go into college thinking they love something and pursue it, but then it turns out the classes are too hard for them, not interesting enough, or they dont learn anything because the professors dont teach well. As an undeclared major, Megha has priority enrollment for any class since there are no restrictions due to a certain major. During her first year, she can take both engineering and history classes, along with general education courses, and see how she likes those types of classes. She might like history like she originally thought she would or she might like pursuing engineering, contrary to initial beliefs. Or, she might not like any of those classes and might discover another subject that interests her even more. Once Megha finds what she is truly passionate about, something that will make her happy during college and post-baccalaureate, she should tell her parents. This is her life and she should do what makes her happynot what makes them happy. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Amando said on Jul 23, 2011
In my opinion Megha's parents need to loosen or even remove the tight leash they have around Megha's neck. As an approaching college freshman, she's in the final process of becoming an adult and therefore should be permitted to make her own decisions. Additionally because it is not what she wants to do, she will have no motivation and inspiration and is consequently less likely to succeed, even worse unlikely to be happy. Megah should include her parents in her major-selection and not lie to them, after all they have only good intentions. Ultimately it is Megah's choice; she should not be forced to live the life her parents wish for her to live, but should be encouraged to pursue what she needs in order to be happy . - Like - 9 people like this.
Miriam Schulman said on Jul 25, 2011
Winner of this week's Big Q is Everardo for his comments on whether parents have the right to dictate their daughter's major in college. He argues for the rights of students to answer for themselves on questions that will affect their lives. (And he also argues that you don't have to be an engineering major to succeed.) - Like - 1 person likes this.
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Tags: college, college students, helicopter parents