The Sheaf guide to telling your parents you’re getting an arts degree

By in Opinions

So you’ve decided that you want to get a Bachelor of Arts. Congrats! You’ve figured out what you want to do with your life — or with the next four years, anyway. Now comes the hard part: telling your parents.

The liberal arts — a broad category of subjects that includes fine art, humanities and social sciences — have gotten kind of a bad rap. When compared to programs like business and engineering, the liberal arts are often written off as impractical and a waste of tuition fees.

Many parents are wary of their children pursuing arts degrees, mostly because they’re worried about a lack of stable job opportunities in the future. What do you do when you’re passionate about classical, medieval and renaissance studies, but your parents want you to be a mechanical engineer? How do you be honest with them about your BA ambitions?

I’ve come out to my parents exactly twice in my life. The first time I came out, it was as bisexual. The second time was as an English major. If you can believe it, it was easier to tell them that I like kissing girls than it was to tell them that I plan on getting an arts degree.

You can start by breaking it to them slowly. If you haven’t yet declared your major, most students take a combination of random Arts and Science classes. Tell your parents that you’re just exploring your options and that everyone takes an English or history class in their first year of university anyway. Get them used to the idea that liberal arts are something to be studied, not feared.

Until you feel ready to be totally honest with your parents, use your mandatory science and math classes as a cover. Almost every BA program at the University of Saskatchewan requires a couple of science credits. Distract Mom and Dad from all of the drama classes on your schedule by emphasizing the fact that you’re also taking the all-important chemistry, which is most definitely a science and even sometimes involves working in a lab — I think.

Reassure your parents that you’ll still be the exact same person as you were before, just with the letters BA at the end of your name. You can even become a doctor like they always wanted you to! Just, you know, a Doctor of Philosophy, not medicine. Sure, maybe you won’t be saving lives, but you’ll be able to analyze what it really means to be alive in the first place.

It’s important to remind your parents that lots of arts students grow up to become healthy, productive members of society. They’re our friends and neighbours, our telemarketers and our baristas. Really, liberal arts students are just like everyone else. They wake up, drink coffee, fall in love, start families and — gasp — even get jobs.

In all seriousness, getting an arts degree isn’t something to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something to be extremely proud of.

Liberal arts classes teach communication, time management and critical thinking — which are all extremely employable skills. Subjects like history and psychology teach us about people and help us understand the world around us. English teaches language. Art teaches us to appreciate beauty. Regardless of what your parents say, those are some pretty valuable and worthwhile things.

Ultimately, it’s your life. One of the really cool things about becoming a grown up is being able to make choices for yourself and not for other people. It might not always be easy to admit to your parents that your dreams are different from theirs, but being honest with them is the first step in creating your own fantastic, BA-holding life.

And if all else fails, there’s always law school, right?

Emily Klatt

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor