Our daughter worked hard throughout high school, earning nearly straight A's and assuming leadership positions in sports and clubs. Her passion for and success in speech and debate tournaments seemed to position her well for a career as an attorney. Now that she has been accepted to college, she says she really wants to major in film studies with a goal to be involved in making movies. We are worried that this is a lot like wanting to become a rock star: a few people make a lot of money but there are many more struggling artists who barely get by. My husband and I have worked hard to save for our daughter's education so that she should not have to take out much in student loans if she completes her degree in four years. But, we hadn't anticipated that our hard-earned dollars might go to pay for a course of study that has questionable financial prospects. We are torn about whether to pay for her to study anything that she wants, or to withhold or limit our financial support if she insists on majoring in something we feel is frivolous. If we “hold our nose” and write the checks, we risk wasting a lot of money on a degree that may not help our daughter launch a solid career. On the other hand, if she studies something she truly loves, she may ultimately become a success in her chosen field.
After saving since your child was in preschool, you celebrate euphorically when your son or daughter is accepted to the college of his or her choice. You'd always imagined that your math whiz would become a chief financial officer (CFO), but are surprised when Junior says, “I'm leaning toward majoring in history.” My friend Karen describes a similar scenario: